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Robben Island

Visit the cell where Nelson Mandela spent most of his sentence and explore the Table Bay island that has also served as a leper colony and a military base.

For 18 of his 27 years of incarceration for opposing apartheid, former South African President Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island. See the prison cell where he was kept and learn about the history of this former island-prison. It was also used at various times to house convicts, the mentally ill and lepers.

Visits to the island are by guided tours only. Tours start with a 5.5-mile (9-kilometer) ferry ride from Cape Town across Table Bay to the island. While you are waiting for your boat to leave the Nelson Mandela Gateway, go to the exhibition space. It hosts an ever-changing roster of temporary exhibitions featuring the island’s history.

Once on the island, you will be taken on a guided bus tour of key sites. Some of the guides are former political prisoners who share stories of their time in jail.

See Bluestone Quarry where many political prisoners endured hard labor. Visit the leprosarium graveyard, the final resting place of patients with leprosy who died while on Robben. Look at the Kramat, a Muslim shrine in honor of Sheikh Madura, who died here in 1754. During the bus tour, you will mostly remain on the bus, with occasional stops at important sites.

The highlight of the tour is a walk inside the maximum-security prison. Stop by the small cell where Nelson Mandela was confined for many years. While you are on the island, you will also see army and navy bunkers and the 19th-century Church of the Good Shepherd, which was built by the island’s lepers.

Tours of Robben Island depart several times daily from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Tours last for approximately 4 hours, including the round trip on the ferry, a visit to the maximum-security prison and the guided bus tour. Reductions on the ticket price are available for children under 18 years. Children under the age of 4 visit for free. Tickets for the tours sell out fast so book a few weeks prior to the day of your intended trip and be sure to arrive at the ferry at least half an hour before departure.

Get the most out of your time at Robben Island. Here is a list of the best things to do:

If you're seeking even more activities, take a look at our Cape Town things to do page.


Guide to Exploring around Robben Island


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Best Lodging Options Near Robben Island

See all 2,826 Properties near Robben Island
BB Beach Club 37
BB Beach Club 37

BB Beach Club 37

Otto Du Plessis Drive, Big bay, Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, Western Cape
     
    4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

    Situated near the beach, this apartment building is 0.1 mi (0.2 km) from Big Bay Beach and 1.7 mi (2.8 km) from Bloubergstrand Beach. Table Bay Mall is 1.8 mi (2.9 km) away.

    Bradclin Blouberg
    Bradclin Blouberg

    Bradclin Blouberg

    Unit 31 Dolphin Ridge, 1006 Otto du, Plessis Dr, Big Bay, Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, Western Cape
       
      3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

      Situated in Cape Town, this beach apartment building is 0.1 mi (0.1 km) from Big Bay Beach and 2 mi (3.3 km) from Bloubergstrand Beach. Table Bay Mall is 1.7 mi (2.7 km) away.

      Blouberg Manor ¥8,926
      Blouberg Manor

      Blouberg Manor

      6 Verkouteren Street, Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, Western Cape
         
        3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

        Situated in Cape Town, this beach guesthouse is within 1 mi (2 km) of Big Bay Beach and Bloubergstrand Beach. Table Bay Mall and Dolphin Beach are also within 3 mi (5 km).

        Big Bay Beach Club 91
        Big Bay Beach Club 91

        Big Bay Beach Club 91

        Otto Du Plessis Drive, Big Bay, Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, Western Cape
           
          3.5 out of 5.0 Stars

          Situated in Cape Town, this apartment building is 0.3 mi (0.4 km) from Big Bay Beach and 2.3 mi (3.7 km) from Bloubergstrand Beach. Table Bay Mall is 1.9 mi (3.1 km) away.

          Water's Edge 24
          Water's Edge 24

          Water's Edge 24

          Water's Edge Estate, Cormorant Avenue, Cape Town, Western Cape
             
            0.0 out of 5.0 Stars

            Situated in Cape Town, this apartment building is 0.1 mi (0.2 km) from Big Bay Beach and 1.3 mi (2.1 km) from Bloubergstrand Beach. Table Bay Mall and Dolphin Beach are also within 3 mi (5 km).

            Eden on the Bay 114
            Eden on the Bay 114

            Eden on the Bay 114

            Eden on the Bay, Otto du Plessis Dr, Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, Western Cape
               
              4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

              Situated in Cape Town, this beach apartment building is 0.5 mi (0.8 km) from Big Bay Beach and 1.7 mi (2.7 km) from Bloubergstrand Beach. Table Bay Mall is 1.4 mi (2.3 km) away.

              Pinard On Sea ¥14,224
              Pinard On Sea

              Pinard On Sea

              47 Stadler Road, Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, Western Cape
                 
                3.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                Situated in Cape Town, this apartment building is within 1 mi (2 km) of Big Bay Beach and Bloubergstrand Beach. Table Bay Mall and Dolphin Beach are also within 3 mi (5 km).

                Seaside Village L11
                Seaside Village L11

                Seaside Village L11

                Otto Du Plessis Drive & Cormorant Ave, Big Bay, Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, Western Cape
                   
                  4.0 out of 5.0 Stars

                  Situated near the beach, this apartment building is 0.3 mi (0.5 km) from Big Bay Beach and 1.8 mi (3 km) from Bloubergstrand Beach. Table Bay Mall is 1.5 mi (2.4 km) away.