The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Robben Island

Afrikaans name: Robbeneiland

Entrance to Robben Island from the harbour

Entrance to Robben Island as seen from the harbour

Photo © Steven Herbert

Western Cape

Not quite 7 km off the coast of the Western Cape of South Africa lies a small island that will always be linked to the history of the country.

Robben Island is well known as the place where former president of South Africa, Nelson Mandela, was imprisoned for 18 years.

Since the 1800's the island has been used to house prisoners and, for a while, lepers.

Robben Island is most definitely one of places to visit if you are in the Cape Town area. You are taken by boat from the Cape Town Waterfront to the island where you are loaded into buses. The buses show you around the island before dropping you off at the prison itself where guides show give you an insight into prison life on the island and its many famous prisoners.

The name of the island refers to the seals found there by the Dutch in 1652. There is also a large penguin colony.

In the late 1800's Robben Island was used to house a leper colony and the graveyard still remains as a reminder of the unfortunate lepers shipped to this remote spot. The lepers were moved to Robben Island from the Hemel-en-Aarde leper colony near Caledon.

Leper colony graveyard on Robben Island

Photo © Steven Herbert

Nelson Mandela's cell on Robben Island

Photo by Claire Herbert

Above - Here it is. South Africa's most famous prison cell. This is where Nelson Mandela spent so much time on Robben Island.

References and further reading

Wild Issue 21 - Author: - Published: 2012 - Page: 56

Readers Digest Illustrated Guide to Southern Africa - 4th edition - Author: - Published: 1986 - Page: 22

Things ewe never knewe about South African place names - Author: Ann Gadd - Published: 2015 - Page: 185

The Dive Sites of South Africa - Author: Anton Koornhof - Published: 1992 - Page: 17

Places to Visit in Southern Africa - Author: AA RSA - Published: 1995 - Page: 293

Hit the Road - 2nd Edition - Author: MapStudio - Published: 2018 - Page: 17

Essential Birding: Western South Africa - Author: Callan Cohen and Claire Spottiswoode - Published: 2000 - Page: 30

Book of the Road - 4th edition - Author: MapStudio - Published: 2019 - Page: 141

Country Life - Issue 209 - Author: - Published: 2013 - Page: 46


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