An important impact of history at Robben Island

Take Off
Jörgen Wennberg
Sat 30 Dec 2017 12:00
Early morning we took the boat over to Robben Island to visit the prison where Nelson Mandela was imprisonned for 18 of his 27 years in prison.


The view over Table Mountain from Robben Island. Walking around the island before visiting the prison



We started the tour by bus visiting the careers where Nelson and his compatriots actually planned the new constitution of South Africa… in secret.


Our guide for the day. In earlier days it was former prisoners who guided around Robben Island. Now they are getting too old. 


Robben Island lies in Table Bay, north of Cape Town. It takes its name from the Dutch word for seals (robben), hence the Dutch/Afrikaans name Robbeneiland, which translates to Seal(s) Island.

Robben Island is roughly oval in shape, 3.3 kilometres long north–south. It is flat and only a few metres above sea level, as a result of an ancient erosion event. It was fortified and used as a prison from the late-seventeenth century until 1996, after the end of apartheid.

Political activist and lawyer Nelson Mandela was imprisoned on the island for 18 of the 27 years of his imprisonment before the fall of apartheid and introduction of full, multi-racial democracy. He was later awarded the Nobel Peace Price and was elected in 1994 as President of South Africa, becoming the country's first black president and serving one term from 1994–1999. In addition, the majority of prisoners were detained here for political reasons. Two other former inmates of Robben Island, in addition to Mandela, have been elected to the presidency since the late-1990s: Kgalema Motlanthe  (2008–2009) and Jacob Zuma (2009–  ).

Robben Island is a South African National Heritage Site as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site .



The ration of food they got and for some the “bed” they slept on (the mattresses).


Showing the prisoners’ passes.


Nelson Mandela and the courtyard where the prisoners “worked”.


Nelson Mandela’s cell during his last years in the prison.

All these politicians were imprisoned during the Apartheid. Finally freed!

We left the island somewhat taken by history, human kind and especially the perseverance among these prisoners. To never ever ever give up!


On our way back home from Robben Island back to the mainland we were very lucky to see...


… whales!


A beautiful boat trip back home!