Named for the thousands of seals that once lived here (robbe
is the Dutch word for "seal"), this island has been called South Africa's Alcatraz. Now, like its San Francisco counterpart, Robben Island is no longer used as a prison. It is a popular destination for South Africans and foreign visitors, who make the pilgrimage by high-speed boat to tour the facilities and see the cell where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for many years.
Visitors roam the maximum security wing where South Africa kept its political prisoners during much of the apartheid era. They also see the lime quarry where Mandela and others worked with pick and shovel, and a graveyard that dates back to when the island was a leper colony.
The view of Cape Town's Table Mountain is spectacular from Robben Island. Both the island and the mountain are Unesco World Heritage sites.
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.Unesco World Heritage Site: Robben Island
Photograph courtesy South African Tourism