Robben Island in Western Cape Province – South Africa

A trip to Robben Island is one of the most interesting things you can do while in South Africa. This famous island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.


The island is in Western Cape. It is 12 km from the Cape Town harbour. It is only 7 km from the coast. You can get to the island via the ferries that depart the V&A Waterfront at Cape Town. The journey will take half an hour. There are also helicopter services available.

What to See

The highest peak on the island is the Minto Hill at over 30 meters. There is a lighthouse on the hill. One of the more interesting features of the island are the penguins. There are more than 13,000 of them.

A trip to Robben Island is not complete without checking out the areas where shipwrecks occurred. These include the Chanson de la Mer in Shelly Beach, the Han Cheng 2 at Rangatira Bay and Sea Challenger at Rangatira Bay. The Fung Thu was wrecked at the south of the island.


The island was discovered by the Europeans in 1488 when Bartolomeu Dias got to the Bay of Table. Eventually, the Europeans decided to use it as a prison. This practice was adapted by the Dutch, the British and Portuguese.

During the early 1650s, the island was used for supplying ships and providing refreshments. The first political prisoner was Autshumato. He was imprisoned on the island in 1658. He was convicted of stealing livestock that the Europeans stole from the island.

The Dutch and later on the British would use the island to hold prisoners convicted at their mainland. A leprosy colony was set up by the British on the island in 1890. The practice of keeping prisoners there continued until the 1960s. Today, however, it has been turned into a museum.


The ferry ride and the entry charge is R200 for adults. For children, it is R100. This is applicable for children under 17 years of age.

Other Info

The island was used to imprison political figures during the apartheid. The most notable of them was the Nobel Laureate Nelson Mandela. Former South African President Kgalema Motlanthe was also imprisoned there. Other notable personalities who were imprisoned included Jacob Zuma, Andimba Toivo ya Toivo, Walter Sisulu and Tokyo Sexwale.

A trip to Robben Island has proven to be very popular with tourists. For this reason, it is best to book the ferry trip as early as possible. To avoid problems, book the tickets days before you actually go there.