Robben Island is an island in Table Bay, 6.9 kilometres west of the coast of Bloubergstrand, north of Cape Town, South Africa. It takes its name from the Dutch word for seals, hence the Dutch/Afrikaans name Robbeneiland, which translates to Seal Island.
Robben Island is roughly oval in shape, 3.3 km long north–south, and 1.9 km wide, with an area of 5.08 km². It is flat and only a few metres above sea level, as a result of an ancient erosion event. It was fortified and used as a prison from the late-seventeenth century until 1996, after the end of apartheid.
Political activist and lawyer Nelson Mandela was famously imprisoned on the island for 18 of the 27 years he served imprisoned before the fall of apartheid and introduction of full, multi-racial democracy. He was later awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and was elected in 1994 as President of South Africa, becoming the country's first Black president and serving one term from 1994-99. In addition, the majority of prisoners were detained here for political reasons. Two other former inmates of Robben Island in addition to Mandela have been elected to the presidency since the late-1990s: Kgalema Motlanthe and Jacob Zuma.