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Ile Robben

Ile Robben (South Africa)

Practical information about Ile Robben

  • Island
  • Viewpoint
  • Museums
  • Castle and fortress
  • Place or Historical Monument
3 / 5 - 2 reviews
How to get there
30 minutes by boat from Cape Town
When to go
All year round
Minimum stay
Half a day

Reviews of Ile Robben

David Debrincat Travel writer
459 travel articles

Lying 30 minutes from Cape Town by boat, Robben Island is the site of the famous prison in which Nelson Mandela was held for 19 years.

My suggestion:
It is absolutely essential to book your ticket several days in advance.

As the long queue for the ferry at the boarding terminal testifies, Robben Island has become a site of pilgrimage and is now one of the essential places to see in South Africa.

As soon as you arrive at the island, a former political prisoner takes charge of you and leads you on a very emotionally moving tour. Through a series of anecdotes, he tells you about his experiences and what daily life was like for him for a number of years. The part where you visit the cell in which Nelson Mandela was held is an intense experience. As for the final speech at the end of the tour – a veritable hymn to peace, forgiveness and hope for the future – I have to admit it brought tears to my eyes.

In summary, it really is essential to make a visit here in order to understand this particularly sad episode in the country's history. And on a different subject entirely, the view of Cape Town from the island is superb.

Nelson Mandela's cell
Travel writer
13 travel articles

It is there that Nelson Mandela was locked up for his 27 years of captivity.

My suggestion:
Only go on this tour if you speak English very well and you are a huge fan of Mandela.

I was impatient to visit this place because it is marked as a must-see in the guidebooks. Moreover, it is necessary to book well in advance to obtain a place on the tour. And the 45 minutes it took to get there by boat did not deter me... Because the tour was going to be guided by a former prisoner who passed several years on Robben Island, it promised to be interesting. In fact, it wasn't at all...

First of all, we did a small tour of the island by bus and a very nice guide (I went there in December 2014) gave us a commentary on what we were seeing (in English, of course!). You have to know that there are 2,000 people living here!!! Then we arrived in front of the famous prison and were impressed by its tens of metres of wire fencing and its watchtowers. But the tour that promised to be interesting was very boring in the end because the former prisoner droned on in a monotone for 45 minutes, which did not suit the resonance of the room. Being a former prisoner was never a guarantee of being an unparalleled orator! And I truly struggled to understand despite my English not being too bad. It was sleep-inducing... For the rest of the tour, it says that you are free to look around, but this was really only a hurried look... Of course, we passed by Mandela's famous cell. It is the only furnished cell out of all the cells that are there and there is a queue for taking photos...

In conclusion, this tour is reserved for out-and-out fans of Mandela and/or those who speak and understand English very well. Do not go there on a family outing if your children do not understand English; they will get bored. But if they do understand English, they may get bored anyway. In that case, it would be better to visit the very beautiful museum that is located on the Waterfront. It will be less expensive, you will not get seasick, and—without a doubt—you will learn a lot more.

Mandela's "famous" cell.