My friend and international Swim organiser, Nicole Piha, insisted that I do this swim in her native South Africa and when the opportunity came around, I agreed. Nic connected me with a wonderful group of incredible swimmers including Liz who chauffeured me around and proudly showed off her city and beaches.
The inescapable reason for any hesitation to do this swim, is Cape Town’s reputation as being the home of great white sharks, so much so that the local tourism is focussed on cage diving. It is my belief that the ocean is the shark’s territory. I am opposed to anything that harms them or their environment. I am against culling and shark tourism. I asked my young pilot and observer, Craig and Blake, about the sharks here. They both said that they thought Sydney was shark HQ. Despite this they both kept a very keen 360° lookout.
After some interesting moments launching the zodiac, with Derrick Frazer from Big Bay Surf Life Saving Club, we were ploughing through waves on a bumpy ride to the island. I had to crouch down and tense my legs, in order to stay anchored in the boat.
Once in, the water was a bit choppy and I found the cold took a lot out of me. Cold water saps more energy every fraction of a degree colder. There is a science behind this and it is another reason I was interested in completing this swim. To test myself on this shorter swim, in very cold water, as a training swim for the North Channel.
I had to make my way through big breakers and rocky outcrops to get to the beach. The boys threw my bag to me as I was coming in to the shore. Liz was waiting, welcoming me in.
It wasn’t the longest swim in the world but it was a chance to pay homage to the great Mandela and to connect with the South African swimming fraternity. I became the first Australian to swim from Robben Island back to Cape Town, and I would recommend it to anyone.