Travel on one of the few remaining voyages of the Royal Mail Ship
The long-awaited to airport on the remote island of St Helena in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean is at last going to become a reality. It's very exciting although, as anything which is destined to change a community for ever, it is tinged with sadness, not least the withdrawal of the last working Royal Mail Ship in the world.
St Helena is a very special place in many ways. Famed as the island where Napoleon was tucked out of harm's way for the last five years of his life, it has a fascinating history. For generations it was a bustling port of vital importance to the East India Company's trade routes and its population reflects the international influences from European, to African, to Indian and to Chinese.
Scenically it is spectacular with high cliffs rising from the sea, interspersed with steep valleys and with a lush interior. Above all this is the safest of destinations where a genuinely warm welcome is extended to that rarest of breeds – the tourist (or visitor as the islanders think of us). Here the pace of life is delightfully slow and there isn't a mobile phone in sight – yet! A slow internet connection is possible but expensive, and the atmosphere is therefore utterly conducive to complete rest and relaxation.
Safe and slow it may be, but the island holds many attractions other than its scenery and history. For walkers the Letterbox Walks offer varying degrees of challenge; the island archives are a source of fascination for people with family links in the island's colonial past; the botanist can wonder at the extraordinary work being done to re-establish the island's endemic plants and every birder wants to see the Endangered Wirebird (recently upgraded from being Critically Endangered thanks to the tireless work of conservationists). The seas around the island are home to Bottle-nose Dolphins and a school of up to 400 Pan-Tropical Spotted Dolphins are regularly sighted on boat trips along the north coast. In 2013 this activity also allowed us to see seven Whale Sharks which came right close up to the boat. Fabulous. We visit the island's distillery and its secondary school and learn of the history of the slaves who were abandoned on the island when the trade became illegal.
The cabins on the Royal Mail Ship are almost fully sold out until the end of April 2016 and the first flights won't be until (currently, but not confirmed) February 2016. But Island Holidays has secured an allocation on three trips between now and then for our very special guided groups. If you want to be one of the privileged few to travel on these historic last voyages you would be wise to sign up soon as we're limited to a maximum of 12 clients.
Information on flights is still sketchy (as at the beginning of June 2015). However, we know that there will be a weekly service from Johannesburg on Saturdays and also that Atlantic Star Airlines will be offering a charter over Easter 2016 – and Island Holidays will be offering one of our special guided tours for that. If you would like up to date information on these please let us know so that you can be amongst the first to have the opportunity to watch history being made.