Accommodation in Cape Town allows you to gain easy access to Cape Town waterfront and book a ferries to Robben Island. Click HERE to find preferred accommodation or use the search box provided. To go to this Island is still an experience of immense power. Few places in the world symbolise the struggle for freedom against oppression of basic human rights, as Robben Island does. Ferries depart at 9am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm, weather permitting, from Nelson Mandela Gateway, at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

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Robben Island is a complex, sensitive eco-system. In terms of South African law, the Island is a protected nature conservation area and, as a World Heritage Site, has to balance additional stringent conservation requirements with the Museum’s mission of ensuring public access to the Island’s heritage.

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Robben IslandRobben Island ( Afrikaans: Robbeneiland) is an island in Table Bay, 6.9 km west of the coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, South Africa. The name is Dutch for “seal island”. Robben Island is roughly oval in shape, 3.3 km long north-south, and 1.9 km wide, with an area of 5.07 km². It is flat and only a few metres above sea level, as a result of an ancient erosion event. The island is composed of Precambrian metamorphic rocks belonging to the Malmesbury Group. Nobel Laureate and former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on Robben Island for 18 of the 27 years he served behind bars before the fall of apartheid. Kgalema Motlanthe, who also served as President of South Africa, spent 10 years on Robben Island as a political prisoner, as did current president Jacob Zuma. Since the end of the 17th century, Robben Island has been used for the isolation of mainly political prisoners. The Dutch settlers were the first to use Robben Island as a prison. Its first prisoner was probably Harry die strandloper (Autshumao) in the mid-17th century. Amongst its early permanent inhabitants were political leaders from various Dutch colonies, including Indonesia, and the leader of the mutiny on the slave ship Meermin. After a failed uprising at Grahamstown in 1819, the fifth of the Xhosa Wars, the British colonial government sentenced African leader Makanda Nxele to life imprisonment on the island . He drowned on the shores of Table Bay after escaping the prison. The island was also used as a leper colony and animal quarantine station. Starting in 1845 lepers from the Hemel-en-Aarde (heaven and earth) leper colony near Caledon were moved to Robben Island when Hemel-en-Aarde was found unsuitable as a leper colony. Initially this was done on a voluntary basis and the lepers were free to leave the island if they so wished. In April 1891 the cornerstones for 11 new buildings to house lepers were laid. After the introduction of the Leprosy Repression Act in May 1892 admission was no longer voluntary and the movement of the lepers was restricted. Prior to 1892 an average of about 25 lepers a year were admitted to Robben Island, but in 1892 that number rose to 338, and in 1893 a further 250 were admitted. During the Second World War the island was fortified and BL 9.2-inch guns and 6-inch guns were installed as part of the defences for Cape Town. Robben Island was used as a prison for political prisoners and convicted criminals from 1961. It was a maximum security prison for political prisoners until 1991. The medium security prison for criminal prisoners was closed in 1996. In the South African general election, 2009, the Democratic Alliance won the island. Robben Island and nearby Whale Rock have been the nemesis of many a ship and its crew. The surf of the open Atlantic Ocean thunders continuously at its margins and any vessel wrecked on the reefs offshore is soon beaten to pieces and disappears.

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