Cape Town
Close to the ground.

Robben Island

Clock Tower Square, Waterfront 021-413-4220 www.robben-island.org.za adult R200, child R100

S 33 54.387 E 018 25.346

Robben Island is the infamous island prison off the Cape coast where Nelson Mandela and numerous other political prisoners were held during apartheid. While the UNESCO World Heritage Site is of undeniable historical and political importance, and a visit can be both emotional and compelling, travelers should be advised that the tour can be a hassle. You should also be prepared for a last-minute change in plans as tours are often cancelled due to weather conditions, but tickets will be refunded or can be rebooked. This does not deter thousands of tourists who make the journey each year, so if you plan to go, make sure to book tickets at least one week in advance and two to three weeks in advance during peak holiday seasons.

Tours depart from the Nelson Mandela Gateway (S 33 54.387 E 018 25.346, Clock Tower Square, Waterfront). From there you will be ferried to the island to board a tour bus upon arrival. Many tours of the island are led by former political prisoners who recount their personal stories as you peer into the small cells where they and many others spent years of their lives. However, as the years go on, many new-generation guides have been employed as well. To ensure you get the most authentic experience possible, look out for the older bus drivers and hop on with them.

Tours last roughly two hours and include visits to the prison, the isolation hut where PAC leader Robert Subukwe was held, the lime quarry where Nelson Mandela and others were forced into labor, the leper church, and remnants of the island's past history as a strategic war post.

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