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Golf in St Helena

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The Most Remote Golf Course in the World

 

I had the good fortune to visit the wonderful island of St Helena in February 2018. Aside from the amazing experiences including Whale Shark dives, 600 strong school of Dolphins, the unique Post Box walks around the island, the Napoleonic history, forts, cannons, Jacob’s Ladder and so much more, I also got to play a round of golf on the “most remote golf course in the world”! It turned out to be a real highlight, too.

I was warmly (and proudly) welcomed by the Club Manager and by chance paired up with the current Men’s and Ladies Captains who were playing that afternoon. The golf course is 9 holes repeated twice from different tee boxes, the membership is probably about 50 active and 50 passive. Apparently every Saturday morning the members bring mowers, spades and various tools to maintain the greens, bunkers and fairways and there-after they all have tea and sandwiches together and play a Saturday afternoon club tournament (of the day). I loved this camaraderie and team spirit, the way everybody rolls up their sleeves to help. The golf course itself is located inland with lovely views;  it has some interesting holes (as all courses do), hard volcanic sand bunkers which are usually baked dry and need a firm putt over the lip to escape, and a delightful little clubhouse. They have several old “mix and match” sets of clubs to hire for such a nominal fee that I felt the need to buy some club stock: a striking red Club Tie and a green golf shirt both embroidered with the famous (and rare)“St Helena Wire-bird”.

There is no need to bring your own clubs. All in all, easy to fit into my schedule and a memorable experience. I recommend it for any avid golfer for a “different “ round of golf; although the course is a bit scratchy (relative to modern courses at home) and obviously not exactly crowded, it is the “experience and pilgrimage” that counts and you can play at your own pace.  The Saints are SO friendly and helpful and the ambiance will dwell in your memory!

Just bring some golf balls, and any reasonable dress code is acceptable although bear in mind the need to respect the course and its players.

Martin “Tiger” Brossy

Read more about the Saint Helena Golf Course

Starry Skies – St Helena through the eyes of a Gazer

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A Stargazing Trainer takes the trip of a lifetime to St Helena

By Bob Bower

 

I’ve been back home in Scotland for just over a month now. I’m still pinching myself to make sure that I haven’t been dreaming – did I really, finally get to visit a place that had been at the top of my bucket list for so long!?  Indeed I had – and to get to do two of my hobby passions while there was indeed the icing on the cake.

What a tremendous island you ‘Saints’ live on. The variation in topography on St Helena is astounding. Derek Richards, of Island Images, took me out for a day trip one day.  We were driving along a steep hillside, having passed Diana’s Peak and on our way towards Levelwood, when a distinct sense of deja-vu came over me. “Are these trees eucalyptus?” I asked him. “They certainly are” was his response.  The scenery was identical to the hills in the Australian wine country north of Melbourne.  I’d just started to take all this in, when we rounded a bend in the road and there, laid out in front of us, was what appeared to be a piece of the Colorado desert, just north of the Grand Canyon. This was just the beginning. Temperature-wise, Sandy Bay had no links with the Antarctic Peninsula – but in every other respect, it certainly did – “primeval” describes them both perfectly.

It isn’t just scenery that makes the Island unique. History is one of my other passions. It goes without saying that astronomy is an especial interest for me in this respect, but so is anything to do with maritime activities. Over the years I’ve devoured everything I could find on James Cook, William Dampier, William Bligh and Joshua Slocum, among many others – even to the extent of sailing as crew onboard the replica of Cook’s ship Endeavour. Maybe that is why St Helena had entered my soul long before my visit. Indeed, even Edmund Halley, a polymath of equal ability (to my mind, at least) to the great Newton, visited the Island as a ship’s captain on the second trip after his well-known astronomical sojourn.

Mention of Halley is perhaps a cue for me to get to the main raison d’etre for this blog. I’ve talked about two aspects of what I would like to call the “Holy Trinity” of uniqueness that St Helena has to offer the World – scenery and history. The third is the island’s night sky. I’ve been lucky enough to have visited dark sky sites in several places around the globe – and in my humble opinion, St Helena is right up there with the best.


 

Here’s the reason why:- Some good years ago, I paid my first visit to the Texas Star Party, held high in the mountains just north of the Mexican Border. Texan astronomers pride themselves on the clarity of their sky.  I have to admit, when I first looked up into it, I did have to wonder why the Americans call Texas the “Lone Star” state. They’ve got thousands of them! That was a special moment – but so was my last night on St Helena.  The sky was covered in cloud when I hit the sack. However,  when I got up around 5 am to visit the bathroom, I poked my head out of the door – and was transfixed.  The Milky Way arced from North to South horizons, passing directly overhead. Also directly overhead, perfectly straddling both sides of the Milky Way, were Saturn and Mars, like two heavenly but differently coloured gate guardians. Jupiter was now low in the west, over the ocean. It was showing a phenomenon I have only ever seen once before – a thin silvery streak of light directly below it on the ocean, pointing directly towards me – its reflection, no less…

I don’t recall hearing anyone driving past Richards’ Lodge at that moment. It’s probably just as well – I’m not sure how they would have responded to the sight of an old man in his birthday suit, apparently in another world…

Anyway, that’s the starter consumed. On to the main course.

