Best Robben Island in South Africa Tour 1
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Best Robben Island in South Africa Tour

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Greetings, Internet Stranger, and welcome to the best Robben Island in South Africa tour day. Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities you’ll ever visit in your life, with amazing food, gorgeous scenery, and elegant and friendly service.

But on the other side of that is Cape Town’s cruel and oppressive history of racism. It’s not possible to have a real trip to Cape Town without seeing both sides of this amazing city. Come along with me on this best Robben Island in South Africa tour day, and I’ll try to show you why.

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Robben Island in South Africa Tour

#1 TOP PICK

Best Robben Island in South Africa Tour 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
ROBBEN ISLAND TOUR
✔️ Learn history first hand
✔️ Hotel pick up/skip the line

#2 PICK

Best Robben Island in South Africa Tour 3

STREET ART TOUR
✔️
Surprisingly affordable
✔️
Expert local guide

#3 PICK

Best Robben Island in South Africa Tour 4

ALL OTHER CAPE TOWN TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Morning: Visit Robben Island

Robben Island is the notorious island prison where political prisoners were kept during the apartheid years. The most famous political prisoner here was, of course, future South African president Nelson Mandela.

But there were other important political prisoners kept here as well. You can’t really spend a best Robben Island in South Africa tour day. without stopping on Robben Island.

My suggestion is to take the earliest possible ticket that you can and plan to spend the entire morning on the island. The tickets are very popular, so book as far in advance as you can on the website. It will be easier for you if you book a guided tour to Robben Island.

You can book this tour easily by clicking here.

You’ll be well taken care of on the tour, which is mandatory. Exploring on your own is not allowed. But I’ll give you an idea of what to expect with…

Approximately Top 5: Robben Island

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day
1) Take the Ferry to Robben Island

You’ll have to pick up the ferry at the Nelson Mandela Gateway, located at the V&A Waterfront. It wasn’t hard to get to by foot at all. Show up early, so you can explore the little museum located in the Gateway.

One warning: it’s possible that the ferry will be canceled due to bad weather. It didn’t happen to me, but it has been known to happen.

So I suggest doing this trip to Robben Island as early in your trip to Cape Town as you can, so you’ll have a chance to reschedule. But hopefully you won’t have any trouble!

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day
2) Bus Tour

Once you arrive on the island, you’ll be taken to your bus tour, which in my case was led by a gregarious young man who looked all of twenty years old. He told us that the prisoners on Robben Island were released in 1991, thanks in large part to Mandela’s activism.

While on Robben Island, the prisoners were not allowed to speak any language except for Afrikaans or English, even though many of them would have spoken other languages like Xhosa, Nelson Mandela’s first language.

It was then we learned that one of the tourists on the bus had been a political prisoner on Robben Island himself. Someone asked him why he wanted to take the tour, and he said he wanted to see what they’d done to the place just like everyone else did.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day
3) A Photo Op?

Remember how I said you’ll keep going back and forth between unimaginable beauty and unimaginable hideousness during your time in Cape Town? The tour on Robben Island was no different. Our bus driver let us have a stop for the restroom and photo opportunities.

How strange to get a photo op in a former prison. I didn’t feel right about it, and then I felt guilty for not feeling right about it since the South Africans who work at Robben Island, some of whom are former prisoners themselves, set this all up.

So I decided to join in the photo op. It’s true that you won’t find more beautiful scenery than this anywhere in the world.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day
4) The Prison

Once the bus tour is over, you’ll be taken to the prison, where you’ll be led around by a guide who was a political prisoner himself.

Our guide was from the South African city Port Elizabeth. You’ll be able to see Nelson Mandela’s cell, but not the actual things that he used personally. The cell was used as a prison for non-political offenders after Mandela’s release, so the items inside were changed.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Our guide explained that there were three classes of prisoners kept on Robben Island: Asian, Coloured (multi-racial), and Bantu (Black).

The Bantu were treated by far the worst. You can see the large replica above of a chart showing how poorly the Bantu prisoners were fed even compared to the other prisoners.

