Robben Island

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10km from Cape Town

-33.8065, 18.3715


+27 21 413 4200, +27 21 409 5169


From the 17th to the 20th centuries, Robben Island was a place of banishment, isolation and imprisonment. Today it is a world heritage site and museum that commemorates South Africa’s anti-apartheid struggle and hard-won freedom. It was declared a world heritage site in 1999.

South Africa's first democratically elected President, Nelson Mandela, is among Robben Island's most famous prisoners. The island prison also incarcerated other African leaders, along with Muslim leaders from the East Indies, Dutch and British soldiers and civilians, women and anti-apartheid activists, including the founding leader of the Pan Africanist Congress, Robert Mangaliso Sobukwe.

Robben Island was also used as a training and defence station in the Second World War (1939-1945) and as a hospital for people with leprosy and mental illnesses (1846-1931).

In 1997, the island's facilities were turned into a museum. Today, this museum runs educational programmes for schools, youths and adults, conducts research related to the island and archives and documents important aspects of South Africa's history. In addition, Robben Island is a complex, sensitive ecosystem and a protected nature conservation area.

There are regular tours to the island, which, among other aspects of the island's history, depicts the lives of political prisoners detained from the 1960s to 1991. Former Robben Island prisoners conduct the tour.