Our one full day in Cape Town is a busy one. We wake up early to catch the first boat out to Robben Island, the place where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for most of his years of incarceration. I actually wanted to skip it and instead enjoy our cool hotel then explore the city… but I realized how important the island visit was to Sher so I dragged myself out of bed and quickly got ready before Sher finished his breakfast. We arrived on time but the morning cruise had already sold out so we booked the later 11am departure time instead. While waiting for our departure, we wandered around the waterfront’s shops and ended up with more souvenirs and a lot more photos!
The cruise to Robben Island isn’t too exciting but well worth the journey. There is a bus tour of the island when you arrive with stops to see points of interest and we spot penguins in the distance! I love penguins… right up there on the list of my favourite animals with elephants, dolphins, sloths, and turtles. After the bus tour, you’re dropped off at the main prison where another guide takes over and brings you inside. This guide turns out to be a former innmate! It’s so interesting hearing about the prison from an insider’s point of view. He tells us all about the protests, segregation (even with food menus), and day-to-day life on the inside. We walk around and eventually get to visit the cell where Mandela spent 18 years of his imprisonment. The sunny island is a lot different from another famous island prison that I’ve visited, Alcatraz in San Francisco Bay. Alcatraz is morbid, gloomy, and spooky. Robben Island is marketed as a place of hope, not mourning. The atrocities of apartheid and what Mandela represented for South Africa are a story of hope, overcoming misery and oppression. The prisoners were, of course, very different in both places which explains the opposite experiences when you visit the two places.
On the boat ride back, we meet a family from India that turn out to be the coolest Indian family I’ve ever met. The family that we talk to the most follow Jainism, a religion from India that is all about harmlessness. They are travelling with two more families from south India, one Hindu family and one Muslim family. I love that families of three different religions are so close that they travel together and they bring their kids as well! The kids have been all over the world and already have so much life experience- Sher’s bungee jumping in Victoria Falls didn’t impress them at all because the entire family had already done it! We are having such a good time talking to the group of them that we miss the photo op when a large pod of dolphins swim right past the boat! In the end, we exchange contact info with the father of the Jain family as he wants to climb Kilimanjaro for his next adventure (this time without the kids). Sher and I might accumulate quite a group if we do Kilimanjaro next year! We could invite adventurous Cristina to come on a break from the school in Mbeya, the knowledgable Raymond from Dar es Salaam, Omari our awesome safari guide, Maryke and Flo from G Adventures, and now uncle-ji from south India. That would be an epic hiking crew!
Back on land, we race to the hotel to grab a charger for Sher’s dying phone and then head straight to Boulder’s Beach to see the African penguins (they used to be called jackass penguins. Hehe). I’m so excited that I can barely contain myself. It takes about an hour to get there and we make it with one hour before the beach closes. We rush down the trail, passing the occasional penguin trotting along. We have to stop everytime we pass a penguin and take a picture, though. Another tourist tries to touch one of the little guys and gets an aggressive snap at his fingers. They DO bite!
We get down to the beach and have fun chasing penguins, hopping rocks, and wading in the water where they swim. I could spend a whole day here but we are forced to leave eventually. We drive to the Cape of Good Hope but it’s too late to go all the way to the southern point of Africa, the gates have already been closed. Today is the day of us arriving late to everything! I’m just relieved that we made it in time for the penguins, that would have been so disappointing to miss out on. By this time, Sher and I are both starving so we stop on the way back to Cape Town at an ocean view restaurant. Sher is raving about how the fish and chips are almost as good as his favourite spot in Ireland while I’m just enjoying the posters from the 1950s that show ladies in “swimming costumes” enjoying their beach getaways. Looks like this has been a happening spot for decades. It’s the off-season right now since May is their winter but it’s nice to explore all these places without huge crowds.
We eventually drive home in the dark and make it to the hotel, not tired yet. We decide to make use of our upscale hotel area and hang out poolside. The waiter on duty is from Zimbabwe and we have a lot of fun chatting with him for hours about politics in Zimbabwe and the differences around Africa. By the end of the night, his shift is finished and Sher wants to jump in the hot tub but the water is freezing. Most guests have already turned in also… so that’s the end of our Monday night!