Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
Located in the Atlantic Ocean are the islands of Saint Helena, a British Overseas Territory. Here, rocky heathland neighbors meadows, and small shrubs are replaced by gentle eucalyptus and slender cypresses.
The climate on the islands is tropical. The coldest month is January. During this time, the temperature does not rise above +13 ° C. The hottest time to visit the island is July. The air warms up to +30 ° C. The best time to visit the country – is from October to April.
The island of St. Helena is famous as the last resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte. Therefore, tourists visit the village of Longwood with interest. This is where the great conqueror lived out his years. It is also interesting to visit the church of St. James and the 699 steps of the steep Staircase of James. Botanists and eco-lovers should visit Diana Pike National Park.
On Ascension Island, Green Mountain is worth a visit because the view from its summit is spectacular. Those who are fascinated by history can join a tour of the military museum at Tu-Bots Village. At the entrance is a monument – a real British Covenanter tank from World War II.
Tristan da Cunha is a mecca for divers and volcanologists. The former are interested in the rich underwater world, the latter in the seismic activity of the island. It is also notable for the fact that lobster mining is active here.
Native to Africa, Southeast Asia and South America, the islanders consider themselves a nation in their own right and call themselves the Saints. The hospitality of the locals is combined with English primness. They’ll be delighted to welcome you, serve you tea, and treat you to a traditional coconut muffin, but only if you notify your hosts in advance of your visit. You should give the host a small gift or souvenir as a thank-you for the reception.
The cuisine of the islands is famous for its simplicity. Seafood is something that visitors to the island should try. Meat is also popular. Islanders love bacon and blood sausage. The standard side dish is potatoes, rice, or vegetables. For dessert, you can try fried banana or coconut finger cakes. St. Helena is a godsend for coffee drinkers. The locals brew coffee professionally, according to the recipes of navigators.
St. Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha are part of the British Overseas Territories, but this is a rare case where it is not necessary to contact the British consulates and the VC. An Entry Permit is required to visit the islands. In the case of Saint Helena it is issued upon arrival, but for the other territories you need to apply for it in advance. Duration of Permits and Period of Stay? On Saint Helena, the Entry Permit is valid for 183 days, the length of stay is usually based on the return ticket (maximum also 183 days). On the other islands, the maximum length of stay is up to 3 months. The validity of the permit begins at the time of issuance. General requirements for the issuance of permits (for all territories): – valid passport – at least 6 months at the time of entry; – availability of return tickets or confirmation from the captains of private yachts about the date of departure from the islands; – availability of money and hotel reservations (printouts of hotel booking sites are sufficient); – availability of insurance, which covers all expenses, including repatriation of remains to the home country. Important! The amount of insurance coverage should be no less than $750,000, and the period of validity of the policy should exceed by one week the number of days of stay. This is due to two factors: firstly, the islands are far from the mainland, and in case of need for surgical intervention (and it may be a simple appendicitis) you will have to be taken by special flight, and the plane is expensive, and secondly, the weather conditions are such that you may be delayed on the islands extra 5-10 days as a result of storms. How to get a permit? Read completely
Airlink, a South African airline, operates regular flights to Ascension and St. Helena from Johannesburg and Cape Town. You can get to Tristan da Cunha from . Read completely
A stay permit is required for each of the islands. In the case of Saint Helena, it is issued on arrival. For the other islands you need a permit. Read in full
On Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha there is no rental car. On the island of Saint Helena it is possible to rent a car. You will need . Read in full
As such, there is no public transport on the islands. You can travel either in private cars of islanders or in . Read in full
The British Embassy represents Russia in Saint Helena. Russian Embassy in London Address: 6/7 Kensington Palace Gardens, London, W 8 4QP Tel: (8-10-44-207) 229-64-12, 229-7281, 243-14-10, 792-31-42. Read completely
Telecommunications Despite the islands’ isolation, the telecommunications system here is quite well developed, as this archipelago, due to its advantageous strategic position in the middle of the Atlantic, is used as an intermediate point for many international lines. An automatic digital network covers the whole of St. Helena and a number of other territories. Read entire
Banking services on St. Helena and Ascension Island are provided by the Bank of St. Helena branch network. You can exchange currency and cash traveler’s checks only at the bank offices. It is recommended to take checks in pounds sterling with you to avoid extra costs. Read completely
The last “Atlantic Odyssey”: Tristan da Cunha and surroundings
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The last “Atlantic Odyssey”: Tristan da Cunha and surroundings
Tulviste ” May 29, 2018, 16:51
