Robben Island translated from the Cape Dutch to mean Seal island. This island has historically been known to house political prisoners. The first known prisoner was that of Antshumato or Harry the Srandloper, he was an interpreter for the English who assisted passing ships, and later assisted the VOC when trading with the Khoisan people.
In the 18th century it housed political leaders from the Dutch East India colonies and other notable prisoners including: Kings from Ternate and Tidore, significant founding religious leaders of Islam in South Africa, as well as the slaves charged with mutiny who were aboard the “Meerman” ship.
In the 19th century part of the Island housed Xhosa leaders who were active in the Eastern Frontier wars. It was also an active whaling station, and part of the island was a leper colony.
In the 20th Century it was fortified during the 2nd World War. The apartheid years it housed notable political prisoners, three of which were presidents namely: Nelson Mandela, Jacob Zuma, Kgalema Motlanthe.
Today Robben Island is a national heritage site and a UNESCO world heritage site. The Island can be accessed by visitors from the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront. Guests are ferried across by boat, and can undertake a tour of the prison with a site guide.
Join us either on our “Sweet Waters and Incarceration Tour” or “Odyssey of Freedom Tour” which includes a visit to Robben Island, for more information visit our tours page.