Robben Island was used for hundreds of years as a prison, leper colony and quarantine station. Starting in the 1960s Robben Island had a number of buildings constructed to allow for its use as a maximum security prison facility to house political prisoners. The most famous of its residents in that time was Nelson Mandela, and several other famous political figures from South Africa served sentences there as well. In 1991 the last of the prisoners were removed from the island, ending its long-running role. Five years later Nelson Mandela, a former resident of the prison, was elected as the President of South Africa and the prison complex became a museum and three years later a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In addition to the boat ride out to Robben Island and a tour of the maximum security prison facilities and other bits of the island the tours also include a portion guided by an ex-prisoner of the facility. When I first read that on their website I was mostly unimpressed. I’m not entirely sure why, but I didn’t expect that part of the tour to be particularly special. I could not have been more wrong. It was clear that he was not a professional tour guide, but having someone there with the personal connection to the site really made an enormous difference. And having him give us a tour not just of the prison complex, but of the cell where he personally spent so many years of his life, was incredibly moving. Read more and see more pictures here.