I had previously visited Robben Island off the coast of Cape Town when I was a student living in Johannesburg. The island was once used as a prison during the apartheid era and was where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years. Now the prison stands as a museum and a testament to the struggle for freedom in South Africa.
I remember even then looking out to the nearest adjacent land and noticed that it was Blouberg. I wondered if an inmate had ever dreamed of fleeing the island and braving the numerous great white sharks and icy waters of the South Atlantic to make it to freedom.
In February 2013 I was about to find out exactly what that would entail.
I began my swim from the island trying to dodge the endless kelp that extends out from the rocky shore for a couple of hundred metres. After the first half hour I was able to get into a rhythm. The tide and wind was in my favour so the waters appeared calm and inviting. I thought of sharks constantly diving up from the depths and tearing me apart the way they customarily do with the local seals. I had an electronic shark shield that was submerged over the side of the dingy that I was following so I had some form of protection at least. Visibility was also only a couple of metres so my mind kept playing tricks and I thought I spotted a great white on several occasions.
Before I knew it I was standing triumphant on Blouberg Beach. I'd completed the swim in 2 hours and 33 minutes at a chilly 15 Celsius. I was ecstatic! My next visit to Cape Town will involve me swimming the 9km route from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay.
Robben Island to Blouberg
Cape Town, South Africa
26 February 2013: (7km): 2 hrs 33 mins