Among the many day trips you can take, the 3 hour Robben Island trip that departs from the V&A Waterfront, remains a consistent favourite. Situated 10km (6.2 miles) offshore and notorious for its former role as a maximum-security political prison, it has been developed as a nature reserve, museum and poignant memorial to South Africa's long liberation struggle.
Robben Island, World Heritage Site. Cape Town, South Africa
Robben Island is famous, the world over, like the Siberian gulags, as a place of punishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment. For nearly 400 years colonial and apartheid rulers banished those they regarded as political troublemakers, social outcasts and the unwanted of society to this rocky, 575 hectare outcrop in Table Bay.Robben means seal in Dutch. White settlers making use of its many resources such as Marine mammals, Penguins, Seashells and Slate, exploited the island in its early history. The island's unwanted inhabitants have included slaves, political and religious Muslim leaders, who opposed Dutch colonialism in East Africa, African leaders who resisted British expansion in South Africa, leprosy sufferers, the sick, the poor, the mentally disturbed, French Vichy prisoners of war and, most recently, political opponents of the apartheid regime.Robben Island also functioned both as a prison and as a whaling station in the early 1800's. In 1820, however, the whaling station was closed after prisoners used whaleboats to escape. During the apartheid years, Robben Island became internationally known for its institutional brutality.
Some freedom fighters spent more than a quarter of a century in prison for their beliefs. Yet people such as Nelson Mandela emerged from here to lead South Africa to democracy with a message of tolerance, reconciliation and hope that moved the world.