Our guard also reminded us that not all political prisoners were kept on Robben Island. Some, like Steve Biko, were killed by law enforcement. You can see more about Steve Biko in the movie Cry Freedom starring Denzel Washington. (He earned his first Oscar nomination for that film.)

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day
5) Remember

Our guides all told us that the South African apartheid government tried to cover up the crimes that were being committed on Robben Island. If international visitors came, they moved the prisoners from doing hard labor to making bags.

But once the journalists and such left, they’d go back to brutal treatment. Prisoners had to complete 40 hours of hard labor a week, and if they couldn’t, they were shot. Their toilet was two buckets in a cave.

Many people who had family members kept on Robben Island never saw their family again. Probably their relatives died in prison and they were never informed, but it’s hard to be sure.

At the end of the tour, our guide asked us to go back to our homes and tell other people what happened on Robben Island and persuade them to come visit. I hope that’s what I’ve managed to do with you here today.

24 Hour Tip

Don’t forget to reserve your spot in advance before all the tickets get sold out.

Check rates and availability right here.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Best Robben Island in South Africa tour day.

Afternoon: V&A Waterfront

When you make your return trip from Robben Island, you’ll be dropped back off at the V&A Waterfront, so why not explore? The V&A stands for Victoria and Albert, as in the former queen of the UK and her beloved consort. After all, South Africa used to be a British colony.

But enough history! We’re in the mood for some sunshine and smiles. And we’re definitely in the mood for food. So let’s get started with…

Three Fun Facts: V&A Waterfront

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day
1) What is there to eat?

We’re having an early and massive meal this evening of our best Robben Island in South Africa tour day., so keep the lunch light.

Stop off at Cooked for some Mediterranean fare. Try a salad with khoubiz, warm Lebanese flatbread that is so light it basically dissolves in your mouth like a tiny, starchy cloud.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day
2) Where Can I Shop?

Cooked is located inside the Watershed, which just might be the best place to shop in South Africa. You can find someone for anyone on your Nice List or even someone on your Naughty List.

All the shops here feature local makers, so it’s a great way to support South African creativity while you shop ’til you drop.

Some of the stores I recommend include:

  • African Fynbosgems, which sells jewelry made out of the precious South African plant family known as the fynbos. I pretended like I was going to buy something for a friend and then just bought a pair of earrings for myself because I collect earrings in every substance including things like lava and beetle wings.
  • Flick Inc, which sells fabulous ceramics and prints. I again pretended I was buying a gift and instead bought a ceramic wine stopper shaped like a fynbos and a print of a luggage tag going to Cape Town. I am the worst at buying gifts.
  • T-Bag Designs, which sells upcycled good made from used teabags. I finally bought a Christmas present for my oldest friend here, so I guess my reign of shopping terror finally ended. Thanks, teabags!
 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day
3) WAAA! Where Can I Get Outside?

Had enough shopping, Internet Stranger? Let’s head out to explore the Waterfront. My favorite thing to do is run around and see as many of the brightly colored rhinoceroses as we possibly can.

These rhinos were put up by a conservationist group to raise awareness of Crimes Against Rhinos, but they’ve since become popular selfie spots.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Here’s another famous statue at the V&A Waterfront: the four South African Nobel Peace Prize winners. Their names are Nelson Mandela, FW de Klerk, Desmond Tutu, and Albert Luthuli.

De Klerk was by far the least popular; many South Africans feel it was unfair that he received the Nobel Prize jointly with Mandela. After all, De Klerk was the president before Mandela, and he was still responsible for upholding many racist laws and policies, even if he did eventually agree to change them.

I know I said I’d steer clear of history, but in South Africa that’s very difficult to do! I’ll let you wander off by the water to enjoy your best Robben Island in South Africa tour day while I burble historical facts to myself over here.

best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Fine, one more fact! This stone above was created to mark the visit of King George VI of the United Kingdom, whom you might know from his big hits The King’s Speech and The Crown. Apparently the King was not a fan of his racist bodyguards and referred to them as the Gestapo.

