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Reviewed February 24, 2012

Booked tickets on a whim after passing the Nelson Mandela Gateway building on the V&A waterfront. I had been told you always had to book weeks in advance, however, I was able to get tickets on the Friday for the trip on Sunday. The boat looked pretty full on the day, though, so maybe I was just lucky.

The trip starts with a coach tour round the island. You don't get much of a chance to get off until you arrive at Robert Sobukwe's house. He was placed under house arrest here under a special clause passed by the government. This I found one of the more moving parts of the tour, as the letters he wrote to his family are on display and some of the nobility and bravery of the man comes through. The other part I found very moving was seeing the lime quarry where the prisoners were made to work, in the blinding conditions which were visible even from the coach.

The last part of the tour is around the maximum security prison itself. It has not been tarted up at all - you won't find any actors in prison uniforms pretending to be Nelson Mandela, or anything tacky like that. In fact, it is easy to believe that only yesterday it was still being used as a prison. Even Mandela's old cell has not been in any way glamourised. This is a good decision - the events are too recent and still too raw to be trivialised.

It was hard to follow what the tour guide in the prison was saying because of the numbers on the tour and the fact he had a strong accent. However, he did his best and it is striking to think that you are being shown round by a former inmate. Perhaps people could be given something to read which might help them follow the tour better? I'm thinking especially of non-native English speakers and people who are hard of hearing.

There is a different atmosphere on Robben Island, which my guidebook called "otherworldly". It certainly retains its memories and its ghosts. It may not be a laugh a minute, but I don't think anyone would regret coming here.

Date of experience: February 2012
Thank sfuhere
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 22, 2012

have read about robben island, but now really understand what happened here

Date of experience: December 2011
Thank jimmymcBirmingham
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 20, 2012

Book ahead online as tickets get sold out quickly. Very interesting guides who really make the trip. Sea can get a bit choppy but sick bags are provided??

Date of experience: February 2012
Thank Mars B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 19, 2012

Visited with two young children. The organisation is very impressive. After arriving you transfer to coaches which manage to tour the island in a way that you never see other groups. The tour of the maximum security jail led by a former inmate is very moving.

Date of experience: February 2012
Thank RobertW934
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed February 18, 2012

Roben island bus tour excellent, prison tour too rushed and tour guide was terrible. The initial tour starts on a 1 hr bus tour around the island, this was very good with a lot of history information. The tour then goes to the prison with an ex-prisoner, our tour guide was awful, he gave very little information and we were rushed around the prison. All in all if you are stuck for time in cape town then I'd do something else.

Thank bd100
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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