Special: Robben Island
Robben Island is one of the must-sees when you are visiting Cape Town. Visiting the island is touching, emotional and painful at the same time, but it’s surely interesting to go. The whole Robben Island experience consists of a ferry ride from Cape Town to the island, a bus tour and finally a visit to the maximum security prison.
Robben Island is one of the most interesting tourist attractions in South Africa. The charges to visit are 300 ZAR (~ 20 Euro / 22 US-Dollar) for an adult and 160 ZAR (~ 10.5 Euro / 11 US-Dollar) for children under 18 years. Even though this is not necessarily cheap, you should definitely take a trip.
From Cape Town to Robben Island
The Robben Island experiences starts at the Cape Town Waterfront where you are boarding the ferry to Robben Island.
There are different ferries carrying you over, but it actually doesn’t matter which you take. We had two different ferries each way, but both were similarly comfortable. There are usually spots on the upper deck (some outside) and the lower deck.
Both have advantages depending on the weather. If you are boarding early, you’ll have the choice!
We had the pleasure to enjoy great views as being seated on the upper deck on our ride to Robben Island and made some amazing pictures of Cape Town as well as the big ships on the sea despite the bad weather!
Bus Tour of Robben Island
Even though boat sightseeing is quite nice, that’s definitely not the key experience when visiting Robben Island.
This one starts when you are de-boarding the ship to move on in an uncoordinated way. We decided to just board one of the very old Volkswagen buses, which appeared to be the right decision.
Minutes later, the bus started and a guide welcomed us on board. The guide explained a lot about Robben Island and its past as a leper island. Back in the 19th century, Robben Island first was a voluntary leper colony.
In 1892, lepers were no longer free to leave the island and several hundreds were deported to Robben Island. Till today, you can see the buildings where the lepers lived in.
Other interesting impressions of the bus tour were the different prisons on Robben Island, the quarry where the prisoners had to work as well as the small town where all employees of the island live till today.
Not to forget about the nice nature and the views of the sea.
Tour of the Maximum Security Prison
The most interesting and touching part of our Robben Island Experience was the visit of the Maximum Security Prison following the bus tour.
A former prisoner not only explained us how life in the Maximum Security Prison was, but also made us aware of the improvements that happened over the years. The tour consisted of the different prison wards.
In the part where Nelson Mandela spent most of his time in prison, all prisoners were separated in very small cells, while in other parts of the prison there were way larger cells housing a dozen of prisoners at the same time.
Something that’s especially interesting in the Maximum Security Prison at Robben Island is that everything was left as it was when the prisoners left the island. Additionally, the stories of several prisoners are written down in the cells, so visitors can get an impression of why and when the prisoners were arrested.
Overall impression of Robben Island
Our tour of Robben Island ended sooner than we expected. The tour of the Maximum Security Prison was a little shorter than one hour, so was the bus tour.
The experience was very touching anyway. Something we liked very much was the fact that visitors are free to move around and get an own impression of the Maximum Security Prison.
This makes the experience even more special and will definitely make it something you’ll remember.
We can just recommend to experience Robben Island yourself. Touching, emotional and painful are the three adjectives that describe Robben Island the best.