But nevertheless, the South Africans honored him with this engraving, which remains at the Waterfront to this day. I was surprised to find how many reminders there are in Cape Town of the fact that South Africa used to be part of the British Empire.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Early Evening: High Tea at Mount Nelson

Nothing is more luxurious than High Tea at the fabulous Mount Nelson Hotel. This is just one more example of things being Terribly British in Cape Town sometimes because Nelson comes from the famous British admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, not Nelson Mandela.

When I went, they offered an afternoon tea seating at 5 PM, which was perfect for this itinerary, but check ahead because times may change. If there’s no later seating, just come here first and then go to the Waterfront.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Then it’s time for the savory course!

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Here’s the entire list of everything you will consume for the first half of the legendary Mount Nelson tea:

A smoked salmon sandwich, a cucumber and cream cheese sandwich, an egg salad sandwich, cured meats, a cheese puff, pate, and roast beef.

Are we done? Hell to the no. We’ve got a mushroom pastry, spicy meat pastry, a spinach bite, a chickpea bite, two sausages, one of which is spicy, assorted cheeses of different textures and milks, including goat, a fruit spread, hummus, peppers, cheese, crackers, bread, and grapes.

All right, still hungry after the first course? On to the sweets!

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Here we have a scone (pronounced scon) served with cream, cheddar, strawberry jam, and butter. Truly there is something for any Brit who wants to dress their scon like they do at home.

Think we’ve got dessert coming? Hahaha, foolish mortal. There will be six desserts:

A cheesecake bite, a caramel square, a coconut square, a vanilla eclair (that rhymes!), a carrot cake, and a raspberry dobos cake with lashings of cream.

No, I was not able to finish all this food, though I did eat at least a bite of everything. If you can finish it all, please email me for your reward at iateallthemountnelsontea@aroundtheworldin24hours.com

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day.

Best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

Where to Stay?

I keep harping on about how gobsmackingly beautiful Cape Town is, so I’m sure you’ll love wherever you stay.

But my recommendation for the best hotel in Cape Town is the Cape Heritage Hotel. It has the nicest staff, an insanely convenient location, and gorgeous rooms with luxurious bath products.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day.

Also, just look at that amazing breakfast! The hotel will make you a hot breakfast to order every morning, but I was so happy with the yogurt, fruit, and coffee that I never needed it. Next time, I’ll have to try one of their breakfasts.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day.

Click here for a great deal on this hotel for your best Robben Island in South Africa tour day.

Or if you’d rather find something in another location or price range, click here!

This search engine will help you find the perfect place to stay for your time in Cape Town. With plenty of options to choose from, I’m sure you’ll find something for your schedule and budget.

 best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

That’s a Perfect best Robben Island in South Africa tour day

If you thought this article was funny, check out my hilarious travel guide Get Lost.

What would you do on a best Robben Island in South Africa tour? Are you ready to start booking your hotel in Cape Town right now? And do you think one of those rhino statues could finish the Mount Nelson tea? Please email me at stellajane@aroundtheworldin24hours.com and let me know!

Stella’s Top 3 Picks: Robben Island in South Africa Tour

#1 TOP PICK

Best Robben Island in South Africa Tour 2

⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
ROBBEN ISLAND TOUR
✔️ Learn history first hand
✔️ Hotel pick up/skip the line

#2 PICK

Best Robben Island in South Africa Tour 3

STREET ART TOUR
✔️
Surprisingly affordable
✔️
Expert local guide

#3 PICK

Best Robben Island in South Africa Tour 4

ALL OTHER CAPE TOWN TOURS
✔️ Find your favorite!
✔️ Get the best deals

Note: If you want to know how I put my travel itineraries together, just click here. Keep in mind that while each article is about how to spend 24 hours in a place, that doesn’t mean you should ONLY have 24 hours in Cape Town

You can try 24 hours in Cape Town. Or how about a wonderful day trip from Cape Town? You can also experience the best food tours in Cape Town. Finally, try the Cape Town top things to do. Learn about the best Cape Town weather South Africa.

Best Robben Island in South Africa Tour 8

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