How I got here The name “Tristan da Cunha” has beckoned me since childhood. Other designations of countries and islands, such as Kiribati or Kerguelen, seemed equally mysterious and enigmatic. But it was Tristan da Cunha that stuck in my memory from the book “Children of Captain Grant” by Jules Verne. From there, the exact and unforgettable knowledge of the geographical coordinates of this island. Let me remind you that the heroes of this novel travel in search of the missing Captain Grant along the 37th southern parallel. Including “to clear their conscience”, not expecting to find the missing man, they visit Tristan da Cunha for a few days. They do not behave, by today’s standards, very roughly: for example, the crew kills several dozen seals for the sake of fat, skins and meat. The island is found for the second time in Jules Verne’s “The Captain at Fifteen” – here Dick Sand, as you know, mistakenly sailed to Africa instead of South America during a storm, takes Tristan da Cunha for Easter Island. In English-language literature, the island is described in Edgar Poe’s single and very enigmatic novel, A Tale of the Adventures of Arthur Gordon Pym. And this description is no less scrupulous than that of Jules Verne. In fact, the novel includes a complete summary of Tristan da Cunha of the mid-nineteenth century. But no special adventures take place there either. In general, from my childhood this name has seemed to me as a synonym to the image of faraway, attractive and almost inaccessible lands… The way to appear on this island lost in the South Atlantic on a cruise route passing through it I first dug on this very forum, thanks to its authors! First of all, here is this report of Tristan da Cunha Island. It is more concise than mine, but partly even the photo array is the same. However, it did not immediately become a travel plan. The decision to go on this particular cruise matured after another project failed. It was a memorial trip in 2016 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the famous “Shackleton rescue” with special attention, of course, to South Georgia, visiting Elephant Island and other less exclusive places (the Falklands and the Antarctic Peninsula). A particularly long stop was planned on South Georgia – while a group of climbers was to repeat Shackleton’s famous crossing through the interior of the island, tourists visited the most diverse and rare landing places. This trip promised to be comfortable – as it was planned on one of SilverSea liners. And all the announcements we found on the Internet advertised a 50% discount for the cruise. However, in fact, wherever I went, there was no room for it (already?). The mood for a trip to Antarctic waters from this failure did not dry up, but the standard trek to the Antarctic Peninsula and back after the previous complex itinerary seemed a little dull. And then the familiar from the forum “Atlantic Odyssey” on the ship Plancius caught my eye. And on the route, in addition to South Georgia, and the same, from his childhood, the island of Tristan da Cunha. It is decided, we must go! Cruise along this route has been taking place for a long time, more than a dozen years and only once a year. This is due to the need to relocate the ship from Antarctica, where Plancius spends the northern hemisphere winter, to the north, where the ship takes tourists along the coast of Spitsbergen and Greenland. Only Plancius takes this route with stops, while the second ship of the Ocenwide Expedition, now known as Ortelius (formerly known to Sakhalin residents as the Marina Tsvetaeva), goes directly to Holland for preventive maintenance.
Actually, the route of the Atlantic Odyssey is worth talking about in the past tense – at least for the near future. Because already in 2019 there will be no such cruise, and the further intentions of the shipowner are uncertain. And therefore, we can say that I made it to the last steamer… By the way, the reasons for the termination of the “odyssey” is hardly due to under-loading of the ship, the ship was filled almost completely and, they say, the shipowner receives a lot of requests to resume this cruise in the future. Here it is, my South Atlantic itinerary on the ship’s daily updated chart:
I originally planned this cruise for spring 2017, but since it coincided with my mother’s anniversary that year, I pushed it to 2018. This decision led to some organizational difficulties, but in the end it turned out to be the right one. The fact is that this cruise is traditionally sold in parts: one – the route from Ushuaia in Argentina to Ascension Island (a British military base almost at the equator, at 7 degrees south latitude) and from that island another 8 days to Cape Verde. And until this year it was possible to fly British Air Force transports from Ascension Island to the UK’s largest airbase near Oxford. However, with the launch of the civilian airport on St. Helena, the situation has changed. The possibility for civilians to fly military flights to Great Britain was cancelled. True, the prospect remained of flying from Ascension Island Airport in the other direction, via St. Helena to Cape Town. However, the schedule for such flights was clearly unsuitable. And later it turned out even more important circumstance – as it turns out, the citizens of a dozen countries, including Russia and Ukraine, have ultimatum access to Ascension Island (not even the captain is not allowed in!). And I found this out on my own, the company that sold me this cruise, and its organizer Oceanwide Expedition were completely unaware of this fact! So, if I hadn’t rescheduled the cruise for a year, I would have had to forcibly follow it to Cape Verde – and okay, but without the ability to disembark on Ascension Island it was all meaningless. And in 2018 an opportunity arose to end the cruise on St. Helena by flying from there to South Africa. There were complications with that too, though, which I’ll hopefully describe in my St. Helena report when I get around to it. But in the end, all ended well, the route came together. I decided to include a 9-day trip to the Antarctic Peninsula on the same Plancius, since I was going to Sub-Antarctic waters, and since I would get to South Africa, I should explore those places too! In the end, the month and a half trip turned out to be quite complicated. Starting with two days in Asuncion (in debt for not visiting Ciudad del Este in Paraguay during the visit to Iguazu) and continuing with a two-day stop in Ushuaia, the main part of the trip had two oceanic sections: Ushuaia Antarctica – Ushuaia and Ushuaia – South Georgia – Tristan da Cunha – St. Helena. And ended with an 8-day sightseeing program in South Africa (Cape Town and Victoria Falls from Zimbabwe and Zambia and a visit to the Chobe National Park in Botswana). I think it is not necessary to go into the many times described features of everyday life on an expedition cruise. And, in general, enough foreplay, it is time to move on to the main subject of this report – the island of Tristan da Cunha and its surroundings.
