Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit South Africa, in particular Capetown, to celebrate my birthday which is in August. Unbeknownst to me, Capetown is in the Southern Hemisphere; therefore, August is there winter. Well, slap me silly, as I only packed summer attire and I nearly froze to death during my visit. I’ve gotten a little better with my travels and geography 🙂 Anywho, one of the most memorable part of this trip was a tour of Robben Island. This is a must to do while in Cape Town.
Robben Island is an island in Table Bay, 6.9 kilometres (4.3 mi) west of the coast of Cape Town, South Africa. In Dutch, it means “seal island”. The island is flat and only a few meters above sea level. This is where the former President of South Africa Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 (an 9 years in Pollsmoor Prison and Victor Verster Prison) before the fall of apartheid. History Fact: “To date, three of the former inmates of Robben Island have gone on to become President of South Africa: Nelson Mandela, Kgalema Motlanthe, and current President Jacob Zuma.”
You must book your tour prior to your arrival to Capetown as they sell out quickly.
Times: 0900, 1100, and 1300
Duration: 3.5 hours with a 30 minutes ferry ride
Meeting Point: The ferries depart from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V & A Waterfront.
Here is the link to book this tour http://webtickets.co.za/events/tourism/robben-island-museum-tour/76219
Below are my photo perspective of this tour
V & A Waterfront
Museum and Entrance to the Ferry Ride
I was freezing on the ferry ride. It was about 50 degrees and I had no warm clothing. 🙁
The Ferry Views of Capetown
Arrival to Robben Island – Murray’s Bay Harbour
Once we disembark, we took take a short walk to the buses that will transport us to the historical sites around the Island.
“The tour route includes the graveyard of people who died from leprosy, the Lime Quarry, Robert Sobukwe’s house, the Bluestone quarry, the army, and navy bunkers and the Maximum Security Prison where thousands of South Africa’s freedom fighters were incarcerated for years. The tour culminates with a viewing of Nelson Mandela’s cell”
The Route to the Prison
The Prison Area
The disparity among the prisoners
Definition of Coloureds: “are a multiracial ethnic group in South Africa, who have ancestry from African (Khoisan and Bantu), European, and sometimes also Asian (Austronesian and South Asian) ethnic groups.
Like all other Black ethnic groups, the Coloureds also fell victim to segregation and repressive legislation enacted by Colonial and successive governments. This legislation took away some of the privileges enjoyed by Coloureds prior to the introduction and institutionalization of the Apartheid policy by the National Party”.
Definition of Bantu(s) people: “In the earlier apartheid period (the 1960s), it replaced the word ‘Native’ in official government usage in South Africa. The Department of Native Affairs changed its name to the Department of Bantu Administration and Development, and the word became despised by Africans as it was associated with apartheid and inferior treatment.
From 1977, the term ‘Bantu’ was slowly replaced by ‘black’. While black South Africans appreciate their own language and culture, they regarded with suspicion the Nationalist Government’s approach to their ethnicity, believing it was used in the apartheid plan to isolate them. Therefore, this language term took on the skin of emotive meaning and became a symbol of the oppressors.”
All of the tour guides at Robben Island were former prisoners. When Billy spoke about his imprisonment and separation from his family due to apartheid, it just breaks your heart while angry at the injustice.
I leave you with a quote from Nelson Mandela “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This tour offers a first-hand education from the prisoner’s perspective. If you have a chance to visit Cape Town, make sure to book this tour.