Travelling somewhere on a budget means that you can’t always go and see everything you want to. So we decided to do the trip to Robben Island as neither of us had been there before and leave visiting Table Mountain for another time. When researching our trip to Cape Town we saw that we could book the Robben Island trip before the time, which we did.
We were quite supprised to see just how many people were queuing for each trip. Just be warned, they searched our camera bags and would not allow Pierre to take his 150-500mm lens with him to the island. He had to leave it with security.
The ferry we went on was quite large, we were surprised to hear that it seats 300 passengers. We arranged with one of the ferry staff to be able to stand on the deck once the ferry was on its way as we wanted to get some photographs from the ferry.
We were taken around the island by bus, but were only allowed off at the lookout point and then when we got to the prison. We had to take most of our photographs from the bus.
The Robben Island Limestone Quarry is one of the earliest features of human occupation on the island. It dates back to the mid-17th century. The quarry supplied the dressed stone for the foundations of the Castle of Good Hope in Cape Town. ref. Cape Town Heritage
During the time of Nelson Mandela’s imprisonment, working the lime quarry was a means of keeping prisoners busy. The dust from the limestone quarry caused many prisoners to develop chest as well as eye problems. You’ll notice the small rockpile, this was started by Nelson Mandela and then added to, one rock at a time, by former prisoners who returned to visit to the island.
We were able to get off the bus for a short while at the viewing point where we could have a bathroom break and also purchase something to drink or snack on. We were able to get a lovely view of Cape Town and Table Mountain from this spot.
On the rest of the drive we had a chance to see some of the other buildings such as schools and churches on the island. Again, only viewable from inside the bus.
When we arrived at the prison we were met by a young tour guide. Usually, the tours through the prison are led by older ex-prisoners who give information based on first-hand experience. Unfortunately, the gentleman who would’ve taken us through the prison was ill and was therefore not able to meet us.
We spent a little too much time trying to get all the photographs we needed and as we arrived at the dock, we saw the 300 seat ferry speeding out the harbour. We thought, what now?. Some of the locals enjoyed our dismay and teased us saying there would only be another ferry in 3 hours time. But luckily we just hopped onto one of the smaller ferries and although the trip was bumpier, (we are now convinced the sea has potholes) we got back to Cape Town quite safely.
To book a tour to Robben Island: www.robben-island.org.za