The island of St. Helena can be very hard to find. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, 4,000 km east of Rio de Janeiro and 1,950 km west of Angola, Africa, St. Helena is a volcanic island that pokes out of the deep ocean, it’s a mere pinpoint of a map.
Best known as the place where Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled to live out his last days, St. Helena is a British Overseas Territory, ensuring that he had no chance to escape.
Given its remote location, St. Helena is a unique place. Much of its flora and fauna can be found nowhere else. The island has a very high proportion of endemic species, making it a great place for birders to visit.
Unfortunately, St. Helena is not blessed with a magnificent harbour, so large cruise ships can’t berth there. The best way to get there these days is by air from either Cape Town of Johannesburg, or from London via Accra.
The island’s capital is called Jamestown, and St. Helena has a permanent population of about 4,500.
Jamestown is located on the coast and occurs along a deep valley that extends for 2.4 kilometres as if that portion of the land has simply split open.
Although the temperature is semi-tropical, the island does lie in the path of the cool South Atlantic trade winds which drench the mountainous interior with rain, but is much kinder to the coastal regions.
Jamestown initially served as a base for the Royal Navy in its attempt to supress the slave trade which operated between Africa and the Americas. Many of the buildings were built by English East India Company, so have a distinct Georgian look at them. It is an anomaly because despite not being connected to Jamestown proper by road, Rupert’s Valley, the next valley north, is also part of the town.
St James’ Church dates from 1772 and is the oldest Anglican church in the Southern Hemisphere. If you like stairs, then try Jacob’s Ladder, a staircase of 699 steps. In normal times, they hold a semi-annual event each year in which runners compete to ascend the stairs the quickest.
For tourists, the island’s natural beauty and historic heritage are in turn stunning and dramatic, offering all visitors an extraordinary lifetime experience.
With ancient wrecks, giant stairways, great forts, natural wonders and extraordinary walks, the world within this exclusive land fleck is a world apart from anywhere else.