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Island Holidays
Established 1987

St Helena, Whale Sharks, Napoleon and More

A fully guided 11-night holiday including 2 nights in Johannesburg, flying from London Heathrow

View of Jamestown from the top of Jacob's Ladder

London • Johannesburg • St Helena • Johannesburg • London

St Helena lies in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean and is a British Overseas Territory which has previously been accessible only by ship. Now that the long-awaited airport has opened it will be possible for those people who simply couldn't afford the 18 days it took to visit the island to do so and see much of what there is to offer within a reasonable time scale.

The first of our three guided tours for 2018 will run in January to coincide with the presence of the magnificent whale sharks. Obviously this can't be guaranteed – nature can be fickle – but that is our hope and is worked into our plans for the week on the island.

The holiday begins in South Africa when, upon arrival in Johannesburg we will be met by our local guide and taken to the excellent Michelangelo Hotel which is situated on Nelson Mandela Square. We'll take in a tour of Pretoria and then, the next day, fly to St Helena where we'll enjoy a week-long programme taking in all the highlights including two mornings looking for, and hopefully swimming with, the whale sharks which visit the area every year at this time.

Accommodation is in the Blue Lantern Hotel and we'll spend much of the week in the company of local guides exploring the island. The cost of the holiday is fully inclusive from London – if you are travelling from South Africa please ask us for a separate quote.

A Pan-tropical Spotted Dolphin jumping out of the water off the coast of St Helena

Key facts

  • St Helena island exploration & whale sharks
  • Fully guided tour
  • 2018 departure: 18 January
  • Nights: 11 (includes 2 nights in Johannesburg)
  • Fully inclusive cost: £5,150
  • Single room supplement: £400
  • Deposit: £850 pp
  • Meal Basis: Full Board
  • Activity level: Easy (with moderate walks available)
  • Tour leader: Libby Weir-Breen with local guides
  • Maximum Group Size: 12
  • Travel: British Airways & SA Airlink
  • Departs: London Heathrow
  • Included in cost: International airfares and taxes, full board accommodation except for three lunches, tours and activities as described in the itinerary and local guides in South Africa and St Helena.
  • Not included in cost: Entry permit to St Helena, travel insurance, drinks and items of a personal nature.
  • St Helena January 2018
    detailed itinerary

Your tour guide

Libby Weir-BreenLibby Weir-Breen set up Island Holidays in 1987 with Shetland naturalist, the late Bobby Tulloch MBE. Her own experience in the travel industry goes back to 1977 when she left her job on The Scotsman newspaper to become a resort representative in St Anton in the Austrian Tyrol.

In 1987 she set up Island Holidays with the late Bobby Tulloch, Shetland's renowned naturalist. Since then she has travelled widely both researching and leading tours. A passionate conservationist and campaigner for trade justice, Libby has a love for the natural world and feels herself privileged to be able to express this through her work and to share it with so many like-minded people.

Your itinerary

Day 1: Your British Airways flight leaves London Heathrow Terminal 5 at 1810 hours (direct to Johannesburg).

Day 2: Upon arrival in Johannesburg at 0715 hours you will be met by a representative of Signature Tours who will take you to the waiting vehicle for your transfer to the Michelangelo Hotel in the Sandton district of Johannesburg. The rest of the day will be taken up with a private tour to the Sterkfontein Caves and the city of Pretoria. The caves, a World Heritage Site, are said to be the cradle of mankind and to have a 3-million year history. After lunch you'll visit the Union Building, the seat of Government, and the Voortrekker Monument before returning to Johannesburg for dinner and overnight.

Day 3: Your flight to St Helena departs Johannesburg at 0900 hours, arriving in St Helena at 1315 hours. Upon arrival we'll transfer to Jamestown and the Blue Lantern Hotel which will be our base for the week. In the afternoon, once we've had a chance to freshen up, we'll meet up with our local guide who will run through the programme for the week, after which we'll have a wander around Jamestown to give you an idea of its layout. Dinner tonight will be in our hotel.

