A reminder of past atrocities and symbol of oppression. Where the first President of the new democracy, Nelson Mandela, spent 17 years in prison! On the Island, your guide, an ex-inmate, will take you on a conducted tour.

The STANDARD TOUR to ROBBEN ISLAND is 3.5 hours long, including the two half-hour ferry rides. Ferries depart at 9am, 10am, 12pm, 1pm, 2 pm and 3pm, weather permitting, from the V & A Waterfront in Cape Town. THE ROBBEN ISLAND TOUR includes:
A return boat trip across Table Bay
A visit to the infamous Maximum Security Prison
Interaction with an ex-political prisoner
A 45-minute bus ride with a guide providing commentary
The opportunity to explore the Murray's Bay Harbour precinct attractions, such as the Muslim shrine, or kramat, and the Museum Shop.
TICKETS are R150 for adults and R75 for children aged 4 to 17.
There is no charge for children under 4, but bookings must be made for them.
To secure a place for yourself or your group on the ferry during the busy summer season, you can book early if you have a credit card.
For advance bookings, please telephone (021) 419 1300, fax (021) 419-1057 or email

People lived on Robben Island many thousands of years ago, when the sea channel between the Island and the Cape mainland was not covered with water. Since the Dutch settled at the Cape in the mid-1600s, Robben Island has been used primarily as a prison. Indigenous African leaders, Muslim leaders from the East Indies, Dutch and British settler soldiers and civilians, women, and anti-apartheid activists, including South Africa's first democratic President, Nelson Rohihlahla Mandela and the founding leader of the Pan Africanist Congress, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe, were all imprisoned on the Island. Today, however, Robben Island also tells us about victory over Apartheid and other human rights abuses: 'the indestructibility of the spirit of resistance against colonialism, injustice and oppression'. Overcoming opposition from the prison authorities, prisoners on the Island after the 1960s were able to organise sporting events, political debates and educational programmes, and to assert their right to be treated as human beings, with dignity and equality. They were able to help the country establish the foundations of our modern democracy. The image we have of the Island today is as a place of oppression, as well as a place of triumph. Robben Island has not only been used as a prison. It was a training and defence station in World War II (1939-1945) and a hospital for leprosy patients, and the mentally and chronically ill (1846-1931). In the 1840s, Robben Island was chosen for a hospital because it was both secure (isolating dangerous cases) and healthy (providing a good environment for cure). During this time, political and common-law prisoners were still kept on the Island. As there was no cure and little effective treatment available for leprosy, mental illness and other chronic illnesses in the 1800s, Robben Island was a kind of prison for the hospital patients too. Since 1997 it has been a museum. The museum is a dynamic institution, which acts as a focal point of South African heritage. It runs educational programmes for schools, youths and adults, facilitates tourism development, conducts ongoing research related to the Island and fulfils an archiving function.

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