Visiting Robben Island while in Cape Town, South Africa, is something you simply won’t want to miss. The city of Cape Town offers countless tiny wonders that you can explore during your visit, but it’s also surrounded by many magnificent attractions. Robben Island is one of the most popular day-trip destinations that you can easily access from this South African city, and here are six reasons why you should check it out.
1- Good Penguin Viewing –
Boulders Beach is Cape Town’s top penguin viewing spot, but it’s not the only one. Robben Island has a colony of African penguins, and penguin viewing is a popular tourist activity.
Robben Island supports a significant number of penguins that are a great attraction for tourists, but recently the penguin population has been declining due to unidentified causes, although food scarcity has been mentioned as a possible cause.
2- Robben Island Is A UNESCO World Heritage Site –
Today, the island serves as a symbol of the struggle for freedom from racism in South Africa and has been listed as a South African National Heritage Site. In 1999, the island was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
It is most well-known for having been used as a prison before apartheid ended, housing many political prisoners, including Nelson Mandela, who spent 18 years on the island. UNESCO designated Robben Island as a World Heritage Site, and a museum there now reflects on this part of its past.
3- Easily Accessible From Cape Town –
Located in the Table Bay, 6.9 km off the coast of Bloubergstrand, Robben Island in Cape Town is easily accessible to tourists. It is open to the public and can be visited from the tourist hotspot of the city. This roughly oval-shaped island is about 3.3 km long and 1.9 km wide, spanning an area of 5.07 square kilometers. Due to erosion, the island’s height is near sea level due to its relatively flat nature.
4- Nelson Mandela Served 18 Years Of Jail Term On This Island –
Among the country’s most prominent figures and a Nobel laureate, Nelson Mandela spent 18 years of his 27-year sentence on this island. Mandela was imprisoned here for the bulk of his 27-year rule. There were also two other South American presidents living on Robben Island: Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma.
5- A Long And Rich History –
Robben Island served as a place to isolate political prisoners for many centuries. The first group to use the island for that purpose were the Dutch settlers, who incarcerated Dutch nationals from their colonies on the island. In 1806, John Murray opened a whaling station on the island.
Makanda Nxele was sentenced to life in prison in the fifth of the Xhosa Wars, when the British overcame the local Xhosas. He drowned while trying to escape. Besides being a leper colony and quarantine colony, the island also served as a jail for political prisoners and criminals convicted by the South African government. Both prisons were later shut down, the former in 1999 and the latter five years later.
6- Robben Island Is A Living Museum –
Guides on the island work largely as former inmates of the island prison. Thousands of tourists arrive on the island each year via a ferry from Cape Town’s Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. We are reminded of the dark days of the past on the island as well as the hardships that Nelson Mandela was forced to endure while living there.