Day 4: There is much to discover on St Helena as will be demonstrated by today's full day tour of the island in the company of our local guide. At Rupert's Bay we'll hear how, following the abolition of slavery, slaves were dumped on the island. Their remains were discovered when construction of the airport access was begun and the impact of the airport construction will be discussed. Driving inland we'll discover the impact of flax on the environment and then stop at an old flax mill and take a stroll along the track. The SHAPE centre for training of disabled people so that they can be financially independent is where we'll have our picnic lunch. In the afternoon we visit St Paul's Cathedral and then drive to Rosemary Plain where we'll have tea at farm lodge. We return to Jamestown for dinner in a local restaurant and overnight at the Blue Lantern.

Day 5: This morning we have our first outing to look for the whale sharks off the north coast of the island. If we're lucky enough to find them there'll be an opportunity to hop off the boat and joint them for a swim (sea conditions permitting). Please remember that these are wild animals and their welfare is of prime importance. You will be given clear instructions as to the “do's and don'ts”. We return to shore for a bite of lunch which will be followed by a town walk with a local historian.

Day 6: Armed with a picnic lunch we head off for the day. Our first visit will be to “Scotland” where we'll be met by one of their Kew-trained botanists who will show us round and introduce us to the work being done to reinstate endemic vegetation to the island. Our next stop will be Plantation House, home to the Governor of the island, where we'll have a look around before continuing to nearby St Paul's cathedral. Heading back towards Jamestown we'll stop at the Castell Collection of old prints of St Helena – the largest such collection in the world. Here we'll sit on the terrace of the delightful home in which it is housed to enjoy our picnic. Our final visit of the day will be to High Knoll Fort high above Jamestown with its fascinating history and fantastic views.

Day 7: Today is all things Napoleon plus a bit. To begin there is a visit to Briars Pavilion where he spent his first few weeks on the island, said to be his happiest. The next port of call is Longwood House which was his home for the rest of his exile until his death. He hated it! After lunch at nearby Bertrand's Cottage, our route passes St Matthew's church where there's a quick visit. The astronomer, Halley, spent time on the island following his comet and it's possible to visit the site of the observatory although hardly anything remains. Back to Napoleon and his final resting place on St Helena – his tomb – the most beautiful spot which he, himself, had chosen. After all this a bit of serious fun is required and that we get at the island's distillery, samples of which's product are followed by afternoon tea.

Day 8: We have another morning with the whale sharks (if we're lucky) and will also hope to see the resident school of Pan-tropical Spotted dolphins as well as the variety of seabirds to be found in the area such as Red-billed Tropicbirds, Brown and Black Noddies and Masked Boobies. We'll return to shore for a light lunch and then the afternoon will be free for you to enjoy a bit of relaxation or pursue your own particular interests.

Day 9: Today St Helena National Trust take charge for the morning. The first stop will be at Deadwood Plain which is an excellent place to see the island's only endemic bird, the endangered Wirebird. This little plover is enchanting and the conservation effort is fascinating, albeit sometimes frustrating. The next stop overlooks the airport and from here the amazing engineering feat which has allowed it to become a reality is apparent. At the same time as looking to the future the Millennium Wood, the area which is visited, celebrates the past as native species which had once covered the island are being re-introduced. You'll have a chance to make your own contribution by planting one of the trees. After a light lunch back in Jamestown there'll be a guided walk for those who so wish, the choice of which will be dependent upon the ability of those who would like to participate.

Day 10: There'll be a free morning in Jamestown to visit the museum, do a little retail therapy or simply sit and watch the world go by before an early lunch. We then head back to the airport for our flight back to Johannesburg which arrives at 2030 hours. As on arrival, we'll be staying at the Michaelangelo Hotel.

Day 11 Our flight doesn't leave Johannesburg until 2150 hours so we will be arranging a full day tour for you prior to taking you to the airport for your homeward flight.

Day 12: Your British Airways flight arrives in London at 0715 hours giving plenty of time for homeward journeys.

If you would like to extend your stay in South Africa we have some excellent suggestions or can accommodate your own arrangements.

Please note that the itinerary can be changed without notice at the sole discretion of Island Holidays or your tour leader.