Robben Island and Table Mountain © Christopher Griner
South Africa's most widely known tourist attraction is probably Robben Island, seven miles (11km) from Cape Town in the centre of Table Bay. For nearly 400 years this tiny rocky island outcrop was utilised as a place of banishment, exile, isolation and imprisonment for numerous categories of people ostracised by society, ranging from political protesters to lepers. During the years of Apartheid, Robben Island became synonymous with institutional brutality as numerous freedom fighters, including the island's most famous resident, Nelson Mandela, were imprisoned here for more than a quarter of a century. Robben Island is now a museum, symbolising liberation and the triumph of the human spirit. Regular island tours are conducted, lasting three and a half hours. The tours, which are guided by former prisoners, include a visit to the maximum-security prison on the island where an estimated 3,000 freedom fighters were incarcerated between 1962 and 1991. The island is also interesting in other ways; for instance, it is a magnet for shipwrecks, with at least 68 recorded cases of ships foundering on its rocky coast. The boat trip across the bay can be really fun in itself, and some wonderful views of the city and Table Mountain are gained from the ferry ride and the island itself.
Telephone: Museum 021 413 4220; Bookings 021 413 4263
Transport: Boat from the Nelson Mandela Robben Island Gateway in the clock tower precinct at the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town. Book in advance
Opening times: Boats leave at 9am, 11am, 1pm, 3pm (weather dependent).
Admission: Tours are R230 (adults), R120 (children 4-17), which includes the return boat trip across Table Bay.