The enthusiasm exhibited by all those who took part in the stargazing training sessions was both pleasing and infectious.  The weather was by no means cooperative during my stay, but we did manage to cover all the objectives I had hoped to achieve – with one exception, of which more later.

Attendees got to see the majority of the different categories of night sky objects, from star-forming regions (the Orion nebula) to the beautiful star clusters (the Jewel Box, next to the Southern Cross), and the brightest globular cluster in the whole of the sky which looks to all the world like a great ball of knitting wool (Omega Centauri). Finally the initial stages of a star’s death (Eta Carinae).

Images by Bob Bower

 

A cadre of newly-minted night sky guides (I’m talking people, not books!) now exist on-Island to carry things forward, with not only a knowledge of what to look out for in the sky over the coming months but also the ability to set up and operate the Island’s telescopes. This is especially important for two reasons:-

The first concerns my only regret as regards to objectives during my stay – not being able to show the Island’s school pupils the night sky, courtesy of the weather.  I’m confident that your sky guides will be take up the cudgel on their behalf. The second reason is to provide a nucleus of indigenous night sky skills for encouraging night sky tourism to the Island.

I see the possibility of two types of stargazing tourist interest in St Helena:-

The first is for those who know little of the night sky and have never had the opportunity to see either a dark pristine sky or the stars of the southern hemisphere.  The Island is now equipped (in both personal skills and equipment) to meet this need. Choice of sites on the Island for this category need not necessarily be over-stringent. In my experience, the sky over the southern edge of Half-tree Hollow, just below Prince’s Lodge, beats anything that most casual observers will have seen before. In any event, tourists in this group will need prior introductory presentations on what they will be seeing in the sky, before proceeding to a practical viewing session. The availability of a lecture area and other amenities becomes a significant factor.

 

The second is for more advanced amateur astronomers, who come specifically for stargazing as their primary activity. This is where sites like High Knoll Fort need to be considered. Perhaps the Island might think about holding an annual Star Party to attract such visitors. Attendance at all the main Star Parties in the USA is not confined to Americans only. Most have a significant number of overseas attendees. All of them have chosen good dark sky locations as their main attraction, in remote areas. In my personal experience, none of them can come close (figuratively- not literally!) to St. Helena – and besides, none of them can offer something else that makes the Island unique. In a year, it’s possible to see 95% of all the night sky visible from Earth. You would have to live bang on the equator to beat that.

Stretching my meal analogy to its limits, we’ve now consumed the starter and the main course. Just the dessert remains: 

I’m honored to have been made the founding Patron of the St Helena Astronomical Society; may it prosper and become a force to be reckoned with in amateur astronomical circles.  And finally, I’m tickled pink to have managed to talk to fellow radio hams in the USA and Canada from the seafront in Jamestown, using just a couple of collapsible fishing poles as antennas and a very low power radio. This was the icing on the cake – which is why it’s part of the dessert.

 

Images by Paul TysonView info Here

Contact us should you wish to enquire about booking a Star Gazing experience, and create a tailor-made itinerary for your St Helena trip.

 

St Helena – The trip of a lifetime!

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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.

Ask the staff at Mantis St Helena to help you put together an Island itinerary.

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.

The Saints’ Napoleon – Imperial in exile

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Trace the final Footsteps of Napoleon

By Matt Joshua

 

St Helena’s history is rich and fascinating, spanning over 500 years. Discovered by the Portuguese in 1502, the island was possessed by the Dutch and then became British, initially under the East India Company, then The Crown.

Until the opening of the Suez Canal, the island was of immense strategic importance for the British. Due to its location, the island played a vital role in the abolition of slavery, and because of its remoteness has been a place of exile for many, including 6,000 Boers, Chief Dinizulu, Bahraini Princes, and of course the island’s most famous exile, Napoleon.

Statue of Napoleon, Longwood House

Napoleon was exiled to St Helena in 1815 and remained on the island until his death in 1821. His body was exhumed and taken to Paris in 1840.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Domaines Nationaux de Sainte-Hélène

There are three main French-owned Napoleonic sites or Domaines Nationaux de Sainte-Hélène on the island: the Briars Pavilion, Longwood House and The Tomb. Mr Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, the island’s French Consul, has been the custodian of the properties since 1987.

