This morning we made our way down to the Nelson Mandela Gateway at the waterfront for our trip across to Robben Island. Whilst we were waiting to board the ferry we got to see the swing bridge in action, and also saw a big Cape Fur Seal bull haul up into the viewing area.
Robben Island is a world heritage site. It is famous for the prison, mainly for political prisoners during apartheid, and is where Nelson Mandela was held for eighteen of the twenty-seven years he spent in prison.
The ferry ride across was twelves kilometres and took about twenty minutes. Along the way we saw hundreds of Cape Cormorants flying by and we arrived at the island to see thousands of them perched on the break wall. I've never seen so many birds in one place, it was an awesome spectacle to see, but not so awesome to smell.
On the island we boarded a bus for a tour of the prison. The tour guide was a native African lady who spoke Khoisan, the language with the pops and clicks. I don't know how they do it, the pops and clicks sound simultaneously with the words, pretty crazy and fun to hear in real life.
We visited the little village, where the wardens used to live and now the museum employees do. We stopped here for a quick break and spotted the only new bird for the day, Crowned Cormorant, as well as some more African Penguins.
Back on the bus we headed to the maximum-security section of the prison. Here we were taken on a walking tour by a former political prisoner who spent six and a half years incarcerated at Robben Island in the eighties.
He told us all about life in the prison and a lot about the history of South Africa. It continues to astound me that apartheid is a post-World War II policy. For an allied country to promote race segregation after the atrocities of the holocaust just seems so unbelievable. The rest of the world disagreed with the policy but at the time South Africa was a military superpower so no one intervened directly. Apartheid eventually fell because other countries refused to trade with South Africa making the continuation of the policy impossible. Mandela and de Klerk (the president at the time) negotiated the terms for ending apartheid and won a joint Nobel Peace Prize for the effort. Mandela was elected president in 1994. We visited his cell, a small 8 x 7, because all the political leaders were kept in solitary confinement.
On the trip back to the mainland we sat out the back of the boat, enjoying the fresh air, the rolling Atlantic Ocean and stunning views of the city and the mountains.
Back in Cape Town we headed to the café at the fish market because we couldn't leave town without trying some famous fresh Cape seafood. We got some grilled fish and some calamari and I can't really recall any better that I've tasted.
Spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around the waterfront and soaking up our last views of Table Mountain. Off to Jo'berg tomorrow to meet up with our tour group. Soon we will be on safari!