Nick and Caroline visit St Helena to dive its many wrecks and rocky reefs that are teeming with wildlife…
St Helena is one of the most remote islands in the world, often referred to as the Secret of the South Atlantic, where it lies 1,200 miles off Namibia and 2,500 miles off Brazil. How we got to visit this incredible island is a story in itself.
A few years ago we were asked by a team of MOD salvage divers if we would supply them with some underwater photography equipment and teach them how to use it. They were, it turns out, heading to St Helena to dive, survey and work on the DarkDale wreck. Having mentioned this connection to the St Helena Tourist Board, a plan was hatched to get us out to complete our story by diving the same wreck ourselves.
Soon we found ourselves on a flight to Johannesburg in South Africa, and then onwards, via Namibia to St Helena. The runway had only been open for a year and the approach is one that can have the most experienced traveller glancing nervously out the window as the wing tips seem to get impossibly close to the rocks.
The good news for divers is that new flights from Cape Town are being launched later this year, making this a perfect destination to do a dual centre diving trip. And the best time to go is January to March, when the island is visited by large numbers of Whale Sharks.
Maybe it is the remoteness of this island, or perhaps it is because these waters are protected, but the first thing you notice when you put your head underwater the water here is the number of fish. Clouds of the endemic Cunning Fish cover both rocky reefs and wrecks. One of our first dives was on the wreck of the Papanui, sunk in very shallow water in the bay. Craig, from Dive Saint Helena, accompanied us and pointed out bottles and crockery still on the sea bed, even though this wreck has been down for over 100 years!
Above water the island is packed with things to do. If you love history, well, St Helena has that in spades, including the final chapter of the story of its most famous resident – Napoleon. St Helena also boasts the oldest terrestrial animal, Jonathan, a tortoise who is 187 years old. The scenery is stunning and the island is covered in trails and walks covering the hills, forests, valleys and coastline. For those who are really fit, there is Jacob’s Ladder. This dizzyingly steep set of steps climbs from Jamestown to the cliff above to Ladder Hill Fort, some 699 steps and 183 meters high. The record to climb the steps is just over 5 minutes!
Want to know more? Have a look at our full feature in the latest issue of Dive Travel Adventures HERE.
Watch out for more blogs about St Helena coming to Scubaverse soon where we will talk about our wreck dives, marine life and reef dives.
For more information about our trip: