About 45 families (140- 150 people) still live on Robben Island. Most are employed by the Robben Island Museum - among them are former Correctional Services employees.
Frikkie Nel and his wife are two of the few remaining residents. Their house is the only inhabited one left on their street.
The Nels have a strong bond with the island and enjoy the unique experience of living here. "Twenty-five minutes out of the city, crime-free environment, no traffic problems - for me it's the best of both worlds," he says. But while the isolation has its benefits, the couple also feels the sting of it. In a practical sense, commodities are not easy to come by. "The isolation forces one to plan better," Nel says. "And you need to plan your whole schedule or your whole life according to boat schedules." The departure of many former colleagues has also had an impact on their social life.
Jan Moolman believes more should be done to educate visitors about the island's entire history. He claims that the tours are not long enough to provide a real sense of the place. "Two and a half hours is not enough to visit Robben Island," he says. "I said so many times, give the people more time. They can go and sit on the beach, just watch over the beach over to Bloubergstrand, sitting on the island and watch Table Mountain on the other side, just to have the feeling that you are alone - the only way back is on the ship, there's no other way back to the mainland." He argues that the island is not only physically obscured, but historically as well. Oom Jan is also worried that not enough is being done to preserve the more recent past of the island. "There are certain parts that can go back to nature, but the island is historical and for me what is historical is everything that has been raised by mankind - it has to stay like that, it has to be kept in shape."
Christo Brand hints at the potential the island holds as a destination, but he adds that some efforts have been made to turn things around. "We've got new management in who has a different view of thinking about how we can make this place sustainable." "Our financial status was also in the red for a time - we're at least now better off, things look better." Nel adds that the rabbit population explosion which forced authorities to carry out a major cull is proof that management has seized back control. "It is true that especially the rabbits did quite a lot of damage to the vegetation on the island, but a lot was done about it." He says renovations were carried out on various buildings too. "There are a lot of positives that could be seen..."