This morning we took the first ferry out to Alcatraz, also known as The Rock. Alcatraz is just 2km offshore from San Francisco and housed some ofAmerica’s most difficult and dangerous criminals between 1934 and 1963.

As far they know, no inmate ever successfully escaped from Alcatraz although there were more than a dozen attempts over the years. In 1962, two inmates escaped from prison but were never seen again. Their bodies were never found either and it’s therefore believed that they have drowned.

Today, the island’s facilities are managed by the National Park Service as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Tourists can reach the island by ferry ride from Pier 33, near Fisherman’s Wharf and it only takes a few minutes.

Even though Alcatraz has an interesting history, I do feel that it’s not as extreme as Robben Island in South Africa. Let’s compare apples with apples quickly – both Alcatraz and Robben Island are offshore islands with prisons. Alcatraz is 2 km offshore from San Francisco and Robben Island is 7 km offshore from Cape Town, so escaping Robben Island is already much harder to do. Even though both are situated in cold water ocean currents, Alcatraz in the Pacific and Robben Island in the Atlantic, the Atlantic around Robben Island has lower (sometimes icy/freezing) water temperatures. According to the tour guide, Alcatraz had the best menu (we’ve seen it) in the US prison system whilst Robben Island inmates had to eat very basic food.  And here is the kicker to my argument- we’re told that inmates on Alcatraz enjoyed an hour+ outside every day, enjoying the sun and playing baseball whilst the inmates on Robben Island were forced to work long hours at the limestone quarry in the scorching sun. Let’s face it, Nelson Mandela (among others),  suffered permanent eye damage later in his life due to such extreme exposure to sunlight reflecting from the limestone rocks.

Take nothing away from Alcatraz or its history, but I’ve been to both islands and I truly believe that The Rock was the lesser evil.  When visiting San Francisco, making a trip to Alcatraz is a must and I can guarantee you, whether you visit the prison during the day or night, you’ll love it!