Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha is the oversea territory of the United Kingdom which includes several remote island groups in the Atlantic Ocean. The capital city is Jamestown.
The climate is tropical with frequent trade winds. The best time for holidays on these islands is from October to April.
The official language is English but due to the isolation of the islands, the locals created their own dialect which significantly differs from the standard English language. The Anglican Church is dominant on the islands but there are also people supporting other Protestant denominations.
The islands of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha can be attractive for experienced tourists who used to spend their holidays on popular resorts with well-developed infrastructure and now strive for something really exotic and unusual. These islands are believed to be one of the most isolated inhabited places. There are not so many sights as on popular resorts but this place is ideal for those who want to escape from the noise and stay in isolation and quietness.
This place will probably disappoint the lovers of historical and architectural monuments but there are a few of them in Jamestown and on the Ascension island.
Mainly, this is the destination for ecological tourism. Hiking trails, horseback riding, trekking in the mountains, all these will bring pleasure to the tourists which got tired of packed European beaches and crowds of travelers staring at the monuments in Asia. By the way, on these islands there are some beaches and the main is the Sandy Bay.
On the islands, the travelers can see a lot of endemic animals and plants which can be found only here and nowhere else.
It is not easy to get to the islands of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha. The civil airport is being built now so the easiest way to get to the islands is by a military plane of the Great Britain Royal Air Force. The plane departs from London or Oxford once a week and can take thirty passengers. This plane can also take you to the British military base on the Ascension island. If you want to travel to other islands, you can do it only by sea.
The Royal Mail Ship departs from Cape Town to the Saint Helena island once a month and makes a stop on the Ascension island and sometimes at the port of Tristan da Cunha. There are 130 places for the tourists on the ship. The traveling time is 5 days. South African fishing and research vessels willingly transfer tourists to Tristan da Cunha.
The most convenient way to get to the islands is to rent a yacht.
A British visa is not required to travel to the islands but even if a tourist has a British visa he or he needs to obtain a special permit from the local authorities to enter the country. Each island requires its own special permit.
One can obtain a permit to visit the Saint Helena island at arrival and it is valid for 183 days.
The tourists must obtain a permit to travel to the island of Ascension beforehand and it is valid for three months maximum. You can apply by fax or online and the time for processing the request is from two weeks to a month. The tourists need this permit to buy a ticket.
To travel to Tristan da Cunha, the tourists must obtain a permit beforehand. The application is submitted online. The processing time can be as long as 40 days. The duration of the stay on the island is unlimited but the tourists still must specify how long they are going to stay on the island.
The transit of national and foreign money is not restricted when you enter the islands of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.
The tourists can import duty-free:
- a small amount of tobacco and alcohol;
- perfume for personal use;
- gifts the total cost of which does not exceed 32 sterling pounds.
It is prohibited to import:
- fake goods;
- obscene materials;
- radio transmitters;
- any plants, seeds, fruits and product of plant origin;
- any animals, birds, birds’ eggs and meat.
It is prohibited to export rare plants and animals, animal’s skins and stuffed animals.
The cuisine of Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha was developing under a great influence of English cooking traditions but with a very poor choice of ingredients and under conditions of almost complete isolation. The staple food on the islands is fish, seafood, rice, potatoes and other vegetables.
Traditional meat dishes are very simple. The locals use cattle for cooking such as pork bacon, beef and chicken. People also make very simple sausages from meat.
The foodies will not be very happy with the simple cuisine but the tourists who do not care much about food will like the seafood dishes. The locals created a lot of recipes of fish pies.
On these tropical islands, there are many exotic fruits and the tourists can treat themselves to them. The offspring of the British sailors learned to fry bananas, to use coconut flakes, nutmeg and local herbs and spices in cooking.
The coconut cakes and tarts are usually served for a dessert.
The locals prefer coffee and they prepare it according to an old marine recipe.
Among the alcoholic drinks are home-made fruit liqueurs and imported alcoholic drinks sold in the local shops.
The official currency is Saint Helena pound (SHP) which is equal to 100 pence. The bank notes from 5 to 20 pounds and coins from 1 pence to 2 pounds are in circulation.
The tourists can exchange currency and cash traveler’s checks only at banks. The British sterling pound is accepted everywhere on the islands and the local currency is pegged at 1:1. It is better to have traveler’s checks in British pounds.
Visa and MasterCard are accepted by some large stores on the Saint Helena island but generally, the cards are not willingly accepted. There are no ATMs on the islands so the tourists can withdraw the money only at banks.
Details of interest
Sightseeing in Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
On the territory of the islands, there is one UNESCO site. This is a natural reserve on the Gough Island and the Inaccessible Island. The reserve preserved the ecosystem completely untouched. On the islands, there are no animals or plants which were brought by a human from some other part of the world and it makes this reserve an interesting site for studies. In addition to the unique and very picturesque landscape, the reserve is famous for its marine mammals and huge colonies of birds. Among the endemic species which are found only on these islands is the Inaccessible Island rail, the smallest flightless bird in the world.
The entire Saint Helena island is a UNESCO candidate site. The main criteria for inclusion is a unique local ecosystem which has been developing for a long time under conditions of isolation. When the island was founded 500 years ago, it was all covered with thick forests. There were 200 endemic flowers and species of fern. The islands lacked carnivores and plant-eating animals and there were only a few species of birds including one endemic. Unfortunately, people brought European animals and plants to the island and began active deforesting which destroyed the original ecological system of this place. Currently, people are making a lot of efforts to restore the initial biological diversity.
On the islands, there are some sights which can be interesting for the tourists:
- Longwood House is a house where Napoléon Bonaparte spend the last 5 years of his life. This is a must-see place on the Saint Helena island.
- Jacob’s ladder is a straight ladder with 699 stairs leading to the mountain near Jamestown. The ladder offers an amazing view on the city.
- High Knoll Fort is an English fort built at the end of the 8th century and rebuilt one hundred years later.
- Plantation House is an old mansion where lives the oldest resident of the island, a 180 years old turtle known as Jonathan.
- Heart-shaped waterfall looks especially spectacular in the wet season.
- Calshot harbor is a place on the Tristan da Cunha island where anyone can watch the whales.
Souvenirs in Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
The tourists usually buy:
- Souvenirs with Napoléon;
- T-shirts, key chains, caps and cups with the local landscapes;