The Island of Secrets
Ascension Island might just be a tiny dot in the South Atlantic Ocean but over the years it has had immense strategic importance. Latterly it was the Cold War which gave it eminence, what with the NASA station and all the secret bits and pieces about which we now know. But, back in history, it was militarily strategic - particularly when Napoleon was exiled to its nearest land – St Helena – which lies two or three days' to the south. To this day Cable and Wireless and the BBC Relay Station are still hugely important, as are the American and RAF bases.
For all these reasons Ascension was, until relatively recently, closed to tourism. That has now changed although getting there isn't all that easy. The journey is, in itself, a bit of an adventure as we fly with the Royal Air Force from RAF Brize Norton. Don't worry - no parachutes and green lights: it's a standard AirBus chartered from a commercial airline. There are only 10 civilian seats on each flight (2 flights a week) which serve not only Ascension but also the Falkland Islands.
At first sight this is a stark island, seemingly full of volcanic clinker and little else. But that is not the case. There's a surprise round every corner. The island has 40 volcanoes and 32 sandy beaches, only two of which are suitable for swimming but most of which are home to nesting Green Turtles. The sight of these magnificent creatures laying eggs is an emotional experience, as is that of watching the hatchlings rushing to the sea in the early morning trying to avoid the attentions of the island's endemic Frigatebirds. There are fantastic seabird colonies and the island's National Park – Green Mountain – is something else.
For the most part we offer independent tours to Ascension, taking advantage of recently introduced guided tours on the island. The exception is our November guided tour which, having spent three nights on Ascension, continues to the Falkland Islands.