Experience a thought-provoking guided tour of Cape Town and Robben Island, where the late Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years. Learn the sobering history of apartheid at the District Six Museum and observe the lasting effects of this history on the townships of Langa, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha. See the residents’ inspiring efforts to improve their livelihoods and local infrastructure, and then ferry over to Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and tour the former maximum-security prison for political prisoners.
Start your day with a hotel pickup, and then travel with your guide to the District Six Museum. Here, learn how segregationist laws beginning in 1950 forcibly removed more than 60,000 black South Africans from the district after it was declared ‘a white area.’
Then, travel to Langa, Cape Town’s oldest township. During the apartheid era, living areas known as townships were set up in undesirable locations to house the country’s ‘non-whites.’ With your guide, drop by a shebeen (nightlife establishment), meet the locals at a market, talk to the owners of a guesthouse and a daycare center, and visit a traditional healer. Then, head to Guga S’thebe Arts & Culture Centre, the site of many community and cultural activities dedicated to improving the socio-economic status of Langa residents, the majority of whom are from the Xhosa tribe.
Continue on to Khayelitsha, located on the Cape Flats. Meaning ‘new home’, Khayelitsha is the largest township. Pass by houses of brick and mortar, as well as the unsettling sight of makeshift shacks. See from the infrastructure that this township is focused on the future: shopping malls, large-scale building development, housing and clinics abound.
Travel west back toward Cape Town to reach Gugulethu, originally established to house migrant workers from the agrarian Transkei region in the Eastern Cape province. Witness examples of poverty and development alike, including shanty towns, guesthouses, restaurants and jazz clubs.
In the afternoon, enjoy free time for lunch at one of the many restaurants along the Victoria and Alfred Waterfront (own expense). Then, ferry north from Cape Town across Table Bay to the rocky outcrop of Robben Island, a UNESCO World Heritage site, where Nelson Mandela spent the first 18 years of his 27-year prison sentence in a maximum-security facility for political prisoners.
On arrival, view his cell, which is approximately seven square feet (0.6 sq m) wide and located around a concrete courtyard. Listen to your guide share details of how Mandela’s leadership surfacing during a rebellion over forced digging in a quarry under harsh conditions.
Pay a silent moment of respect as you imagine Nelson Mandela emerging from the prison gates, one step closer to beginning his long walk to freedom. Your tour then concludes with a drop-off back at your Cape Town hotel.