Hello from Gabi and Vanessa, we are interns at Ih Cape Town and today we just want to tell you guys a little bit more about the Robben Island Tour that the school can organise for you.
On a nice Sunday morning we and about 20 other students from Ih Cape Town decided to go on a little historic adventure and follow Nelson Mandela’s traces around the little island so close to Cape Town’s shore. It was one of the social activities we planned for the students. At least one of the interns is always coming along to help during the trips and document the fun we have together.
We bought all the tickets beforehand online on webtickets.co.za to avoid disappointment as this tour usually books out very quickly. Especially for a large group it is always better to plan and book in advance. You can, however, buy the tickets at the Robben Island museum as well.
The Robben Island Tour is about a 4 hour tour to the Island where Nelson Mandela was a prisoner for 18 years during apartheid.
Robben Island – A place full of history
Robben Island is placed in Table Bay and 6.9 kilometres away from the coast. In the past it was used as a prison island, especially for political prisoners during Apartheid. The most famous arrested person was Nelson Mandela.
On the island we can learn all about Nelson Mandela’s history and of course about the history of Robben island itself. The views of Table Mountain are also pretty amazing.
The name Robben Island comes from the Dutch and means Seal Island. So can you now imagine what kind of landscape we can see there?
The island has been used since the 17th century for all kinds and different political prisoners. Indeed in South African history we already have three ex-presidents who were prisoners there – Nelson Mandela, Jacob Zuma and Kgalema Motlanthe.
The Journey to Robben Island
Once you arrived at the V&A Waterfront you will need to get to the Robben Island Museum.
The trip to Robben Island starts at the gateway of the museum which next to the clock tower. In order to reach Robben Island you need to take a ferry which takes about 30 minutes. The boat ride is included in the entrance fee. If you are lucky you can see seals, dolphins and in the right season maybe even whales during the boat ride. Even if luck is not on your side and the marine life disappoints you, we guarantee that the view of the landscape will not. From the boat as well as from the island you have amazing views over the Mother City, the harbour and waterfront as well as Table Mountain and Lion’s head.
If the weather is not that great, the sea might be a bit rough, so you better take some sea sickness tablets or have a strong stomach to cope with the shaky boat (not everyone on our boat was enjoying it as much and they just tried to keep their breakfasts in). But don’t worry the boat will not leave the harbour if the weather conditions are not good enough 😉
The Tour on Robben Island
When we then arrived at Robben Island a few buses already waited for us. Our really friendly and funny tour guide welcomed us at the bus and the tour started. Our guide was a former prisoner who spent seven years in the prison of Robben Island himself. So he did not just tell us memorized facts, but he spoke from his own experience. This made the tour really unique and impressive.
Our tour guide On the bus
We passed lots of old buildings and the delf where the prisoners had to work back in the days. Following that we stopped at a place with an amazing view of Cape Town. We had some time to enjoy the view. So we took some pictures with the wonderful landscape of Cape Town in the background. After this break we passed the military base, which was built to protect Cape Town during the 2nd World War.
Viewing the prison on Robben Island
The bus trip ended at the prison. We went and saw the cell in which Nelson Mandela spent most of his time during his imprisonment. This was quiet significant for us. The guide showed us the different buildings of the prison and reported on the terrible conditions in the prison. Especially terrifying was the huge difference between black people and white people. For example the white people were allowed to wear shoes and have a normal meal. Whereas the black people got less food and had to be barefoot – even in the winter.
The guide told us so many interesting stories about the island and the work the prisoners had to do during their time in jail. Of course the stories about Nelson Mandela were most interesting to us. Unfortunately, it was a bit difficult for some of the students to understand everything the tour guide said as he had a thick accent. But how is the saying?… A picture says more than a thousand words and so does seeing this island with your own eyes. What you see there speaks for itself and you can only imagine how the prisoners must have felt during their time there. So it was not a big problem that some students struggled a little bit with their English. It is a great language practice after all.
The end of the tour on Robben Island
After finishing the tour in the prison we went the short way back to the ferry by foot. ‘This is the walk to freedom’ – our tour guide explained to us.
In our opinion, these types of tours are always good to remind us what is our purpose of life, after the experience to see with your own eyes this big and strong story about Africa and his people who have a lot of pride. Our class mates had mixed feelings about the tour as it tells such a sad and true story but also because with Mandela’s release it was the beginning of something new and so much better.
We definitely recommend everyone to do the Robben Island tour who wants to learn a bit more about South African history. You will get to know Nelson Mandela’s story and understand where the country is today. But we also think that having done it once, it is not really necessary to do it again very soon.
Good to know
As you may know it would have been Nelson Mandela’s 100. birthday on Wednesday 18.July. Many people in South Africa remember and celebrate him by spending 67 minutes helping people in need. Why 67 minutes you may ask know… The reason is that Nelson Mandela fought 67 years for social justice and democracy in South Africa. Our teachers and students helped in many different ways Wednesday last week and the school donated blankets and food to a soup kitchen.
Ih Cape Town has been running a Nelson Mandela special in June and July which includes your Standard English course, a Robben Island tour and a eco friendly Nelson Mandela Ih Cape Town cotton bag. The special finishes end of July., so you only have a few more days to secure your special! Please contact [email protected] for more infos.
Even if you are not interested in the special promotion, the lovely girls at the front desk are happy to help you book YOUR Robben Island Tour to experience what we have experienced.
~For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others. ~ Nelson Mandela