Special-interest holidays worldwide
Island Holidays
Established 1987

St Helena and Cape Town

3 days around Cape Town, an old-fashioned sea voyage, St Helena island exploration, history & natural history

View from Mount Pleasant

Tour 263: London • Cape Town (Kirstenbosch Gardens, Table Mountain) • St Helena • Hermanus (Cape Agulhas, Vergelegen, Stellenbosch) • Cape Town • London

The opening of the new airport at St Helena has been delayed which is frustrating for everyone concerned. The Royal Mail Ship is almost booked out between now (May 2017) and when she is de-commissioned in February 2018. But Island Holidays took an allocation of cabins some time ago and so we are able to offer our last very special fully guided and escorted tour on board the Royal Mail Ship, which also spends a few nights in South Africa with two at Hermanus at the end of the holiday.

The focal point of our holiday is the remote South Atlantic Island of St Helena. During our stay we will be looking at every aspect of this fascinating place from its volcanic origins to its Millennium forest, from seabirds and dolphins to the critically endangered endemic Wirebird, from the days of the East India Company to Napoleon, plus a lot more that wouldn't even cross your mind! All this is set against the background of a remote island unblemished by mass tourism.

The voyage on the Royal Mail Ship is very much part of the holiday. Not only is it very relaxing, but there's also the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people from the “saints”, as the islanders are known, to visiting consultant surgeons, government represent-atives and, of course, the occasional tourist! There's plenty of fun to be had, too, with deck games, films and quizzes amongst other things.

We have built in a night or two on either side of the voyage in the Western Cape, not only to take into account possible travel delays but also because it would be a shame not to enjoy a little of what this wonderful part of the world has to offer, including the spectacle of Southern Right Whales right in by the shore. Should you wish to extend your stay in South Africa we can arrange your return flight to suit your plans.

Jamestown (with Royal Mail Ship in port)

Key facts

  • St Helena via Cape Town
  • Fully guided and escorted tour
  • 2017 departure: 24 September
  • Nights: 23
  • Fully inclusive cost: From £8,225
  • Single room supplement: £2,150 (£510 land only)
  • Deposit: £1500 pp (£2,500 for single occupancy throughout)
  • Meal Basis: Full Board
  • Activity level: Easy (with moderate walks available)
  • Tour leader: Libby Weir-Breen
  • Maximum Group Size: 12
  • Travel: British Airways & RMS St Helena
  • Departs: London Heathrow
  • Included in cost: International airfares and taxes, full board accommodation, transport, entrances, excursions, activities, UK and local guides.
  • Not included in cost: Entry permits to St Helena, travel insurance, tips, drinks and items of a personal nature.
  • St Helena Tour 263
    itinerary & cost structure

The ship

The Royal Mail Ship St Helena is unique. She is now the only working Royal Mail Ship in the world and, in addition to carrying up to 155 passengers in comfortable, classy style, she is almost the main source of supply to St Helena. Everything from wind turbines to Christmas turkeys, from food to furniture is carried on the RMS. For the islanders she is not just a lifeline - she is THE lifeline! Read more about the Royal Mail Ship…

The RMS St Helena In Port

Your tour manager

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: Our British Airways flight leaves London Heathrow's Terminal 3 at 21.30 hours.

Day 2: Upon arrival in Cape Town we will be met by our local guide and taken to our city centre hotel to check in. Having had a chance to freshen up, we head out to the famous Kirstenbosch Gardens where we'll have lunch in the African restaurant before taking a gentle walk with one of the Gardens' senior botanists. If the weather is suitable we'll round off the day with a trip up Table Mountain before returning to our hotel for dinner and overnight.

Day 3: Having checked out of the hotel we head down to the famous V & A Waterfront where we will have free time to enjoy whatever element of this amazing place takes our fancy. Lunch today is at your own expense – there’s a choice of sandwiches or superb fish restaurants and everything in between. We reconvene at an arranged meeting point for our transfer to the passenger terminal and embarkation on board the Royal Mail Ship St Helena. She normally sails in the late afternoon – all this will be confirmed by your tour manager the day before.

Days 4 - 7: Life on board the Royal Mail Ship is a real experience, especially if you get involved in the deck games, the quizzes and the other pastimes which are interspersed by regular intervals of feeding! With a maximum of 130 passengers, the ship is small and intimate and you will soon make new friends and hear interesting stories of life on St Helena.

Day 8: Our arrival time in Jamestown is a moveable feast and so we don't have anything particular planned for the day – it's likely that we'll not get there until late afternoon. When we arrive we'll find half the island will be waiting to meet the ship – it's a wonderful atmosphere. Among the people waiting to meet us will be our hosts from the Blue Lantern Hotel who will take the luggage up the road leaving us to stroll up – just a 5 minute walk.

Days 9 - 15: The order of our day by day itineraries varies according to the weather and the availability of local experts and so we don't put it down on paper. However, during our stay on the island the following activities will be included:

  • A guided walk of Jamestown
  • A Napoleon day
  • A boat trip around the coast to look for seabirds and hopefully link up with the resident pod of Pan-Tropical Spotted Dolphins
  • A day in the Three Peaks National Park with a local botanist
  • A visit to the Millennium Wood
  • A morning at Flagstaff to look for the endangered Wirebird and with the opportunity for a good walk for those who so wish
  • Scenic drives
  • A visit to the George Benjamin arboretum
  • A visit to Plantation House and the cathedral

…plus lots more. There'll also be some free time to pursue your own interests - and there's an excellent open-air swimming pool in Jamestown.

Day 16: All going according to plan, embarkation will be in the mid morning for sailing at lunch time. Your tour manager will keep you informed of the plans.

Days 17 - 20: Life on the Royal Mail Ship is wonderful! It's totally relaxed with plenty of time for reading or simply staring out to sea – but, if you can only do so much of that, there's always plenty of entertainment and interesting people with whom to pass the time of day.

Day 21: Today's programme is dependent upon the ship's arrival time and the efficiency (or otherwise!) of the disembarkation procedure. Once we've cleared officialdom our guide will be waiting to whisk us off to our base, the Marine Hotel at Hermanus down the coast from Cape Town. The 2-hour drive takes us through the Overberg region (which means “across the mountain”), stopping along the way to browse an excellent roadside farm shop. Once we've settled in to the hotel, the programme for the rest of the day will depend on our time of arrival – always a moveable feast for the Royal Mail Ship. During our stay there will be plenty of opportunity to enjoy the spectacle of Southern Right Whales which come within touching distance of the shore.

Day 22: Our destination today is the southernmost tip of the African continent, Cape Agulhas. Along the way we'll visit the Klein River cheese factory and an “off the beaten track” wine farm for tastings and stop for lunch in a small restaurant right next to the harbour at Struisbaai. At Cape Agulhas, facing the sea, you have the Indian Ocean on your left and the Atlantic Ocean on your right – and for the more athletic it's possible to stand with one foot in each! We return to Hermanus via the historic mission town of Elim stopping along the way to take in the fabulous scenery and atmosphere.

Day 23: For our last day travel along the spectacularly beautiful coastal route, stopping at Stony Point to enjoy one of only three African Penguin colonies. At Vergelegen, one of South Africa's flagship wineries, we see a wonderful example of a splendid Cape Dutch Manor House, complete with English garden, and enjoy a wine tasting and a good lunch. Our last stop before heading for the airport is Stellenbosch, South Africa's oldest town (Cape Town being a city). We arrive at the airport for our late afternoon/early evening check in and the homeward flight which arrives at London Heathrow Terminal 3 at 1105 hours the next morning (Day 24).

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