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Travel to St Helena

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

Tours 237 & 240: London • Cape Town • St Helena • Cape Town • London

As with all our trips on the Royal Mail Ship, the focal point is the island of St Helena with her fascinating history, beautiful landscapes and welcoming people. These trips start and finish in Cape Town giving us the chance to see a little more of the wonderful country which is South Africa although not visiting Ascension Island.

Having flown to Cape Town from the UK and checked in to our hotel, we then have a full day to enjoy some of the surrounding areas - perhaps the famous Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden or Table Mountain. Embarkation to the RMS St Helena the next day as we start our five-night journey to the island during which we can indulge in quizzes and deck games and much more.

We'll have eight nights on St Helena itself. This fascinating island has much to capture the imagination including the house where Napoleon spent the last five years of his life. Its history as an important port of call along the trade routes is evident from its history and we'll enjoy all aspects of its natural history as well from the endemic Wirebird, wonderful endemic plants and a boat trip to enjoy the Pan-Tropical Spotted Dolphins which are resident just off shore (no guarantees, but we usually see them).

Upon return to Cape Town we indulge ourselves in a little luxury at the amazing Constantia Uitsig Hotel which is set in its own vineyard and internationally renowned for its restaurants. In stark contrast we visit one of the townships where the dignified and proud residents show us some of the projects which are helping them out of abject poverty. There are indeed many aspects to this fascinating country but, all too soon, it's time to fly back to the UK.

The RMS St Helena in Cape Town
Jamestown (with Royal Mail Ship in port)

Key facts

  • St Helena via Cape Town
  • Fully guided and escorted tour
  • 2016 departures:
    23 January (Tour 237)
    23 March (Tour 240)
  • Nights: 24
  • Fully inclusive cost: From £7,865
  • Single room supplement: £1,920 (£575 land only)
  • Deposit: £850 pp (£1,200 for single occupancy throughout)
  • Meal Basis: Full Board
  • Activity level: Easy (with moderate walks available)
  • Tour leader: Libby Weir-Breen (Tour 237) / Alan Curry (Tour 240)
  • 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 237
    itinerary & cost structure
  • St Helena Tour 240
    itinerary & cost structure
  • St Helena 2014/2015

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 leaders

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. 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.

Alan CurryAlan Curry has been afflicted by the birding and travel bug since an early age, and in an attempt to shake off this acute wanderlust embarked on a series of extended travels within Europe, Asia, North America and the Antipodes for over a decade, developing a keen interest in seabirds and obscure asiatic warblers along the way. Alan, now in a much more settled mode, is based in his native Northumberland where he runs an electrical contracting business. When an opportunity came along to get involved with tour leading, he discovered a welcome string to his bow and with a relaxed and easy-going manner it is something to which he is well suited. He's escorted groups on a regular basis in Europe, Asia and Africa. Shetland and Alaska. The stans of Central Asia are by far Alan's favourite destinations but stick him on a boat anywhere and he is happy! So the Royal Mail Ship should suit him nicely.

Your itinerary

Day 1: Our British Airways flight leaves London Heathrow in the evening (departure 2010 hours (Tour 237) / 2130 hours (Tour 240) from Terminal 5 TBC).

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: Our plans today evolve around the time of the ship's arrival and the consequent embarkation time but, by the evening, we will probably be on our way to St Helena.

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 Depending on the ship's schedule, we should have plenty of time for a last look around Jamestown, perhaps a swim and then lunch. In the afternoon we rejoin the Royal Mail Ship for our journey back to Cape Town.

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

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 TBC) in the morning.

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

Leaving Cape TownPan-Tropical Spotted DolphinsLongwood HouseSt Helena coastlineTable Mountain