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Destinology’s Kirsty Ralphson did not have this place on her radar when visiting South Africa ‘I was kind of outvoted by friends so went with the flow – I’ve never regretted it. What I was expecting was a gloomy, disheartening experience that would leave me melancholy and miserable. What I got was enlightening, inspiring and uplifting, in an almost spiritual way’

The facts

  • Robben Island in Table Bay on the west coast of Bloubergstrand, Cape Town, South Africa.
  • Nelson Mandela was forced to call it his home for 18 of his 27-year imprisonment
  • Used as a prison on and off between the 17th and 20th centuries
  • Used as a military base and a hospital for socially unacceptable groups
  • Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Why it is so magnificent

‘The island has a unique story which is much older and deeper than I supposed, it also has beauty that I was not prepared for. But the 500-year history really captures your mind and your heart’

Unexpectedly enjoyable

‘The full tour is just shy of four hours' long. Your journey begins with a short boat ride from Cape town, continuing by minibus around all the historical sights. Not only will you pass buildings and monuments, you will see the amazing wildlife that inhabit the island.’ 

Guided by a former inmate

The guided tours are conducted by former inmates and political prisoners, ‘once on the island you’ll be taken on a fascinating personal journey by a man who has experienced incarceration first hand. Our guide told us all about the events that happened there, relaying them so authentically – he could thread in his own personal experiences which brought the story to life in a powerful, totally memorable way. You’ll see the cell where Nelson Mandela himself was confined and get a tangible sense of his strength whilst detained.’

Please don’t miss it

‘It may seem a little sad, it is an old prison, however, the legacy of the great Nelson Mandela combined with the richness of the stories behind him and other political prisoners make this a totally, must-do.’

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