Jamestown, Saint Helena

Photo: Mejuto (Software fotográfico) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Mejuto (Software fotográfico) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
There’s land ahead! You’ve spent the last few days watching the dark water and the strong waves from the side of the ship. With no land in sight, you’ve been getting antsy. You’re ready to stretch your legs, see green grass, and talk to different people. Now the water is getting bluer. Mountains are up ahead. And fishing boats—a sure sign of civilization—are bobbing in the harbor. Welcome to Saint Helena.

Saint Helena is in the South Atlantic Ocean. It’s part of the British Overseas Territory Saint Helena, Ascension & Tristan da Cunha. The islands are hundreds of miles from one another and thousands of miles from Africa, the nearest land mass. The Portuguese first arrived on the uninhabited islands in 1502. The tropical, volcanic islands became an important stopover for ships traveling between Europe or Asia and South America. They’re also, unsurprisingly, some of the most remote islands in the world.

Jamestown, the small capital of Saint Helena, is buzzing with the ship’s arrival. Long-awaited supplies are being unloaded to the eager Saints, as the islanders call themselves. You pass the Cenotaph, which lists the names of the Saints who died in the two world wars, by the wharf and set off to explore.

Photo: Saint Helena Government
Photo: Saint Helena Government

Tour the Castle, the main government building, and peek in the chambers if the council is in session. Walk through the Castle Gardens. The park behind the Castle is filled with huge ficus trees and songbirds. Cross the street to St. James’ Church, the oldest Anglican church in the Southern Hemisphere. Wander through the Museum of Saint Helena to learn about the island’s political and natural history. Then climb Jacob’s Ladder. The 699 steps lead up the deep canyon to Half Tree Hollow and the rest of the island.

From here, head north to visit Heart-shaped Waterfall, named after the shape of the rock over which it falls. Go to the center of the island to see Plantation House, the gorgeous governor’s mansion. Don’t miss Jonathan and Myrtle, two of the Seychelles giant tortoises that live on the grounds. Longwood, the home where Napoléon Bonaparte died after being exiled to the island, is nearby. As is the island’s highest peak, Diana’s Peak. The national park is home to the Saint Helena plover, a humid cloud forest, and peaceful hiking trails.

More trails, as well as the island’s best swimming spot, are on the southern end of the island. Carefully hike along Sandy Bay’s cliffs to find Lot’s Wife Ponds. The natural tide pools have amazing views of volcanic structures, nesting masked boobies, and the endless Atlantic. Not too bad for the end of the world.

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