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London, England, United Kingdom
December 21, 2011
From journal South Africa: What to See and Do in Cape Town
ashbourne, United Kingdom
March 29, 2010
From journal South African Road Trip
Cooper City, Florida
July 30, 2008
From journal Wonderful Cape Town
July 29, 2008
April 21, 2007
From journal Cape Town Beauty
February 3, 2007
From journal A Cape Town Look Around
April 16, 2006
From journal Cape Town: First World to Third World
Cape Town, South Africa
November 29, 2005
The purpose of Robben Island changed a number of times over the last century. It used to be a leprosy colony, then an ordinary prison, and it served as a defence fortification during the two world wars. And from the second half of the 20th century until the 1990s, Robben Island was one of the most notorious prison islands in the world.
Here, on this tiny island 11km from Cape Town's coastline, thousands of anti-apartheid activists and dissidents were held for years, including Nelson "Madiba" Mandela, South Africa's first democratically elected president and one of the world's most-loved personalities.
I have been to Robben Island a couple of times, and I have the feeling I will go back there at least once more. Tours around the island and through the prison are simply extremely interesting.
A trip to Robben Island takes about 3 hours and takes visitors to the prison and on an island tour, with a viewing of the limestone quarry, Garrison Church (1841), lighthouse (1863), Leper's Church (1895), guesthouse (1895), and Kramat, or Muslim shrine.
Robben Island is home of a variety of seabirds, including the African (jackass) penguin and a colony of Cape cormorants. There is also wildlife, such as the bontebok and ostriches.
During your trip, you not only learn about the cruelty and brutality of the apartheid regime and the miserable situation in the prison, but you also learn about courage, faith, and strength, and about how prisoners dealt with their situation, what they did to prevent their spirits from being broken, how they made friendships amongst another, and how they forgave and moved on.
Detail: The tours through the prison, which was built by the prisoners themselves on top of an old leprosy grave yard, are given by former prisoners.
In 1999, Robben Island was added to UNESCO's World Heritage list. Several times a day, ferries depart from the Robben Island Exhibition and Information Centre, situated next door to the Clock Tower building.
This granite building harbors a museum depicting the history of Robben Island and the political struggle against oppression and for freedom and democracy. Here one can purchase lithographs of original Nelson Mandela paintings. ADVICE: A ticket to Robben island costs about R150 (±17 Euro) and is to be purchased at the Nelson Mandela Gateway. If you have a credit card, you may make reservations over the phone. This is highly recommended in summer, as Robben Island is one of the most popular attraction; prevent disappointment and make that reservation.
From journal What to do in Cape Town?
May 2, 2005
From journal Back To My African Roots
January 11, 2005
We were bussed around the island to see the main sights, like Robert Sobukwe’s little house, the leper colony, and the lime quarry. This is where most of the apartheid prisoners spent their days. Many of them were doctors and lawyers and therefore unused to manual labour. Some of the wardens used to urinate in their mouths if they were found slacking. However, Nelson Mandela encouraged the ANC prisoners to befriend the wardens.
The most moving part of the visit is the tour of the actual prison, which is conducted by a former inmate. After the tour, you are allowed about half an hour to wander around the cells yourself. In some of the cells there are recollections of former prisoners–-one that stuck with me was an inmate who took great pride in making clothing pegs, as they were not allowed them. I would have loved more time to meander around the cells. I also missed the penguin colony. Despite the slightly rushed nature of the tour, it really does ‘bring history to life’. Go--and if you can, read Mandela’s autobiography Long Walk to Freedom before you visit.
From journal At The Foot of Table Mountain