Friendly Cape Town Tours

Robben Island Excursion

3½ to 4 Hours

Friendly Cape Town Tours

Robben Island Excursion

3½ to 4 Hours

Fully guided excursions to Robben Island explore the sobering history of this place of banishment used by both the Dutch and British colonizers, but most famously by the apartheid government from 1961 to 1991, when activists in the anti-apartheid liberation movement were incarcerated there.

The tour starts with a 30 minute ferry ride from the Nelson Mandela Gateway Terminal at the Clocktower Precinct of the V&A Waterfront.

On arrival on the 574 ha (1 420 acre) island, disembark the ferry, walk to where the buses are parked just beyond the harbour, and step aboard. As you drive around, a guide shares the island’s story, including 300 years of pre-apartheid history.

You will see the village and infrastructure built to serve the prison and its staff, spectacular views across to Table Mountain, and some key historic sites such as the leper graves, limestone quarry and the house where Robert Sobukwe was incarcerated.

You can sometimes see wildlife such as antelope and African penguins, and the breeding colonies of certain other sea birds.

The 2nd part of the tour is a guided walk through the high-security prison. Former political prisoners are still able to share their experiences of prison life, but the window of having them available will be drawing to a close one of these days, and it will no longer be guaranteed.

During your prison tour, you will have the humbling experience of walking past the cell occupied by Nelson Mandela during his 18 years of solitary confinement, part of his 27 years of incarceration in 3 prisons altogether.

General Information

Timing: Ferries depart at 09:00, 11:00, 13:00 (and 15:00 in summer) and return 3½ to 4 hours later, subject to weather and late running.

Price: R600 (South African Rand) per adult, R310 per child up to 18, for non-South Africans. (For South Africans: R400 & R210.)

Please note
  • Tours are often fully booked, especially during the summer high season and South African school holidays, weekends and public holidays (but can be full any time), so advance booking online is recommended.
  • Tours are weather-dependent (sometimes affected by high seas and/or winds) and if cancelled due to weather, you have the choice of rescheduling (subject to availability) or getting a full refund.
  • Due to being weather-dependent, it is better to book your Robben Island trip earlier rather than later during your stay in Cape Town, in case it needs to be rescheduled. It is also good to book for an earlier rather than later departure time, like 9:00, when the conditions are likely to be calmer than later in the day.
  • If you are sensitive to seasickness, then consider taking medication. There are days when it is safe enough for the ferries to operate but not very comfortable!
  • Many visitors ask if it is worthwhile to visit Robben Island. My reply is, only you will know. If you go, you will learn important parts of our history which were systematically excluded from our education and media for years, and which you won’t learn by visiting mainstream tourist sites. If you have a real interest in South Africa’s political history, you will find it an interesting, thought-provoking, and possibly inspiring experience. In the words of the late Ahmed Kathrada (fellow Rivonia Trialist arrested with Nelson Mandela in 1963), “While we will not forget the brutality of apartheid, we will not want Robben Island to be a monument of our hardship and suffering. We would want it to be a triumph of the human spirit against the forces of evil …” Some of the guides are more skilled than others in embodying this spirit in their delivery, but regardless, the sharing is real, and there’s a gravity to the experience. If you’re just looking for an activity to fill your time in Cape Town, then think twice, because there are many other things to do.
  • Tours are sometimes subject to late running, and occasional logistical challenges, and due to the knock-on effect, more so later than earlier in the day. It is therefore not advisable to do the tour if you need to get to the airport or any other important appointment shortly thereafter.
  • There are usually over 300 passengers on each departure, so don’t expect an intimate experience.

This is a fully guided excursion, so you don’t need another guide to accompany you. You can go online to book tickets here:

But please first check the timing with me, so it fits in with whatever tours you are booking with me. Tickets cannot be exchanged or refunded (except if trips are cancelled due to weather).

Please take some form of ID (original or copy) with you to the ferry terminal. A photo of your passport or driver’s license on your phone is acceptable.