South Africa Travel

An Afternoon at Robben Island in Cape Town


I recently discovered that Robben Island is more than just a prison. Made famous by it’s most illustrious inhabitant, Nelson Mandela. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site on the 1st of December, 1997. Robben Island is 11KM’s from Table Bay Harbour and has more than 100 bird and animal species.

Over the years, the island has housed a hospital, mental institution, leper colony and a military base in World War II. Today Robben Island is home to an estimated 200 people. The Island also has a school, church (weddings are also held here), supermarket and there are plans of building guest houses and conference facilities in the next five years.

Susan Kruger: Ship that transported Nelson Mandela and other prisoners to the Island.

Pre- Tour

The tour of the Robben Island Museum begins at the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V & A Waterfront with a multimedia exhibition whilst you wait for the ferry to depart for the island.  Please be sure to be there at least 45 minutes prior to the departure time, with the gates closing 10 minutes prior to departure.

The Tour:

When we got off the boats we were told to get onto the buses that were parked outside the entrance. Each bus has about 60+ people on it. The guided bus tour will take you past the mosque, the house on Robben Island where Robert Sobukwe (PAC Leader) was kept in solitary confinement.


The John Craig Hall – named after the civil engineer responsible for the Island’s expansion during WW2. This hall was used for weekly dances (entertainment) for prison wardens.

The Limestone Quarry where prisoners endured lengthy hours of hard labour.

The Leper’s Graveyard.


You will stop for a 30 minute break where we were allowed to get off the bus and take pictures and buy snacks.

After the bus tour we went inside the maximum security prison block where Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners were held. Our guide was a former political prisoner who served a 15 year sentence on the Island. He shared his experiences and told us about the “Dompass” and the different punishment methods.

Usually when you watch a Robben Island experience on TV you see people walk into different cells and view Nelson Mandela’s cutlery, blankets and books. We didnt do any of that, I actually felt like the prison tour was rushed but I was able to snap a few images from the corridor.

Overall, I believe everyone should visit Robben Island to see how far South Africa has come. It was definitely an emotional experience.


– Robben Island is a popular tourist destination. It’s advised for you to book your tickets in advance. Tickets can be bought at the Robben Island Museum departure point at the V&A Waterfront or online at
– Tickets are R320 per adult and R180 for children under 18.
– Ferries depart at 9am, 11am and 1pm.
– Each tour takes approximately 3.5 hours.
– Take enough water and snacks with you as the stores on the Island are ridiculously expensive.
– Try and sit in front and on the right hand side of the bus for the best views.

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1 Comment

  • Melissa Adams
    07/16/2016 at 9:45 AM

    Seems like a fun experience. I’ve actually always wanted to visit Robben Island and the weird part is that I live in Cape Town but have never been

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