Islands Actually, there are four more or less significant islands in this part of the ocean. First on our way after a four-day crossing from South Georgia was officially uninhabited (except for the personnel of the weather station) Gough Island, which is located 350 kilometers south of Tristan da Cunha. Then the main island, and next to it – 30-40 kilometers each – two smaller islands. One of them on domestic maps is designated as Nightingale (rarely also referred to as Nightingale in translation), and the second is more commonly referred to as Inaccessible Island, or, without translation, Inaccessible. Nightingale has two other small satellites that are officially considered islands. Located in the middle of the ocean on the edge of the “Roaring Forties” and not shut off from any winds, these islands are notorious for bad weather. Even the cruise company in its prospectus warned against over-optimism – say, by experience, in a third of cases to land on islands, including cruises on zodiacs, could not be realized. And this is the most problematic point on the entire itinerary. And I was on edge all the way to Tristan da Cunha – will it work or not? After all, Tristan was for me the main point of this rather tedious, because of the abundance of days at sea cruise. So please excuse me if this narrative focuses too much on this topic. And this is not idle speculation. So, during our stay near the island, the ship “Europa” did not manage to disembark. And a little before us, on March 16, the cruise ship Le Lyrial from the company Ponant had approached Tristan’s harbor but was unable to disembark. And without the difficulty of disembarkation, these islands are considered some of the most remote populated places in the world. It is over 2000 kilometers to the “metropolis” in Saint Helena, 2800 kilometers to South Africa and over 3300 kilometers to the coast of South America.
As a consequence, the locals like to call it the most remote or difficult to reach in the world (The remotest Island) and this is the official positioning of Tristan da Cunha for tourists.
This remoteness has shaped the specific flora and fauna of the islands, where numerous endemic species are represented. But the most famous is the Tristan shepherd (moorhen), the smallest flightless bird in the world. All the islands are of volcanic origin, so-called stratovolcanoes, which, according to geologists, are characterized by a constant rise. Their height above sea level is up to 2000 meters, and from the foot of the ocean floor – about 5000 meters. The islands vary quite significantly in age. The oldest one is Nightingale, which is about 18 million years old. He, respectively, and the most subjected to erosion, which creates a beautiful form of collapsed and half-collapsed rocks. Gough is about 5 million years old, but Inaccessible and Tristan itself are younger – they are about 3 million years old. Until 1961 it was thought that the active volcanic activity on the islands has ceased, but an unexpected eruption in the vicinity of the only settlement on the island then led to the forced evacuation of the entire population. It was short-lived, only a few months, but it forced the British government to pay attention to the inhabitants of the island. Permanent residents – about 270 people – live only on the main island of Tristan da Cunha. It is believed that the vast majority of them are descendants of the 8 first male settlers on the island, and because they brought women mostly from Africa, a touch of African blood can be seen in the features of the present inhabitants. Jules Verne gives a curious description of the Tristans (hearsay, he himself has never been here): “They are Englishmen and Americans married to Negroes and Cape Gottentots, renowned for their exceptional ugliness. The children of these mixed marriages are some unattractive mixture of Saxon dryness and African blackness.” Well, here I disagree with the writer, quite normal looking locals, and some girls even more so. There are immigrants from a later period and even more recent ones. However, there is also emigration, so that the population of the island, which reached a peak in 1976 – 295 people, now fluctuates around270. Interestingly, a map of the island, which you can buy in the visitor center, lists all the non-residential and residential houses of the island and the names of all the residents, including children. Here one reads the constantly repeating names. Administratively the islands are part of the Overseas Territory of St. Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha and are under the authority of the Governor of St. Helena, who appoints the Island Administrator. There is also a local council elected by the people. The member who gets the most votes is regarded as the “Chief Islander” or “Chief of the Islanders”. There is also a police force on the island, although there is only one permanent police officer. During the sea days of the cruise on the eve of our arrival, we had several lectures about these little-known to the general public islands. There was even a “special guest” on the tour guide team from Tristan Leon, who normally works in communications on the island. We were also shown two films about life of the islanders in the old days – before the earthquake and after the earthquake.
