The Robben Island Museum, Cape Town, South Africa

South Africa (my home country) has one of the most meaningful and inspirational museums in the world – a museum that touches the soul and makes one realise just how grateful we should be in life and that we should never, ever give up on our beliefs in order to make a difference and to find peace.

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The Robben Island Museum where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned during apartheid is located in the ‘Mother City’ – Cape Town. This is a museum and outdoor experience that should not be overlooked. It appeals to absolutely anyone interested in the history of South Africa and stands as a metaphor for how the country shifted from apartheid to democracy in the 90s.

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There are boats that take you from the V&A Waterfront to Robben Island and back. I took the Susan Kruger – a boat named after Jimmy Kruger, a South African politician’s wife. The trip offers spectacular views of Table Mountain and of the city – there really is no other view like it in my opinion! Plus, if you’re lucky you will get to see dolphins, seals and other marine life.

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The wind can be chilly and waves choppy, so bring a lightweight windbreaker if you don’t like the cold and if you’re visiting in the warmer months.

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When you arrive on Robben Island it sort of dawns on you that this is a place a good distance from the city; an isolated and small island where it was once easy to ‘forget’ political prisoners off the main coastline. Today these ex-prisoners continue to tell the story of the island and of apartheid. In fact, some are even tour guides which makes for a very rich and real experience.

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Included in the price you pay via the Robben Island Museum, you get a full tour and return boat journey, plus a bus trip around the island to visit to Nelson Mandela’s prison cell. As you can imagine, the island is a pretty desolate place with a couple of houses, a church and different prison buildings. However, the story it tells is unforgettable and hence worth the trip.

IMG_4119 IMG_4091Here is Nelson Mandela’s actual prison cell. You’ll get to see the general facilities inside the prison and view other cells of politicians fighting against apartheid in those days. IMG_4088 IMG_4082

Additionally, you are told about the differences in what people were given to eat in the prison. This was all done according to their skin colour. Here is a sign below describing the different diets for various racial groups. The darker your skin, the worse the dietary intake.

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Political prisons opposing the apartheid regime also had to work at the limestone quarry on the island. In fact, Nelson Mandela’s eyesight was so poor in later life because of the glare from working at the quarry.

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Each and every day, The Robben Island Museum attracts visitors from all over the world. It is a must-see if you’re travelling to the V&A Waterfront, Cape Town and if you’re interested in the history of the country and the liberation of its people.

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Elizabeth Joss

Elizabeth Joss is the founder and main writer at The Museum Times. She works as a university lecturer by day and is an avid travel blogger and arts and culture enthusiast by night. Elizabeth started The Museum Times out of the need to give smaller, lesser-known museums more exposure.

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