Beyond The Prison Walls: Discover The History of The Famous Robben Island 

A view of Robben Island from the top of Table Mountain

Robben Island is a name derived from the Dutch word for seal, translating to Seal Island. It is located 6.9 km west of the coast of Blouberg and can be seen from land on a clear day. 

It was a wildlife sanctuary housing seals, turtles and penguins, with numerous freshwater springs. It wasn’t until 1671 that the Dutch settlers put their convicted criminals on the island that it became a ‘prison’. They sent anyone who opposed their laws to this prison, including kings and religious leaders.

Things To Do On The Island

It may be a small island, but there are a wide variety of activities and places to explore. You can go on a guided tour of the island, where you can meet locals and learn about life on the island. Marvel at the landscape and the architecture; do not disturb any of them, as they are heritage sites. The prison cell Nelson Mandela was held in remains the highlight of the Robben Island trip. Get a glimpse into his prison life.

 There is a quarry that the prisoners used to work at, so make sure to be properly protected from the sun for its tour. The island boasts varying wildlife; bring your camera and remember to practice wildlife photography etiquette. You will catch sight of endemic birds among the seals and penguins. The views from the islands are among the highlights of any visitor’s trip; they are unmatched!

How To Get There

Visitors are transported by ferries departing from the tourist hub, which is the V&A Waterfront. A trip may take up to an hour as it is weather dependent . If you want to avoid the crowds, you can ferry at Table Bay Harbour, where the museum uses its ferries to transport its staff and visitors. 

A photo of the famous Robben Island Ferry.

What To Wear

It is advisable to be comfortable, make sure your shoes are comfortable too. Tours can last up to two hours and you will spend more time walking. You will need UV protected, comfortably fitting sunglasses and a wide-brimmed, breathable sun hat. On the contrary, you will also need a jacket, Cape Town does experience all four seasons in one day and you don’t want to be left in the cold. Equally important is your sunscreen, reapply it regularly and don’t forget to moisten your lips. If you get seasick, remember to take medication an hour before boarding. You will be asked for your identification before boarding; make sure to have the documents within reach, this includes children’s birth certificates too. 

Choose From a Wide Range of Amenities

There is a curio and a village shop for snacks and souvenirs. Wheelchair-bound visitors can enjoy Robben Island too; there are ramps for easier navigation of the island. To make the experience comfortable for them, they will be reserved a relevant seat on the ferry upon booking. Ensure you give full answers where necessary when making bookings. There is a museum for lessons on the history of the island and the rest of the country.

Besides its dark past, the island has since become a World Heritage Site and a national estate, with the aim of  conserving its natural and historical resources. It is also home to approximately 150 permanent residents, who are the workforce of the island . Today, Robben Island represents freedom and triumph. The tours are conducted by people with first-hand experience of island life, many are former prisoners who chose to tell their stories. Your Cape Town itinerary is incomplete without a Robben Island trip.

Explore South Africa by renting a car from SANI Car Rental at Cape Town International Airport. SANI Car Rental is a South African homegrown car rental company. Vehicles available to rent include compact cars, economy cars, premium cars, people carriers, and SUVs. SANI Car Rental has customers all over South Africa, including at all the major airports, both domestic and international. 

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