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Robben Island and the Legacy of Nelson Mandela

Robben Island

During South Africa’s infamous Apartheid era Robben Island served as a Political Prison for many of the activist leaders who would run the country after open elections in 1994. The most famous of these was Nelson Mandela who spent 18 of his 27 years of imprisonment in an 8X7 foot cell, compelled to do hard labor and allowed only one visitor per year. A visit to this place is surprisingly not at all bleak when, despite the history of privation and hardship, one learns of the vision and purpose that was forged here between the prisoners and the path that redeemed South Africa from an otherwise violent political future. A trip to “the island” is a must for younger visitors and anyone interested in modern history and politics. Today, the island remains a symbol of the political ideal Mandela enshrined in his vision of a Rainbow Nation but also a reminder of the difficult road to South African democracy and good government which the country remains on to this day. We will generally only offer this experience when the weather permits as the 6 mile sea journey by ferry is not advisable when the ocean conditions are not favorable.* When we are on the island, you’ll be able to see human rights activist and former prisoner Robert Sobukwe’s house; a 17th-century limestone quarry where Mandela and others were put to work; a leper colony cemetery; and the Robben Island Museum, dedicated to preserving the memory and contributions of the freedom fighters once held within its walls. Some tours also include access to Mandela’s cell.

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