Cape Town Diaries: Robben Island

June 16, 2013
On our second day in Cape Town, our study group had to meet with our professor for lunch to talk about the objectives and overview of our overall trip.  We met at a chain called Kauai, and I had some sweet potato soup.  While I enjoyed the company I could not say the same for the soup, so needless to say, I did not revisit Kauai.  We then were supposed to take the ferry over to Robben Island, but instead we were met with this:

We were pretty surprised that this was the boat designated to take us over to Robben Island, since it is a replica of a pirate ship and the Robben Island tour is a pretty serious tour.  It turned out that the regular ferry had trouble, so this boat was the temporary replacement.  Our group got a kick out of it!

When we headed over to Robben Island on the pirate ship, we got some great views of Table Mountain.  I got the whole mountain in the picture, and from looking at the full view, I bet you can tell why the mountain got it's name! :)

The picture below is one of the first views we saw of Robben Island upon arrival.

In case you are not quite sure what Robben Island is, let me inform you--it is an island that contains a former prison.  The prison housed black men who opposed the government during Apartheid.  Some famous South Africans were imprisoned here, namely Nelson Mandela and Robert Sobukwe.  Jacob Zuma, the current president of South Africa, also served time here.  Before Robben Island was used for prisoners, those who had leprosy were sent here since it was away from the city.

The black prisoners were coerced into working in a lime quarry.  Our guide told us that prison was good for Nelson Mandela because it taught him how to work and live with others.

Below is a pretty view of the mainland from Robben Island.

Robben Island is a unique place because former inmates still live on the island with the guards that oversaw them.  It's hard to imagine wanting to live with someone who had that much control over you, but that's what makes Robben Island such a special place nowadays because the two groups live amongst each other peacefully and many are now friends.  A lot of the former inmates now give tours of the prison, which is very interesting because one might assume that the prisoners would want to move as far away from Robben Island as they could get.  The focus is on educating visitors so that we can leave with a better understanding of what life was like for them and to learn from the past. 

It's hard to believe that the prisoners were only freed in the 1990's when Apartheid was finally over.

Our guide was a former inmate who was jailed at the age of 19 for "sabatoge."  I use the word "sabatoge" loosely because under the corrupt system of Apartheid those in control could basically jail whomever they wanted. 

 We got to see the actual cell that Mandela was imprisoned in.  His number was 466/64, meaning that he was the 466th prisoner incarcerated in the year 1964.

The boat that was supposed to take us back to the V&A Waterfront was having trouble, so we were stuck on the island waiting for it for 2 hours!  We decided to use this time to see if we could see any penguins.

We were in luck!  I could watch these cute little suckers all day! Our boat finally arrived, and we had a nice sunset cruise for the way back.

My friends and I were cold and starving, so we headed over to Quay Four Tavern for some fish and chips, which all three of us agreed were delicious.  

Overall, it was an educational day but also a fun one!
2 comments on "Cape Town Diaries: Robben Island"
  1. I really love those educational (and sobering) experiences. To think that that all happened relatively recently!

    And I love that the day was topped off by penguin sighting!

    1. Yes, that is the crazy thing about it! A black person (so the majority of the people) could not vote until 1994. 1994!!!

      The penguins were delightful to watch. We went to a beach the following week and got a closer look and even saw some chicks.