Robben Island , S.A.


May 19th, 2005, 07:33 PM
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Robben Island , S.A.

I have read about Robben Island and I am thinking of adding an extra day to my tour to visit there. Was it that impressive to warrant paying for another night? Tell me about your visit. Any info on the best way to get there from Sea Point if not taking a tour. Also info on prices re entrance etc.

Also your thoughts
Tahimi is offline  
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May 19th, 2005, 09:34 PM
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At the risk of being politically incorrect, I don't think that a visit to Robben Island is justification enough to extend your stay in Cape Town UNLESS you also plan some other key activity on the same day...perhaps a township tour, a half day Winelands tour or something else.

Robben Island was very interesting, but I didn't care for doing a group tour with 50 other people. Had their been a more exclusive tour, I would have probably enjoyed it much more, but I am just not a big fan of large group tours.

As far as getting there without taking a tour, I am not really sure that is possible, but if it is, I would advise you to do it on your own, so you can really take it all in, without being ushered around with 50 other people.
Roccco is offline  
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May 19th, 2005, 11:46 PM
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I agree with Roccco that even though I feel that it is important to visit Robben Island when one is in Cape Town I would not suggest that you extend your touring days in Cape Town by an extra day just for an Island visit. If you want to incorporate other events on the day that are of imnportance to you to the extent that you have to increase your stay by one day then and then only would I advise that you do so.

Unfortunately one cannot visit Robben Island in private capacity and the only way to go to the Island is on the official group tour.

Hope this helps.

Very proudly part of the wonderful nation of South Africa

Selwyn_Davidowitz is offline  
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May 20th, 2005, 12:27 AM
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It really depends on how interested you personally are in the history of this prison and it's place in the story of Mandela and so many other anti-apartheid prisoners.

For me, it was an absolutely essential stop on my itinerary regardless of how many people were in the group and how much I'd liked to have had a little longer there because the prisoners of Robben Island, Mr Mandela in particular, were absolutely inspirational to me during my childhood. It was really important to me to see and learn more about their experience and meeting our guide, a former prisoner, was a sobering experience.

I needed to see aspects of South Africa that related to this side of its history rather than stick to game parks and pretty scenery and fun cities.

But it's a very personal decision.

My sister visited too but recommends the District Six museum as the most moving experience related to the apartheid story. I didn't manage to visit during my stay but wish I had.
Kavey is offline  
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May 20th, 2005, 03:23 AM
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Definitely, a visit to District 6 and then to the District 6 Museum... very powerful.
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May 20th, 2005, 04:54 AM
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The day we went to Robben Island, the tour group consisted of mostly native South Africans who were intensely interested in their own history. The highlight of the day for me was listening to the questions and hearing the answers given by a former political prisoner. I agree with Kavey, there is a whole lot more to South Africa than game parks and scenery. I wouldn't have missed the tour or the people who made up the group.
rubytwo is offline  
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May 20th, 2005, 08:03 AM
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I would not add an extra day just for Robben Island either. The day we went the boat was a bit late leaving the dock and traffic was quite heavy on the island. As a result we were rushed along quite a bit.

Of course your mileage may vary.

I found reading about Robben Island much more interesting than going there. Though seeing it was worth while - I would not add a day just for that, unless (as has been suggested) you stay for something else as well.

The District 6 exhibits look like they would be more interesting.
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May 20th, 2005, 08:28 AM
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When I lived in Johannesburg, I always felt a little somber when I drove down Rivonia Road and passed the place where Mandela and his associates hid out and planned, and were eventually arrested. But I never had the desire to actually go in, and I feel the same way about Robben Island.

Having read so much South African history, I don't think I'd gain from seeing a particular piece of earth. The real story, for me, is in the thoughts and actions of the players, not the spot where some of it took place.

Of course, I realize this is a very personal opinion, and I greatly respect the many who have found a Robben Island visit very moving.
Celia is offline  
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May 20th, 2005, 08:48 AM
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I can totally understand your viewpoint and everyone is entitled to their personal opinions.
However, I just want to explain that visiting Robben Island isn't really about visiting a "particular piece of earth", it's about hearing the story of that piece of history not on a TV documentary or in a dry history or current affairs book but from men who were themselves either imprisoned there or working there as wardens. That's a much more personal insight than simply going and standing in a particular cell or dociley looking at the sparse corner of a yard where Mandela once had a garden. Those aspects were not so interesting to me but that personal insight and communication with our guide were very much so. Not only did our guide tell us about the general history but also about his own personal experiences too, the story of a prisoner who isn't one of the famous ones. What's more he also told us much about the way in which former wardens and prisoners have learned to come together and live and work together as well as discussed his viewpoint on the current social, political and economic situation. For those who have a lot of time to spend in South Africa it may be easy to get this kind of insight in other ways but for those of us who are just visiting for a limited period this is one of the ways of doing that.
Spending time with politically aware guides such as Selwyn is another though it is quite different.
Kavey is offline  
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May 20th, 2005, 10:19 AM
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It's an important loction in the history of the 20th century---and the boat trip there is scenic, greats views of Cape Town.
Photos of our travels in South Africa.
rdkr is offline  
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May 21st, 2005, 07:42 AM
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I think Kavey hit the nail on the head. The guide makes a tremendous difference. Our guide was a bit more taciturn than I would have liked. Maybe it was that we were on a rush schedule, maybe he's just that way. In any event we heared no real moving stories and it was mostly just "we queued here for this and there for that" and so forth.
Favor is offline  
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May 21st, 2005, 11:23 AM
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I took the trip about 6 years ago. It was interesting but very politically biased. You are lead around by a fomer prisoner who definitely will make every attempt to paint a very one-sided view of certain events.
The boat trip going over is beautiful with phenominal views of the city.
laguna92688 is offline  
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May 21st, 2005, 12:13 PM
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I think Kavey has given a wonderful description of the best kind of experience one can have in a situation like this.

Thanks, Kavey!
Celia is offline  
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May 21st, 2005, 07:52 PM
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To reiterate a point well-made by Kavey, it's a very personal decision. Robben Island was a "must visit" place for me in 2004, and it was memorable. Would I extend my stay in Cape Town an extra day to visit the nearby wine country or to visit Table Mountain? Probably "yes". And, if I would do it for those scenic and touristy things, I absolutely would do it so that I could "touch" an important part of history. Again, for me, Robben Island was not just a "possible stop"; it was a focal part of my Cape Town itinerary. BTW - I ordered the ferry tickets on-line and therby avoided the ferry line on the day of my visit.
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May 24th, 2005, 11:26 AM
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You're welcome!
Please know I'm not suggesting for a moment everyone MUST include a visit to Robben Island in their itinerary! Not at all! Different strokes for different folks and all that! I just want to be sure that people make their decisions with a real understanding of what the experience actually is...
Kavey is offline  
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May 24th, 2005, 04:23 PM
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I thought that Robben Island and District 6 were both amazing experiences. Do it. If you can, find a guide who was impacted by the relocations in District 6. When our guide told my group that her family had been relocated, our jaws dropped. Until that moment, we had no idea that she was anything other than white. It hit me then in a way that was deep in my gut. I realized then how obsessed the government was ... the ways in which they made the classifications were absurd. District 6 and Robben Island brings that into focus. Also, in the District 6 museum there is a little cafe. Sit down and have something to drink. I met the most interesting women in the little bit of time I spent there.
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