The only way to get to these islands is by ship – cruise, fishing, scientific, supply, military, or on your own yacht. About 10 times a year fishing boats come here from Cape Town (Edinburgh and Geo Surfers). In this case, from the moment of their arrival to departure takes from two weeks to a month and a half, and, as a rule, the visitor has no opportunity to leave the island during this time. For example, the Edinburgh we met off the coast of Gough left Cape Town on March 27, arrived in Tristan Harbor on April 3, and did not depart in the opposite direction until April 28. For 2019, according to the schedule, that’s usually about 2 weeks http://www.tristandc.com/shipping.php . These ships take passengers, but not many – 12 people per voyage. Travel time is 6-7 days. The round-trip ticket costs $1,000. Once a year, the South African vessel Agulhas II arrives on the island, whose task is to supply the weather station on Gough Island. Here the policy is more passenger-friendly – up to 40 people are accepted. Tickets here are a little cheaper – about $ 800 round trip. Either way, as they say, it is necessary to book seats on these ships a lot in advance. For the arriving tourists there are two main options for accommodation – in houses of locals (it costs 50 pounds a day per person with partial meals and laundry, and as much as 11 gesthouses, where in a mode of self-catering you can stay just for 25 pounds a day per person. The reservation process is handled by the island administration’s office in Cape Town, with the authorities getting 25% of what the tourist spends. Read more here http://www.tristandc.com/visitsaccommodation.php In addition to Plancius, several cruise companies call at this harbor. This is usually due to the seasonal transfer of ships from the southern hemisphere to the northern hemisphere, so all of these visits occur mostly in March and April, after the end of Antarctic navigation. In 2018, seven such ships were scheduled, along with ours, of which 4 were headed toward Cape Town, 2 to Cape Verde and 1 to Rio de Janeiro. Among them: – the luxury Seabourn Soujourn, moving from New York to Cape Town; – also the luxury Silver Cloud, Ushuaia to Cape Town route; – the sailing barque Europa, taking up to 50 passengers, cruising from South America to Cape Town; At least two cruises are planned for 2019: – Silver Explorer, from Ushuaia to Cape Town – Le Lyrial, on the same route.
But there is probably no point in duplicating online encyclopedias verbatim. It is time for my story to move from general information to personal impressions and, of course, photographs. The sea route took us from South Georgia northward, which meant that after the sub-Antarctic weather, it was getting warmer every day. The sea, especially compared to the rocking in the Drake Passage, was relatively calm. But the nights were sometimes short – twice we had to set our clocks an hour ahead to bring them in line with Greenwich Mean Time. The ocean was not particularly pleasing in the variety of life. As always, there were birders on deck (after all, this cruise attracts bird watchers in the first place). Information about this or that variety of birds caused a real stir among them. Thus, the announcement that the endemic spectacled petrel had appeared astern during another lecture on Tristan da Cunha caused the lounge to be more than half-empty in an instant. The day before we were supposed to arrive at Gough Island, at the evening briefing we were reassured by the news that the ship was about 12 hours ahead of schedule. This meant that we could “shoot off” on Gough tomorrow, which might give us an extra day of mooring on Tristan da Cunha, which made me very happy – more chance of the disembarkation that I wanted so much. On the same day, after a short break, the whales appeared overboard, this time the crooked-toothed whales. These whales are relatively small, measuring six meters each, so it was not easy to see them, even though they were close enough to the ship. In short, I couldn’t see the teeth that distinguished this species.
I fell asleep in anticipation of tomorrow’s first touch of the lost islands of the South Atlantic.