The Briars Pavilion was Napoleon’s first residence on St Helena and comprised the original house that was then called the ‘apartments of the three English admirals’ because it housed the commanders of the surveillance of flotilla. The rooms were extended after the Emperor’s departure. Napoleon lived at Briars Pavilion from October to December 1815 while the renovations to Longwood House were underway.

Longwood House was Napoleon’s principal residence and the place of his demise. It is now a world-class museum and function space surrounded by beautiful gardens. Personally designed by Napoleon, the gardens were subsequently replanted and maintained for the last thirty years to adhere to his original concept. The French Government owns the land within the boundary walls, so when visitors step through the gate of Longwood House, they step onto French soil. Longwood House has many keepsakes of France’s great Emperor, most notably an abundance of artefacts and furniture, with much of the furniture painstakingly restored in Paris and recently exhibited at Les Invalides, now returned to the island.

In anticipation of an order to bury his body on the Island, the Emperor chose Sane Valley as his burial place. He came to the tranquil setting on one of his walks and was delighted with the peaceful landscape and plants that grew there. Napoleon’s empty tomb lies here.

Napoleon’s St Helena Timeline:

  • 18 June 1815 – Battle of Waterloo
  • 22 June 1815 – Emperor Napoleon abdicates
  • 3 July 1815 – Napoleon flees to Rochefort, hoping to find passage to the United States
  • 15 July 1815 – Napoleon surrenders to the English and boards HMS Bellerophon
  • 31 July 1815 – At Torbay, Napoleon learns that he will be held on St Helena
  • 7 August 1815 – Napoleon is transferred to HMS Northumberland which sets sail for St Helena
  • 17 October 1815 – Napoleon lands ashore at St Helena. After one night in Jamestown, he moves to The Briars
  • 10 December 1815 – Napoleon moves into Longwood House
  • 14 April 2016 – Sir Hudson Lowe arrives on St Helena
  • 31 December 1816 – Count Las Cases is expelled from St Helena
  • 14 March 1818 – General Gougaud leaves St Helena
  • 2 August 1818 – Dr Barry O’Meara expelled from St Helena
  • November 1818 – Napoleon falls ill
  • 5 May 1821 – Napoleon dies at Longwood House
  • 9 May 1821 – Napoleon is buried in Sane Valley
  • 15 October 1840 – A French mission exhumes Napoleon’s remains to transfer them to Paris
  • 15 December 1840 – Napoleon’s ashes are returned to Paris where over a million people accompany the cortege to the Invalides.

 The Restoration of Longwood House

Entrance to Longwood House 

Between 2010 and 2014, the Fondation Napoléon, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Domaines Nationaux de Sainte-Hélène undertook the challenging restoration of Longwood House, at the cost of nearly 2.2 million Euros.

Initially, the idea was to restore the generals’ wing of the House. Poorly rebuilt in the 1930s, this section of Longwood was in such immediate danger that the French Minister of Foreign Affairs dedicated an initial fund of 700,000 Euros. The Fondation Napoléon agreed to increase the sum by a further 700,000 euros. To amass funding, the Fondation worked alongside the Souvenir Napoléonien and the Fondation du Patrimoine (Heritage Foundation). Together, the partner organisations launched an international public fundraising campaign. The campaign closed on the 31st December 2014 and raised 1.4 million euros from around 2,000 individual donors.

The honorary chief architect of France’s Historical Monuments directed a detailed historical and architectural study before commencing work on the General’s wing at Longwood House. Completed on time and within budget, the building was rebuilt and adequately protected from adverse weather conditions, with the interior structure being rearranged to cater for a range of functions. Since its reconstruction, Longwood House has held the collections of the Domaines Nationaux de Sainte-Hélène (engravings, paintings, furniture and historical artefacts), and the Gourgaud and Montholon apartments were returned to their previous use as the Domaines’ reception rooms.

The remaining funds went towards restoration work which was as vital and as urgent as the architectural work.

The restoration work included:

  • The salon where the Emperor died on the 5th May 1821
  • The bathroom Napoleon used during his exile
  • The repair of the roofing of the kitchen areas
  • 32 historic pieces of furniture were transported to France for restoration then returned to Saint Helena.

There are an additional eighty pieces of authentic furniture which were worked on in a workshop that has been set up in the old local stables for local furniture restorers. A specialist heritage restorer was explicitly sent from France to train trained all the local restorers.

