Robben Island History - World Heritage Site


Robben Island was officially declared a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999.

A few thousand years ago Robben Island used to be a mountain. People lived in and around this area for thousands of years. What is now and island is actually a summit of an ancient mountain that linked to the Blouberg area on the West coast of Cape Town.

One of the first of the known prisoners was Harry die strandloper also known as Autshomao. The term "strandloper" was applied by the Dutch to the Khoi Khoi people they tried to enslave and all those that lived along the coastline of what is now known as Cape Town. Harry a trader at the time was banished to Robben Island for stealing from the Dutch. Harry traded livestock for alcohol and tobacco but as the history goes, he was cheated by the Dutch most of the times, arguments ensured. Harry then took revenge by stealing back from the Dutch traders and was eventually caught.

Robben Island hosts more than 100 birds species, including seabirds, waterbirds and terrestrial birds. Various animal species species can be found roaming around the island, amongst them springbol, deer, lizards, ostriches and eland.

Over the years Robben Island had had many uses, it was used as a prison, a hospital for people with leprosy and mental illness, and a training ground during world war 2. Many famous political leaders was held captive on the island during the twentieth century. Amongst the most famous: Nelson Mandela, Raymond Mhlaba, Ashley Forbes and James Mange. Click here to view a List of Robben Island political prisoners

In the late 1990's Robben island was converted into a museum and a world heritage site. It also runs educational programs for the youth, school and adult groups. Thousands of tourist flock to the island every year to visit the the cell in which Nelson Mandela was held captive.



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