The Dark History of Robben Island

South Africa

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By Ryan Gargiulo

Our morning started off bright and early with a tour of Robben Island, an island in Table Bay located just under 7km off the coast of Cape Town, South Africa.

Robben Island - Cape Town, South Africa

For those who are not familiar with Robben Island, this was the place where ex-president Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners spent decades of their lives during the apartheid era.

Cape Town, South Africa
Cape Town Pier

Once we pulled up to the pier we spent some time basking in the morning sun while waiting for the ferry to arrive.

Ferry to Robben Island - Cape Town, South Africa
9AM Ferry to Robben Island

Upon arriving on Robben Island, we were all assigned to a bus that would escort us around the island. The bus was equipped with a very witty tour guide who also happened to be an ex-prisoner of Robben Island.

Robben Island - Cape Town, South Africa
Robben Island Tour Guide and ex Political Prisoner (Right)

Photo courtesy of SHABL

During the tour we learned about the dark history of Robben Island during the times of Apartheid and the horrendous conditions that the prisoners were subjected to during their time spent there. Some survived Robben Island, and some were not so fortunate.

We stopped off at a view point which is known to be one of the best places to view Cape Town in all of it’s glory.

View from Robben Island to Cape Town
Beautiful View of Cape Town in the distance…

We entered the building where Nelson Mandela was held for a large chunk of his life. Walking through the hallways of this old prison gave me those same creepy feelings that I had when during my visit to Kilmainham Gaol a couple of years ago.

Robben Island - Cape Town, South Africa

For more information on the history of Robben Island, be sure to check out my friend Rob’s in-depth article regarding our visit to Robben Island here.


While I wasn’t too crazy about the Robben Island tour, I did think that our tour guide was top-notch. He kept our attention through out the entire tour and at times he had us laughing hysterically. He mentioned that he has given tours to all sorts of celebrtities and political figures such as President Obama a few years before he became President. I found that to be quite interesting!

If you’re into history and you’re ready to swallow a whole bunch of it within a span of two hours or so, head on over to Robben Island.

More Information:

Robben Island Official Website

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