For this training initiative, the government of Saint Helena committed a subsidy of 100,000 Euros. The generous donations funded a few more projects including new signage across the Domaines and consultation to reorganise the management of the Domaines in preparation of the opening of St Helena Airport in June 2016. Further works comprised of the creation of new welcome documents, and the presentation of all the work undertaken in the form of a large exhibition – ‘Napoléon à Sainte-Hélène’ at the Musée de l’Armée in Paris (March-July, 2016).

Moment de Mémoire

Each year on the 5th May, a ceremony to commemorate Napoleon’s death –  or ‘Moment de Mémoire’ – is held at the Tomb. Various dignitaries, including the island’s Governor, the French Consul, and a representative from the Fondation Napoléon are present, and wreaths are laid by the tomb.

During the ceremony there is an opportunity for anyone to lay a wreath; visitors to the island are invited to take part in this act of respect.

 

There are mixed opinions about Napoleon, but his legacy is a significant part of St Helena’s tourism offering, and the Napoleonic properties are of great interest to the French and historians from all over the globe, some flying in for just 24 hours to pay homage to the renowned Emperor.


 

Trace the footsteps of Napoleon with a bona fide Napoleonic French tour of St Helena from the 11th to the 22nd of October 2018. Voyagez sur les traces de Napoleon en 2018 will be hosted by Sainte-Hélène Voyage, visit the website for more information.

For more information on the Fondation Napoléon: https://en.fondationnapoleon.org or https://fondationnapoleon.org

To read the blog of Michel Dancoisne-Martineau, Director of the French Properties on the island: https://shnhltd.blogspot.com

The Briars Pavilion is open Wednesday and Friday, 10:00-11:00; Longwood House is open Monday to Friday from 11:00 to 13:00; The Tomb is open Monday to Friday, 09:00-15:00.

An all-inclusive ticket to visit the three sites costs £10.00

Audio guides are available for hire at Longwood House for £2. 

It is possible to visit outside the official opening hours but only by prior arrangement by emailing BEPSP@helanta.co.sh The basic price for a private visit is £150. If the number of visitors exceeds six, an additional £10 per person will be charged.

 

Mantis St Helena will gladly assist you in booking your tours. Contact us to arrange your itinerary.

 

Mantis St Helena: Meet our new Head Chef!

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We are pleased to introduce you to our new Head Chef, Roy Richards who will join Mantis St Helena in April 2018.

Mantis St Helena - Executive Chef, Roy Richards

Roy Richards is a seasoned South African chef who served loyally on the RMS St Helena for 15 years.

Roy’s culinary career started in 1995 at Haute Cabriere Cellar Restaurant in Cape Town. While working in Zambia in 2003 he was presented with the opportunity to work on the RMS St Helena. Chef Roy grabbed the opportunity with both hands, albeit with slight reservation. He had never worked on a ship before and planned to only be on the RMS for two years. Little did he know that he would be charmed by the Saints and his heart encapsulated by life on the high seas for the next 15 years.

The RMS St Helena was a unique cargo and passenger ship that was, until last year when St Helena‘s airport opened, the only means to get to the remote island of St Helena. Built in 1989, the RMS is one of only two vessels in the world still to carry the venerable title of Royal Mail Ship which was held in the past by many famous British passenger liners. The ship’s purpose was to bring supplies of every kind to the island of St Helena, a British Overseas Territory deep in the tropical South Atlantic. An RMS voyage, while a vital link for St Helena, was esteemed for its modern facilities and captured a bygone era of cruising, reminiscent of the halcyon days of the Union Castle Line, with great entertainment, wonderful gastronomy and unbroken expanses of Atlantic blue.

One of the most enjoyable parts of Roy’s time on the ship was training the local Saints that worked with him in the kitchen and familiarizing them with his culinary profile. After adapting to the island dialect, he made fast friends with locals on the island and looked forward to the time he would spend ashore on St Helena.

Now he looks forward to being on the island permanently and reconnecting with old friends from his days at sea. Cooking on the island does come with its own set of challenges, as we can all imagine. Given his long relationship with the island and its people, Chef Roy is probably the best-qualified person to innovate new dishes from the staple ingredients that are unique to one of the most remote islands in the world. Roy wants to serve food that will not only compliment the Mantis St Helena Hotel, but the island and Saints as well.

He plans to introduce international cooking styles, flavour profiles and culinary trends to the island but also feels very strongly about allowing guests to experience authentic St Helenian dishes made just the way the locals enjoy them. These firm island favourites include traditional St Helenian black pudding, Tuna chutney, Wahoo (a barracuda like fish), Rock Cod, tuna fishcakes, and a dish called Plo which he can only reference as a wet briyane.

Chef Roy looks forward to serving you with the most delectable dishes during your stay on St Helena!

Download our Sample Menu here.

 

Contact us

Reservations & