Saint Helena isn’t for everybody; it only appeals to those of you who enjoy a bit of adventure and outdoor trekking. But gosh, when you are in the zone, the beauty really transcends over everything else. It’s the perfect getaway spot, says Alvin Thomas.
One of the joys of being a journalist is having the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful places in the world. Jealous much? Heck, I’ve been visiting so many glamorous nations over the years and driving exotic supercars that I don’t seem to have friends anymore.
While a lot of that can be put down to my snazzy Facebook and Instagram posts, not many would approve of a 24-year-old who has done so much in such less time. All right, enough of blowing my own trumpet for now.
In any case, here’s another Postcard from my bank of locations I have scoured before my time at Y magazine. In this instance, it is the small yet appealing and homely island of Saint Helena – which is a British Overseas Territory (or so Google tells me). It is also the second oldest overseas territory after Bermuda.
Although the island is one among the 14 BOTs that currently exist, it is by far one of the more isolated and sheltered locations – at least by the looks of it. It is notoriously known as one of the most ‘remote islands in the world’.
Of late, things have taken a turn for the better as more tourists head there to catch a glimpse of the many surprises Saint Helena has to offer. One of my favourite features would have to be the resting grounds of the famous (or infamous, depending on your dogmas) military and political leader, Napoleon Bonaparte.
If you’re into exploring, simply head into the striking mountain peaks or to the waterfalls – one of which is shaped like a heart. There is also the fort of High Knoll that you can visit. It even looks like a fort that has been taken straight out of an early 19th century fairy tale; it’s that surreal.
Anyone visiting the island from Oman is in for a treat as there’s enough greenery to envelop the whole of Muscat.
Oh, and for the first time ever, you can now fly to Saint Helena. And yes, you will be landing at the ‘world’s most pointless airport’. Sources suggest that the airport cost an unbelievable GBP285mn (RO145mn) to construct, while only being able to handle a total of 68 travellers at a time. This is one instance where we Indians can hold our heads high.
My favourite place- The Diana’s Peak, an 818m tall volcanic mountain, is one of my most favoured locations. The underlying areas are now proclaimed as a national park – meaning you can explore the whereabouts safely (courtesy the tour guides) and in complete confidence that you will make it to the top of the peak. If you want to keep your adrenaline in check, then your best bet would be to explore the Museum of Saint Helena.
Highlights- As I stated before, Saint Helena is one of the oldest BOTs. This means the country reeks of history and culture; the gravestone of Napoleon Bonaparte is a prime example of that. But I hear that the body no longer resides there, so make sure you’re not paying homage to an empty grave. The island boasts of tropical climate for most months, and people visiting from the Middle East should find the temperatures bearable. Oh, and before I forget, make sure you click photographs of the (naturally occurring) heart-shaped waterfall in the Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. I, for the love of God, couldn’t figure out how the waterfall resembled a heart but people told me that they felt it did.
Lowlights- The island of Saint Helena came under the close radar of the United Nations when allegations of crime against children surfaced. Today, things are much better, but it’s always good to be aware of your surroundings when you’re heading for a vacation.
Souvenirs- There are several handicraft vendors operating on the island. The Moonbeams Shop, the Arts & Crafts Centre and the Museum of Saint Helena, in Jamestown, are some of the shops you can visit, if need be.
Getting there- Now here’s something to take note of: you can sail to the island from Cape Town, but it takes over a week to reach your destination if you do that. Thankfully (although weirdly), you can now fly to Saint Helena from Johannesburg. Do make sure you schedule your flights right to avoid any confusions.
Where to stay- Book yourself into the Wydown Hotel if you want to experience living in a traditional British house; the amenities are staggering, too. If you’re on a budget, you can also opt for a motel stay.
1. Trek up the Diana’s Peak
2. Visit the Knoll Fort. It has served military and other terrestrial purposes (for NASA)
3. Explore the artefacts at the Museum of Saint Helena
4. Try spotting the heart at the waterfall in the Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
5. Scour the shops for local woodcrafts