My nine-day stay in South Africa, primarily in the Cape Town area, was packed with amazing must-do, once-in-a-lifetime opportunities.
Robben Island is where Nelson Mandela, or Madiba as he was referred to in his native tongue, was held as a political prisoner for 18 of the 27 years of his incarceration before the fall of apartheid. From 1961 until its closure in 1991, the South African government maintained Robben Island as a maximum security prison for political prisoners. It had also served as a leper colony in the 1800s and early 1900s.
Robben Island, robben being Dutch for seal, is located in Table Bay seven or eight kilometers west of Cape Town. Visiting Robben Island requires taking a tour. Tours depart at scheduled times three times per day from Cape Town’s Victoria & Alfred waterfront. Tours last about 3.5 hours.
Arriving on Robben Island, tourists transfer to buses for a tour of some of the sights outside of the prison.
After a bus tour of sights outside the prison, tourists disembark to enter the prison. Only former prisoners may serve as guides inside the prison.
The lesson of Robben Island is displayed on the mural at the dock: “Freedom Cannot be Manacled.”
The return trip on the ferry provides excellent views of Table Mountain and the Cape Town waterfront.