Book well in advance for your trip to Robben Island, especially in the summer holidays when there can be a wait of two weeks before there’s a free spot. Try and get to the Nelson Mandela Gateway early to board the boat as the best seats are on the top deck with the especially eye-catching views of Table Mountain. Remember that there is no land between Robben Island and Antarctica, so the winds can be cold on occasions.
Once on the island, everyone has to get on a bus and be escorted around the island before visiting the prison. The most poignant place is the house of Robert Sobukwe, the founder of the Pan Africanist Congress. Sobukwe was in solitary confinement and he was not allowed to speak to anyone- however he did give secret hand signals to other prisoners when he was outside – he held dirt in his hand and let it trickle through his fingers as a gesture of solidarity. His little yellow house is by the guard-dog kennels.
Visitors are given a tour of the prison by either an ex-prisoner or an ex-warder, who will show you Nelson Mandela’s cell, the exercise yard and the dormitory-style accommodation with the daily prison diet written on a board for all to see.
Julian has written articles on Middle Eastern and European architecture for the US magazine Skipping Stones. He has written travel articles that were published in The Toronto Globe and Mail, Fate Magazine, National Catholic Register, and Northwest Travel. Julian has also written articles for the In The Know Traveler, Go Nomad, InTravelmag, and Go World Travel websites. He has also taken many photographs that have appeared in travel guides by National Geographic, Thomas Cook and The Rough Guides. Examples of his work can be found at http://www.photographersdirect.com/sellers/details.asp?portfolio=13734