ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

A Travel Guide To Cape Town, South Africa – Part 3 – Robben Island

Updated on April 17, 2013

Nelson Mandelas Prison Cell on Robben Island

Nelson Mandelas Prison Cell on Robben Island
Nelson Mandelas Prison Cell on Robben Island

Robben Island has a long history spanning centuries. It has served many purposes in the past, starting out as a prison, post office and trading post for Portuguese sailors back in 1498. 1498 is the first recorded landing by a fleet of ships on the island. This fleet belonged to the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama.

What is so special about Robben Island?

The most recent history pertaining to the island is that of a prison. It is where past South African President Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his life as a political prisoner. He was sentenced to life in prison when he was convicted of sabotage and trying to overthrow the apartheid government of South African in 1962. He spent a total of 27 years in prison until his release spurred by international pressure on the South African government in the early 1990’s. Pres. Mandela’s release led to the first democratic elections in South Africa which was held in April of 1994. President Mandela held office from 1994 to 1995. I remember, I was there.

Is it still a prison today?

Today the island is a museum and a World Heritage Site. It is an important natural conservation area for birds such as the endangered African Penguin, other seabirds and mainland birds that breed here such as the Crowned Cormorant and Black Crowned Night Herons. There is a fair number of wildlife species that live on the island. Ostrich numbers are climbing, various antelope, lizards and snakes and marine life visit often. On the ferry trip across, look out for dolphin, seals and whales when in season.

How to visit Robben Island

Today tours to the island depart from the Nelson Mandela Gateway, near the Red Clock Tower on the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. The tour is around 3.5 hours long and includes two 30 minute ferry rides each way. Tours depart at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm, weather permitting.

Robben Island Ferry

Robben Island Ferry
Robben Island Ferry

What to expect on the tour

After arriving on the island guests visit the Maximum Security Prison.
Guests will meet with an ex political prisoner.
Followed by a 45 minute bus tour around parts of the island, with commentary.
The tour ends with an option to visit Murray’s Bay precinct which include a Muslim shrine and the museum shop.

On the tour guests will learn about the harsh conditions that prisoners lived in, the work on the lime quarries and the ingenious ways that prisoners communicated to keep their political struggles alive. Watch the short video to see the lime quarries and more images of the prison and island.

A video glimpse of Robben Island

Part 1 and 2 of this series

To fully appreciate the appreciate the Cape Town series don't forget to view the other videos from the series:

Part 1 with video

http://celesteinscribed.hubpages.com/hub/A-Travel-Guide-To-Cape-Town-South-Africa-Part-1

Part 2 with video

http://celesteinscribed.hubpages.com/hub/-A-Travel-Guide-To-Cape-Town-Part-2

Chronological history

Portuguese era

The island served as a prison for many Portuguese and British convicts between the years of 1498 and 1652. By the mid 1600’s more and more European ships were passing through Southern oceans, bringing new residents for the island.

Dutch era

Between 1652 and 1795 the Dutch East India company started using the island as a stop over to replenish their provisions on the way to East Africa. In addition the island was being used to house criminal and political prisoners, East Asian Exiles and was being used as a quarantine station for the sick.

British era

Between 1795 and 1846 the British, who now occupied Cape Town added military prisoners to the island.

Between 1846 and 1931 the island also became a hospital for lepers, the mentally hill and for the poor who suffered from chronic illnesses.

From 1855 through 1921 a variety of Southern African criminals (mostly political) were sent to the island

Union of South Africa and Republic of South Africa era

The island continued on as a prison and hospital until 1939 when the South African Army and Navy set up a training and defense camp.

Between the years of 1961 and 1994, (Apartheid South Africa) was the time when the island was used primarily as a maximum security prison for criminal and political prisoners.

The Admin building

The historic administration building
The historic administration building

A brighter future

On a much friendlier note the island was converted to a museum and national monument in 1994 and achieved World Heritage Status in 1999.

It is a place that tells a tale of bravery, determination and victory for human rights in South Africa and a must see for any traveler setting foot in Cape Town.

Tour hints:

Book well ahead (months) the tour fills up very fast.

Don’t pay cash for a ticket. If the tour is cancelled due to bad weather, cash purchases will not be refunded.

Take sunscreen, wear walking shoes and a wind breaker jacket. The wind off the coast can be chilly.

The commentary on the bus is interesting but some have complained about not being able to hear anything in the back of the bus. Find a seat near the front.

Robben Island off the coast of South Africa

A
Robben Island, Cape Town, South Africa:
Robben Island, South Africa

get directions

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)