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Vote for St Helena in the UK Blog Awards 2015 (#UKBA15)

November 13, 2014 in News

We’re delighted that the St Helena Wirebird blog has made it into the travel category of the UK Blog Awards 2015. These prestigious awards recognise blogs across every industry in the UK, but come with a catch – we need your votes to win.

Please do vote for us by clicking here. Voting closes on Monday 1st December 2014. Thanks for your help!

UK Blog Awards 2015

Listen to Gary Arndt’s World Travel Market talk about St Helena

November 11, 2014 in News, Tourism

The World Travel Market 2014 got into full swing in London last week. Billed as the biggest event on the travel trade calendar; last year 5,000 exhibitors from 186 countries attended. This year St Helena made its biggest presence yet at the event with a talk by Digital Influencer, Gary Arndt.

Having already sold his business, he decided in 2007 to sell his house and start travelling. He has not stopped since. Gary Arndt visited St Helena earlier this year and has posted a number of updates on his blog featuring amazing photographs of the island. He is the 2014 Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) Travel Photographer of the Year, 2013 North American Travel Journalists (NATJA) Travel Photographer of the Year, and his blog is Everything Everywhere.

You can listen to the talk Gary Arndt gave at the World Travel Market, along with a short interview, by clicking play below:

 

Director of St Helena Tourism, Cathy Alberts, said the presentation attracted an audience that included major tour operators, travel agents and media. One of the tour operators was Clive Stacey whose company, ‘Discover the World’, are almost ready to launch St Helena as one of their travel destinations. Clive visited St Helena earlier this year accompanied by two other owners of international tour companies. As a result of their visit, all three visiting tour operators decided to include St Helena in their itineraries.

Gary Arndt, WTM talk

Gary Arndt presenting at the World Travel Market

Anthony Leyens, Chief Executive of APL Media said Gary gave and inspiring, heartfelt presentation adding, ‘I never really knew how remote the Island was and the fabulous growth and expansion opportunities that lie ahead’.

Cathy Alberts said the ‘extensive tweeting’ generated by Gary’s talk helped generate publicity about St Helena at the World Travel Market. The aim now is to use St Helena’s 2014 efforts at the World Travel Market as a platform for making a bigger impact at the World Travel Market 2015.

Thank you to Chairman of the Tourist Association, Vince Thompson, for writing this post about the World Travel Market.

Focus on Food Safety

November 11, 2014 in Island Life

At the end of October 120 Saints joined 70,000+ people in the world-wide hospitality and catering services who gain qualifications by taking the Royal Society of Public Health food safety courses. The courses have been held at 2onMain over the last six months. All 120 Saints passed the course; seven achieved a score of 100% with several gaining more than 90%.

People gathered for the presentation of Food Safety Certificates

People gathered for the presentation of Food Safety Certificates

Awards were presented in the garden behind No.2 Main Street where the centre of hospitality training, 2onMain, is situated. The Governor presented certificates to those who had a 100% pass mark.

The differences between London and St Helena: Now that’s a contrast!

November 7, 2014 in Tourism

Comparing where you live with the destination you are visiting adds enormously to the joy of travelling. The bigger the contrast between the two, the more pleasure you get. Conversely, arriving somewhere that seems to be pretty similar to where you live leaves one feeling a little flat and, well, cheated.

One of the biggest contrasts that a traveller can hope to discover is between London, where I live and work, and St Helena, where I was fortunate to visit in September of this year. Here are a few comparisons that may inspire you to visit the island.

Let’s get the comparative statistics out of the way first. London’s population is 8.4 million. St Helena’s is 4,255. London’s geographic area is 1,522 square kilometres while St Helena covers just 122 square kilometres.

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Now let’s consider what those differences mean on a day to day basis.

When driving in St Helena, expect everyone (and I mean everyone) to wave at you. Some waves will be perfunctory, but some will be genuinely warm and friendly. But a wave is a wave and always deserves one in return.

After a while, you can expect to look forward to getting into the car and driving somewhere just because of the waves. It seems to lift the spirits to know that total strangers are willing to not just acknowledge you but wave at you too.

Could you ever imagine looking forward to driving in London? And would anyone there wave at you? Leaving aside the irate delivery drivers and mad cyclists.

As part of the UK it’s estimated that 93% of Londoners own a mobile phone and the chances are they’ll be on that phone. While they walk down the street, whilst travelling or even when with a group of friends. While using that phone they’ll be oblivious to their surroundings, including the people they are bumping into.

Currently, St Helena doesn’t have any mobile signal, so no one owns a mobile phone. As contrasts go, this is a pretty big one. And although the St Helenean youth may disagree, this is an incredibly liberating experience. People stop and talk in the street. Yet more waving happens at those driving by.  Meetings take place that are uninterrupted by irritating ring tones. People leave messages at those places where they think you’ll be or where they think you’re going to next. Amidst all the waving, you’ll have a chance to take in your surroundings or just contemplate life. Which, once the ‘oh my god, where’s my phone?’ feelings fade away, feels pretty good.

Let’s finish by comparing the surroundings. Located next to the river, your views of London will be essentially flat and urban. Apart from London’s wonderful parks and green spaces, your views will be of buildings and people. Street lighting will prevent you from seeing the stars and unless you’re up a skyscraper, you’re unlikely to have an uninterrupted view of more than a few hundred metres.

Which makes for the biggest contrast with St Helena. Formed from volcanos, St Helena’s views are best described as ‘rugged’. In just a few minutes’ drive, one can experience several different micro climates, with each one having its own flora. With very minimal lighting, the night sky is truly memorable.

If you are fortunate and fit enough to climb to Diana’s Peak, rising 818 metres from the sea it’s the island’s highest point, you’ll experience a truly majestic view. On a clear day, the horizon is 40 kilometres away and, with a 358 degree view of the Ocean (one tree prevents it from being a 360 degree view) means looking at 40,000 square kilometers of empty sea.

Now that’s what you call a contrast.

This is a guest post written by Chairman of Keene Communications, Simon Quarendon.

Our first week of living on St Helena

November 6, 2014 in Islander's Perspective

After our first week of living on St Helena we had begun to get used to the local customs and finding our way around. Driving on St Helena is an experience in itself, as the roads are steep with twists and turns. As a general rule, if you are heading down a hill you give way to those coming up it which requires frequent reversing, up hill, around a bend whilst giving a customary wave!

Jamestown St Helena

Speeds are limited to 30mph or less, entirely appropriate given the frequent sharp bends, and steep roads. As a result of this, hitting fourth gear, heading slightly down hill on the only straight road we have yet encountered, was greeted by cheers from all those in the car. It is often said that the islands cars are a throwback to the 70s and 80, a time of Ford Cortina’s. Sadly whilst there are a few dotted around, the Island has caught up in that respect and is now dominated by Ford Focus or various 4X4s, including the popular “six pack” the local expression for a Toyota Hilux.

Jamestown is a bustling little town full of character. The town really is, barring the odd exception, a throwback to the past. It would not feel at all strange to see Darwin, King George, or Napoleon himself walking the streets searching out which shop had the freshest fruit. I think I like this age gone by. There are no ATM’s on the island, instead, you go to the bank and converse with an actual person.

The post office is wonderful, reminiscent of post offices in old Western films, with individual booths and iron bars separating you from the polite and friendly postal worker.

A particularly interesting quirk of the island is the ability to phone a company, and have them answer the phone. We do this without the need to navigate through a multitude of button options, repeat a security password to three different people in Bangladesh, and subject ones’ ears to an endless repeat of copyright free musical trash. They just answer the phone; we should look into such revolutionary out of the box thinking back in the UK.

Finding food and goods is more of a challenge than the UK, but is not the Ray Mears style expedition we had been led to believe. Shops are stocked with a wide range of dried goods from Tesco, Asda, and from South Africa. Fresh local produce of vegetables and meats are generally on hand. Although choice can be limited, we have eaten well and dined on home cooked fish, chicken and pork. Family meals have become the norm.

This island of just four thousand people has the facilities, and infrastructure that would serve a much larger community in the UK. Name me a village in the UK, of four thousand people, that has the tools and expertise to provide doctors, banks, garages, shops, fishermen, emergency services, conservation, builders and planners, policing, etc.

Yet this is achieved despite real difficulties in communication, lack of available resources, roads that are slow at best and impassable at worse, street names and house numbers are often not present, and many houses don’t actually have an address. The island works because everyone talks to each other, they find out what each other’s role is, what they can do and contribute, how they can work with each other.

While our first full week draws to a close I look forward to a Friday night at Donnies, known locally as Sundowners as locals and ex pats enjoy a drink at the Jamestown water front whilst watching the stunning sunset. We also wait, and with huge excitement, for our first boat trip to search out the resident Dolphins and breeding Humpback Whales and their Calves.

Read more about Paul’s adventures on St Helena on his blog Two Years in the Atlantic.

Other posts by Paul:

Moving from the UK to live on St Helena

 

 

Hear all about St Helena at World Travel Market

October 31, 2014 in News

Gary Arndt is the 2014 Society of American Travel Writers (SATW) Travel Photographer of the Year, 2013 North American Travel Journalists (NATJA) Travel Photographer of the Year, and travel-blogger with the blog Everything Everywhere.

He will do a presentation at World Travel Market (WTM) on the 5th of November 2014 at 14:30 in the South Gallery Rooms no.27 & 28.

He visited St Helena earlier this year and has posted a number of posts featuring amazing photographs of the island. All members of the trade and public interested to hear more about St Helena and who have any questions regarding getting here and itinerary planning, are more than welcome to attend.

Please contact Cathy Alberts at cathy.alberts[at]tourism[dot]co[dot]sh to book a seat (limited number) for catering purposes.

Moving from the UK to live on St Helena

October 30, 2014 in Islander's Perspective

Nine months ago my wife saw a job advert; an amazing, if unlikely opportunity, that would change our lives. Without any real regard for the consequences I encouraged my wife to apply, not believing said life-changing adventure could ever become a reality.

Jamestown and Half Tree Hollow St Helena

At yet, now I sit here with my wife, Bev, and two young boys, Oliver (6) and Charlie (3), in the tropical sunshine of St Helena; a small British overseas territory that is one of the most remote places in the world.

Without a doubt, our adventure started with our journey here, and it is no ordinary journey. St Helena is remote, very remote, 1200km from the West coast of Africa without an airport. After an 11-hour flight to Cape Town and a night spent enjoying the sights and sounds of South Africa’s capital, we boarded the RMS St Helena; one of the last remaining Royal Mail ships that would take us to St Helena, a 5 day journey.

The RMS St Helena has a reputation for leaving a lasting impression on people, and it is easy to see why. It is a throwback to a bygone era with games of dominoes and shove half penny, cricket, and tug o war on deck. The passengers and crew make this journey truly special and interesting. The ship contains an endless list of nationalities, personalities and stories each with their own tail to tell. We met many people from the UK in the same situation as ourselves, off to St Helena for new work and a new way of life.

We also had our first experience of the local Saints, warm, friendly and fascinating people. Always with time to say hello and spin a tale. Life on board is one of routine, based around meal times, but in between, regular entertainment is provided.

Our final night aboard was spent enjoying a fabulous feast on the deck, with barbequed meats, fresh fruit a plenty, and significant portions of cake before we headed off to bed. We had mixed emotions; excited to arrive at the island but sad to be leaving our extended family on board the RMS St Helena.

The next morning, crawling out of bed at 7.30am we made our way to the deck and there she was, the island, the focus of our attention for the last 5 months, the vision in our heads for what feels like a lifetime. What a wonderful exciting moment, shared with others emerging on deck to see their new home for the first time, whispers and murmurings of emotions giving way to a tide of noise and chatter as eventually all 125 passengers appear on deck wide eyed.

I peered at the rock emerging from the sea, imagining myself in the opening scenes of King Kong. As we approached the barren rocky cliffs the island’s secret lush interior is revealed only by the sight of a loan tree, sat on the Island’s highest point, Diana’s Peak (823m). Two things struck me; this is a small island, a spec in an endless ocean.

My mind turned to the pioneering explorers, the Christopher Columbus’s of this World, the excitement and sheer overwhelming joy that must have greeted those brave men who crossed Oceans with no maps, in the hope of forging brave new worlds.  St Helena, although a British Territory for hundreds of years, was discovered in 1502 by Portuguese navigator João da Nova, on his voyage home from India and what must he of felt when, like me, he first saw the looming sea cliffs ahead of him?

The second thing that struck both Bev and I was its apparent lack of any recognisable inhabitants. Approaching the South side of the island, a huge wall of rock and sheers cliffs is all that can be seen, this imposing structure changes and becomes more welcoming as we move East round the island, the barren rock face gives way to welcoming peaks and troughs with lush green valleys and dry peaks. Eventually the ship approaches the North of the island, the capital Jamestown and the first clues of the Islands inhabitants and long history comes into view as we weigh anchor to disembark.

From our steady anchor point, Jamestown is clearly visible, a narrow town of colourful houses rising up following the line of a steep sided valley. We get our first glimpse of Half Tree Hollow, a residential suburb of Jamestown perched high on a plateau and our soon to be new hometown. We can even see our new house from here and thoughts of evenings spent looking out across the setting sun over the Atlantic Ocean fill my head.

Before we know it, our time aboard the RMS is through and we disembark onto a small shuttle boat that takes us to the Wharf. Waiting for a favourable wave to lift our boat high enough to step onto the dry land we have a nervous excitement and butterflies in our stomachs. A short shuttle bus journey to the customs post is filled with the chattering’s of expectant and nervous new Islanders.

Can this be true, that we are here; that this surreal dream is a reality; that I and my family now live, on an Island, six miles wide and ten long. 1200miles from Africa, 1800miles from South America in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean; that we live, on the Island of Saint Helena.

To read more and see photos of our adventures on St Helena take a look at my blog, http://twoyearsintheatlantic.com/

 

 

RMS St Helena Celebrates 25 Years

October 28, 2014 in News, Tourism

The legendary Royal Mail Ship (RMS) St Helena celebrated its 25th year in operation this month. The RMS, one of only four surviving Royal Mail Ships in the world, connects St Helena with Cape Town. To mark this special milestone, Master Rodney Young welcomed guests on board the ship moored in Duncan Dock, of the Cape Town Harbour.

The RMS approaching St Helena

Young, who was born on St Helena, is one of two shipmasters who share the responsibility of sailing the ship. The second captain of the RMS is Young’s cousin. He has been the captain of the ship since 25 October 2000. “I was married exactly one month prior to my appointment. For every year that’s gone by, I’ve worked for six months on board the RMS. The RMS is very much part of the Island; it’s an extension of the Island. I know the passengers, I know who the cargo is intended for, and I know the store owners”.

Over the weekend the RMS St Helena was featured in The Sunday Times’ ‘Small Ships, Big Adventures guide’. This shows that the RMS St Helena holds a prestigious place in the highly competitive UK cruise market, offering a truly unique journey.

In 2010 the Government of St Helena and the United Kingdom announced plans to construct St Helena airport, which will be operational by 2016. The airport project continues to run on time and on budget. With the opening of the airport, the future of the RMS St Helena has yet to be determined but Young is optimistic about the crew’s prospects.

“The crew has worked together for a long time. They are very close, and in fact some are family. We have a brother and sister, mother and daughter and a father and daughter on board. Whatever the plan following the completion of the airport, the RMS St Helena crew is very well trained and service orientated – they will be an asset to St Helena as tourism develops.”

A Photoblog: St Helena takes part in the Worldwide Photowalk

October 23, 2014 in Island Life, News

On Saturday, 11 October, St Helena took part in the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk for the very first time. Cities from all over the world have been participating in this global event for the past 7 years, and this year St Helena’s photographers took up their cameras to become the 1000th registered country.

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Credit to Paul Tyson

A group of enthusiastic walker-photographers – young, young-at-heart and four-legged, met at White Gate on Saturday morning to start off on the walk. Even the weather played along, with the sun peeking out from time to time.

The energetic group winded their way up to High Knoll Fort and from there descended to Prince’s Lodge where photos, tips and tales were shared.

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It was the first time that the island had officially participated in this global event. St Helena was the 1000th country to register for the Photowalk in which almost 20 000 walkers and 1058 cities worldwide participated.

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The focus of the walk was on taking part as a community in a worldwide event. Participants were also able to enter their favorite photograph into the international World Wide Photo Walk competition.

Credit to by Paul Tyson

Credit to by Paul Tyson

Chanelle Marais, Marketing and Communications Manager for St Helena Tourism, and organizer of the event said: “This was an excellent platform to create awareness of the natural and historical beauty of St Helena and to showcase the talent of our local photographers. We were very happy with the turnout at the event, and hope that our photographers’ photos receive the recognition that they deserve.

 

About the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk:

The Worldwide Photo Walk is the world’s largest global and social photography event, and has grown immensely in size and popularity since the inaugural walk back in 2007. This year St Helena becames part of this global event.

 

 

 

 

General’s Quarters Reconstruction Almost Finished

October 16, 2014 in News, Tourism

People involved with providing tourism services are taking a close interest in the reconstruction of the General’s Quarters at the rear of Longwood House. The French Consul, Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, gave a member of the St Helena Tourism Association a conducted tour of the General’s Quarters last February and outlined his plans for this new facility when the work is finished. This week Michel Dancoisne-Martineau offered to show us the progress that has been made in the last seven months.

Front-of-The-Generals-Quarters-February-2014

Front of The Generals Quarters: February-2014

Front of the Generals Quarters

Front of the Generals Quarters: October 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The reconstruction is now almost finished, leaving the all important internal decoration together with some of the fixtures and fittings to be completed. Michel is now coming to the end of a lengthy and complex project involving the French Government and The Foundation Napoleon as well as the usual authorities and agencies in St Helena. The work was always intended to mark the 200th anniversary of Napoleon’s exile to St Helena and it has been successfully completed well in advance of the October 2015 anniversary.

The Large Room for Public Events

The reconstruction of what was the accommodation for Colonel Marquis Montholon, General Baron Gourgaud and Napoleon’s physician, Barry Edward O’Meara, has formed rooms of various sizes for public events. The large and well-equipped kitchen will provide catering for small dining parties in one of the smaller rooms or buffets for large gatherings in the main public room.

The Front of the New Building

The Front of the New Building

There are also two private, self-contained suites that will provide living accommodation for special guests. The attractive garden at the front of the General’s Quarters is also being improved and will be used for outside events during the summer months.

The Garden for Public Events

The Garden for Public Events

Michel explained he has arranged for 25 people to visit St Helena to mark the bicentenary of Napoleon’s exile. They will be using the facilities at the General’s Quarters for some events during their visit but will be accommodated at various Jamestown hotels and guesthouses.

Michel pointed out he used only local construction workers and craftsmen for the entire work and is very happy with job they have done.