All about our first trip to Robben Island

All about our first trip to Robben Island

Since making our big move to Cape Town in 2018, visiting the Museum and World Heritage Site known as Robben Island (or Seal Island) has been sitting on our bucket list. 

Taking the ferry and going on the tour to the island is quite an expensive trip for two people (but well worth it), so we put some cash away each month, and finally, in 2019, we were able to visit the island carrying some of the most intriguing histories of South Africa.

Table Mountain, Western Cape
Table Mountain, Western Cape

It was very simple to pre-book our tickets in advance through the Webtickets website. You can also book tickets on spot at the Robben Island Center at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town; it can get busy there (that’s why it’s better to book online), but it’s good to know that tickets are available on hand depending on availability.

After arriving at the V&A Waterfront early on a sunny Saturday morning, we took a walk through the Nelson Mandela Gateway Museum where we learned about the history of the island, then stood in a queue for about half an hour before we received a friendly welcome as we stepped onto the ferry.

V&A Waterfront Harbour, Western Cape
Robben Island Prison, Western Cape
Robben Island Prison, Western Cape
Robben Island Prison, Western Cape

We departed at 9 am (which is the earliest ferry available). The 40-minute boat trip to Murray’s Bay Harbour offered magnificent views of Cape Town, Table Mountain, and Lion’s Head surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean.

The whole tour on the island of banishment, loneliness, and gloom was a sad yet enchanting experience and only took a couple of hours to complete. 

First, we took a short walk to the tour buses and departed on a guided adventure through all the historical sites; such as the leper graveyard which mourns the lives of lepers who were forced to live on the island, the quarry where prisoners used to work, bunkers and equipment used by the army and navy, the church where prisoners spent their Sunday mornings, and old buildings reminding us South Africans not only of a truly sad history but also teaching us about the strength of the human spirit.

Robben Island Harbour, Western Cape
Robben Island Prison, Western Cape

The last part of our tour included private access to the maximum-security prison cells in which late President Nelson Mandela, among many other leaders, spent 18 years of his life. 

Robben Island Prison, Western Cape
Robben Island Prison, Western Cape

Our knowledgeable tour guide, who served time as a former political prisoner on Robben Island, treated us to first-hand personal stories of his experiences on the island, was happy to answer any of our questions, and gave us a summary of the prison’s intriguing history.

We highly recommend traveling to Robben Island! Book your tour today:
Ticket office:
Nelson Mandela Gateway, V&A Waterfront
Museum: +27 (0)21 413-4208 / 9 Ticket office: +27 (0)21 413-4200

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