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NSRI volunteers are gearing up for a gruelling, ice-cold swim from Robben Island to Big Bay next month, all to raise funds for water safety education.

“It’s quite a lonely experience. Surreal. It’s just you and the water, and clouds overhead,” This is how David Taylor, a volunteer crewman at NSRI Station 2 (Bakoven), describes his swim from Robben Island to Big Bay in April last year.

Having wanted to do the swim for some time, David finally added it to his ‘bucket list’ for 2022, and found a swimming mate in friend and triathlete Paula Armstrong from the Station 3 (Table Bay) crew. Together, they hatched a plan to raise funds for a cause.

robben island swimmers

“First, we identified the cause: the NSRI’s Water Safety Education & Survival Swimming programmes,” says David. “Next, we sent out a flyer via our NSRI networks to invite other swimmers to join us, and the response was fantastic. In the end, we had a group of 24, all of whom completed the swim.”

Crew members from Station 2, Station 3, Station 8 (Hout Bay), Station 10 (Simons Town) and Station 16 (Strandfontein) participated, training weekly together for over four months, building strong bonds of camaraderie forming between the stations. “Usually, stations are very insular by habit as they operate more or less independently of each other. But now we’re much more interconnected, leading to greater teamwork in mission-critical scenarios,” says David.

Not only that: they managed to raise R148 000 for their cause – “R48 000 more than our target!”

This year, they’re doing it all over again in March, and hoping to raise even more than last year. Organising an event of this kind is no easy feat. Ordinarily, expensive coaching is required in order to train, but Paula, who is a regular cold water swimmer, offered her time and expertise to help guide the participants through the training programme, and onto the beach at Big Bay after an 11 degree swim – a huge feat.

This year, the swim is planned for March 2023, although a day hasn’t been finalised as it depends on the weather conditions. The minimum distance from Robben Island to Big Bay is 7.5 kms. However, considering the currents, wind direction, and the fact that very few people swim the distance in a straight line, individuals end up achieving varying distances.

The difficulty of the swim is amplified by the cold water of Table Bay. Some brave swimmers will tackle the crossing in nothing more than their swimming costumes – no wetsuit.

While each swimmer has their own fundraising page, you can support the swim by donating via the 2023 NSRI Volunteer Robben Island Swim page on GivenGain here.

We wish our swimmers the best of luck!

You can help raise funds for the NSRI by doing ordinary – and extraordinary – things! From sporting challenges to bake sales, any event can be used to raise funds for us. If you need help setting up your online fundraising campaign in aid of the NSRI, contact Renée Leeuwner at

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