You made it. You’re at Dew Pond, the highest point on Ascension Island. You hiked through the subtropical forest, past a few feral sheep, around some muddy spots, and above the thick clouds. Eventually, you made it to the pond. It’s surrounded by bamboo and filled with water lilies. Though beautiful, it’s not the reason this hike is the first stop after your arrival. It’s the view. From here, you can see Georgetown, Two Boats, and a few cargo ships. Plus the endless Atlantic Ocean. You’re a long way from anywhere, at a place few people will ever visit.
Ascension Island—along with the other islands that make up the archipelago of Saint Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha—are known as the most remote populated islands in the world. The volcanic islands are located south of the Equator, west of Africa, and east of South America. It’s not surprising that they were uninhabited when Portuguese explorers arrived in the early 1500s. The British eventually claimed the islands. They used them as an Allies patrol base during World War II, a staging post during the Falklands War, and now an air force base on Ascension. Today, the remote location isn’t the only thing keeping people away; written permission is needed to visit.
When you received that written permission, you jumped at the chance to travel to Green Mountain National Park on Ascension. The park is full of endemic plants not found anywhere else in the world, well-marked hiking paths, stunning views, and no crowds. You plan to spend the next few days hiking through the ravines on Elliot’s Pass, to the Norfolk Island Pines in the Breakneck Valley, and out to the lookout cave on Rupert’s Path. You’ll search for Ascension spurge and Ascension spleenwort along the trails. And you’ll see land crabs migrating toward the sea to spawn.
After hiking each morning, spend your afternoons at the beach. You’re in a tropical climate, after all. See giant green turtles nesting on Long Beach. Be surrounded by blackfish while snorkeling around English Bay. Swim, read, and, ultimately, nap on Comfortless Cove, which doesn’t match its name at all. Watch water spurt out of a blowhole at North East Bay. And explore the lava caves near the Grotto.
Then head to Georgetown, the small capital that can’t really be called a city. St Mary’s Church, the only church on the island, is the center of town. It’s always unlocked, even if no one is around. Visit the forts: Bedford, Hayes, and Thornton. Fort Hayes is now a museum focused on the island’s history. Pay your respects at the Bann Memorial, the Redpole Monument, and the cemetery. And see the Victorian canons sitting on Cross Hill overlooking the town.
Then drive inland to Two Boats. The tiny village is home to the island’s only school and the Two Boats Club. Order tuna fish cakes, spicy plo (a curry rice dish), and a cold beer. As you enjoy the cool breeze coming off the mountain, someone will surely ask what made you travel to Ascension. After a few rounds, you’ve made friends on the small, remote island. You just can’t promise that you’ll be back to visit again anytime soon.