2018 had barely started and it felt like I had hit the ground running! There’s been so much happening all at once and I’ve hardly had any chance to come up for air. It just feels like Life is happening at a lighting fast pace, and I can barely keep up with things…let alone find the time to write about it. Kind like a November – but in February. You know what I mean? I’ve been busy – CONSTANTLY – and that’s an understatement!! But things are finally starting to ease up, and with school holidays on the horizon, I’m really looking forward to taking full advantage of our time by doing some fun things together as a family and reconnecting with the kids before the chaos takes over once again.
In December, I tried to make a Summer bucket list – a simple list of things I wanted to do and places I wanted to visit; but things didn’t go according to plan, because as real life often does; it gets in the way of the perfect life we always seem to imagine in our heads. And so even though we didn’t have the Summer I had imagined, I still got to tick a few things off that list; one of them being a trip to visit Robben Island.
Would you believe it if I told you that in all my 38 (almost 39) years on this planet and this continent; I have never been to Robben Island! It has always been one of those places I hold in my heart with pride because of it’s history and relevance to our present day, post apartheid existence – even though I’d never ever physically been there. I’d often recommend tourists to visit or point to it in the distance with revered honour whenever we took visiting family members from overseas on a Peninsula tour. But it always remained this elusive destination to me that was so near yet also so far out of reach. So it was a genuine, and highly anticipated event on our Summer roster that everyone was looking forward to.
And now, after being there myself and experiencing it first hand, I really recommend any South African who can afford to go, to do so. It’s not just a touristy destination for us. Seeing and breathing in the environment first hand really gives one a better perspective and understanding of our history. I’m only sorry that I didn’t go sooner…but also not – because this way, I got to experience it with my kids…and nephews…and niece! And it remains one of my highlights of this Summer.
About this video: It’s a bit of a mission trying to multi task with all the electronics on a family outing, but I think I’m slowly starting to figure out the balance between capturing precious moments and actually living in the moment – and the family is also really starting to enjoy looking back at these video journals 🙂
Here’s a breakdown of our tour:
We booked our tickets online, and the only difficulty was committing to a day and a time. There’s a couple of ferries leaving at different times throughout the day, but we chose to do the last tour of the day; which turned out to be the best decision considering the relentless Summer heat! All tours depart from the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the V&A Waterfront, so you could squeeze in a quick mall trot before departure if you arrive early. There was a bit of a queue as we went in peak season, but boarding was a smooth operation. The ferries are comfortable but not overtly fancy and can be a bit stuffy on a hot day. The trip to the island takes about 25 minutes and the full tour, including travel time, is about 3 and a half hours.
Once we disembarked on the island, we made a quick pit stop to buy some snacks before taking a short walk to catch one of the buses and start our tour. Everyone gets divided into groups and has different starting points for their tour, so the place never feels overcrowded and you truly get to enjoy the experience. The tour guides are very well informed and educated on the 500 year old history of the island and the whole experience was extremely educational.
We started our tour in the courtyard of the maximum security prison where thousands of South African freedom fighters were incarcerated for years, and then proceeded to walk through the grounds to explore the cells. The first part of the tour was guided, but there were also parts where we could explore a bit on our own and then joined up together for the next portion of the tour. It was heart-breaking to see and hear of how prisoners were ill-treated and the scanty supplies they were given for basic survival. Each cell had a little write up and some information about the prisoner, which I found particularly interesting.
Next, we took a bus tour around the island. A Church, some old homes of the prison guard – now inhabited by someone else, a leper graveyard, the Lime and Bluestone quarries where the prisoners were forced to work, an old, abandoned school…I couldn’t stop thinking of all the stories this place holds! The tour guide really enhanced this experience for us with his well articulated narrative and extensive knowledge.
Our last stop was a bathroom pitstop before heading back to the boat, but we caught the most beautiful sunset there and landed up taking a few last pictures before heading back home. The whole experience was magical, and I think I went at a point in my life where I will totally value the experience with my family and appreciate it as part of our history.
And that’s it – The highlights of our Robben Island tour!
Thanks for reading!