Robben Island

Separated from the Cape mainland by a narrow channel of seawater about 12km into the sea, in the middle of Table Bay, Robben Island is a remote place, considered inaccessible for centuries the island has been used primarily as a prison ever since the Dutch settled at the Cape in the mid-16th century. Beginning as a leper colony from 1846-1931, the island harbored a hospital for leprosy patients, as well as the mentally and chronically ill. During this time, political and common-law prisoners were also kept on the island.

During World War II (1939-1945) the Island was a training and defense station. In 1961 it was converted to a maximum-security prison, where African and Muslim leaders, including women were all imprisoned on the island. Robben Island portrays the indestructibility of the spirit of resistance against colonialism, injustice and oppression.

Overcoming opposition from the prison authorities, prisoners on the Island were able to organise sporting events, political debates and educational programmes, by asserting their right to be treated as human beings, with dignity and equality. These prisoners contributed to establishing the foundations of South Africa's modern democracy.

South Africa's first democratic President, Nelson Mandela and the founding leader of the Pan African Congress, Robert Sobukwe, are among the more well known political figures who served their prison sentence on Robben Island during the Apartheid era. The last political prisoner was released in 1991.

In 1991 Robben Island was included in the SA natural heritage program and the northern part of the island was declared a bird sanctuary. Springbuck, ostrich, rabbits, Jackass penguins and Cape Fur seals are among the wildlife found on the island. In 1997 the Robben Island National Museum was established. The Museum is a dynamic institution and runs educational programs for schools, youths and adults.

On December 1st, 1999, Robben Island was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Ferries sail daily from the V&A Waterfront jetty, taking visitors to the island. The entire trip lasts about 3½ hours, including the guided tours. 

More information please feel free to contact us at we can facilitate your arrangements, and take you on Guided Tour of Cape Town and Robben Island.   

Transfers to and from your B & B, Guesthouse, Lodge or Hotel, should you not be staying with us at "Ebubeleni", can be arranged.

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