Robben Island information
Used as a prison from the early days of the VOC right up until 1996, this Unesco World Heritage site is preserved as a memorial to those such as Nelson Mandela who spent many years incarcerated here. You can only go here on a tour which last around 4 hours including ferry rides and depart from the Nelson Mandela Gateway beside the Clock Tower at the Waterfront. Booking online well in advance is highly recommended as tours can sell out.
The standard tours, which have set departure and return times, include a walk through the old prison (with the obligatory peek into Mandela’s cell), as well as a 45-minute bus ride around the island with commentary on the various places of note, such as the lime quarry in which Mandela and many others slaved, and the church used during the island’s stint as a leper colony. If you’re lucky, you’ll have about 10 minutes to wander around on your own.
Even if you don’t plan a visit to the island, it’s worth dropping by the free museum at the Nelson Mandela Gateway , with its focus on the struggle for equality. Also preserved as a small museum is the Waterfront’s Jetty 1 , the departure point for Robben Island when it was a prison.