It is National Marine Month in South Africa, and I wanted to share a recent adventure that we went on, thanks to the Beach Co-Op. Last minute call, “Can we join the clean-up team on a trip to Robben Island?” And yes of course we could. Robben Island has been on our bucket list for years and one of Cape Town’s Big World Heritage Sites, that we have never managed to visit before.


I love this photo, not perfect, but all the elements… Robben Island with Cape Town in the background, totally the opposite view to our usual one. It was a very cold and early start for the gang… we had to get way across the city before the Friday morning traffic hit.

It was quite an achievement, and we made it, even if we didn’t have time for coffee on the way.
tempImageForSave (37)

Our vessel was waiting for us… and off we went. “Good Bye Cape Town,” and about half an hour later… “Hello, Robben Island.”
tempImageForSave (14)

The Reason for the Season


Our purpose for visiting the island was to clean up litter on a grand scale… Upon arrival we were split into groups and then every hundred meters or so, along the circular road… teams were dropped.


We were armed with gloves and beach cleanup bags from seal and gear, and buckets of enthusiasm…

Documenting our finds all the way…

Dozens and dozens of plastic bottles and even more cooldrink bottle tops, not to mention carrier bags… together we collected about 15 bags of trash, including an entire bag of really weird stuff…

Let’s just pause and talk about the trash… a lot of the beach cleanups that we do are in the more remote parts of Cape Point Nature Reserve. Yes a marine reserve, with very little human traffic passing through it, a handful of hikers a week at the most… the garbage we collect there is washed onshore, from passing ships… gloves, shoes, plastic containers, litter from poachers and of course a lot of fishing twine.

The other cleanups we do are in Muizenberg, along with the beach co-op, we collect a couple of buckets of garbage every month… the kind of garbage we find are plastic bags, straws and sweetie wrappers… and fishing tackle.

But the trash on Robben Island was different to both of these… it was plentiful, there was masses of it. We did not have to look for it we just had to pick it up. The question many folk ask us was where did all the garbage come from? About 150 people live there, and even though there are thousands of tourists passing through, the tourists don’t pass through the area that we were cleaning up. So, where does the garbage come from?
tempImageForSave (45)

The question we should be asking is where does your litter go… because every scrap of litter goes somewhere. When you drop a piece of paper in a parking lot, or in the street in ends up in the gutter, the water flows from the gutter into the drains and when it rains, down the drains and into our sea… its not a surprise… it is the way it is everywhere. Litter ends up in the ocean… if you live in a city far from the ocean, or of you live along the coast like we do, your litter ultimately goes into the ocean.
tempImageForSave (25)

Robben Island, just across the bay from a huge city like Cape Town is in the firing line so to speak, as Cape Town’s litter flows into the sea and out into the ocean, Robben Island acts as a basket, gathering it all as it passes by. I can tell you that any litter you have tossed in the street in Cape Town in the last couple of months, my kids and I, and a team of eco-warriors picked up, along the shores of Robben Island.

We need anti-littering campaigns now like never before… I remember as a small child, at anti-litter campaign that came to our school, very firmly pledging to never, ever litter. And I meant it. We need a world wide campaign… until people start realising where their garbage goes they will not change…

Let’s look beyond the litter

Apart from the history of this site, there is a reason it is a heritage site, unprecedented natural beauty…
tempImageForSave (55)

On a coastal island… with ship wrecks and seabirds…

Of course there were sea shells…


But the true magic was in the season… nesting season, and a whole lot of magic… each egg is unique, and each one a delight.

tempImageForSave (60)
tempImageForSave (34)
tempImageForSave (58)

We learnt on our bus tour, that the reason they no longer have any buck on the island is that the wild life were consuming so much plastic and they were suffering terribly because of it. Every little bit of litter really does add up.
tempImageForSave (61)

And a Quick Tour…





All Thanks to the Beach Co-Op

Thanks to the Beach Co-op for the invitation…

The total cleanup consisted of a team of 99 people, who collected about 170 full bags of marine debris. The highest item collected was cooldrink lids at 2469, followed by individual sweet wrappers at 1197 and finally straws at 963.


We had a blast… I know it sounds crazy to train up your kids to collect garbage… but we have to start somewhere and believe that every little bit we collect helps.

The Gallery…




tempImageForSave (24)



tempImageForSave (20)

tempImageForSave (16)

Fast Facts…

If you are looking to visit Robben Island, then take a look at the website. If you are a local, like us and you realise it is one of those spots that is hoping to attract the overseas market, rather than locals… you can make full use of Museum Night at the V and A Waterfront, when the museum section of Robben Island Tours, the Nelson Mandela Gateway, is open to the public and you can walk around and read a lot of the history, without an actual trip to the island. Otherwise, a fantastic and free resource for everyone to visit, where you can really learn a lot about the history of Robben Island during the apartheid era, is a little museum on Jetty 1. All of us found it interesting, and you can stay and linger for as long as you need to before moving on to other sites at the Waterfront.

Click on the image to see all the photos from our day out…

Robben Island Cleanup

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *