Stenden Student Stunned by St Helena
By Sange Loliwe
I could barely sleep nor contain my excitement the night before I was to board my flight headed to St Helena. I had never heard about the Island when I was awarded the prize for professional conduct and exemplary leadership at Stenden South Africa, and so I rushed to get my hands on some pictures of the island off the internet. Now that I have returned I can comfortably say, pictures don’t do the island justice. It was an experience I will never forget! I hope to share this experience with you as best I can, but I am afraid that I too, won’t do the island justice.
Mantis St Helena is situated in Jamestown, the island’s capital, and is a stone’s throw away from the boundless Atlantic Ocean. This charming hotel was my base for the duration of my 7-day exploration into the unknown. Upon arrival at the newly built St Helena Airport, the warm welcome I received from the local Saints and hotel staff put me at ease, especially since I was travelling alone.
Once settled in at the hotel, I was able to take a deep breath and bask in all the glorious beauty that surrounded me and contemplate on what hidden St Helenian secrets would be revealed to me during my stay. Adventure is what I was after, and oh boy, that is exactly what I found!
I was presented with an itinerary for the week and first on the list was a boat cruise with the opportunity to view whale sharks in their natural habit and then snorkel in the ocean among the aquatic life and ancient shipwrecks. From my experience, the mysteries of the Atlantic Ocean proved equal to the magic of the Island.
Next up was a historical walk through Jamestown with Basil George; most appropriately referred to as the Island’s legend. I enjoyed learning about the dynamic origins of the island and the rich history it holds. On the walk, I met an individual who had lived down the street from me in South Africa before relocating to St Helena! It is indeed a small world.
One of my best experiences on the Island was the 4×4 tour. There is no way I would have been able to experience the stunning scenery of St Helena with its unique vegetation and breathtaking views to such a degree, had I attempted to venture out on my own. The 4×4 tours are a must if you find yourself on the island!
It would be an understatement to say that, at this stage, I was in total awe of St Helena. The next excursion on my agenda was a visit to the Plantation House, which is also the Governor’s residence. With a unique atmosphere and the chance to take pictures with 186-year-old Jonathan, who is the world’s oldest living tortoise, this was one for the books!
During my time on St Helena, I got the opportunity to visit the local school, where I showed them a brief presentation about Stenden South Africa and the degrees on offer. I went on a tour of the school with some of the students and Matt Joshua, General Manager of Mantis St Helena, kindly organised an evening for me to meet some of the island’s youth who were my age. The evening was filled with laughter and stories of our upbringings, the Island and my experiences in South Africa. After having a few local brews at the bar, we decided to call it a night and catch up the next day.
On Friday afternoon, I rejoined the ‘youngsters’ for a sundowner at one of the local bars, the Mule Yard – I was pleasantly surprised at how lively this charming bar was! As the evening was young, we moved across to Rosie’s, a local favourite, and then continued the fun at Donny’s bar. Both Rosie’s and Donny’s pumped with life, music and dancing. As I looked around in the early hours of the morning among people from multiple generations, I felt a part of the Saints. These are memories I will remember forever with friends I hope to meet again.
This trip ticked all the boxes and never ceased to amaze me. It’s a must visit and bucket list destination for those who have never been and a definite return for those who have.
My advice for any travellers visiting St Helena:
Take photos – lots and lots of photos!
Spend time getting to know the locals.
I feel like part of the Mantis St Helena family now and will always remember this adventure, fun, and laughter-filled holiday with great fondness.