Robben Island

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At various times over its history, Robben Island has been a leper colony and an animal quarantine station, but it is as a prison that it has entered history. Located seven kilometres off Cape Town, in waters where the great white shark is known to hunt, it was singularly suited to this purpose. Nelson Mandela famously spent 18 of his 27 years imprisonment. Getting to Robben Island today involves a boat ride of about 20 minutes, landing at the same quay as the prisoners used to. A tour of the island is undertaken in an old prison bus, conducted by a former inmate, so you will get a real insiders view. Of course the focus of the trip is the prison itself, seeing how the prisoners lived, where they worked (including the infamous quarry) with the highlight being Mandela’s cell. But there is more to the island than this, and as you drive around, through the old prison guard’s village and past the airstrip, you may well see penguins, bontebok, eland, springbok and steenbok, whilst on the boat trip you’ll almost certainly see seals. The views back towards Cape Town show it in its classic light, framed by the ocean and Table Mountain. A visit to Robben Island is not only a great opportunity to learn more about the struggle against apartheid, but is also about the local wildlife, the wonderful views and a chance to explore somewhere that is still quite remote, despite its proximity to Cape Town.

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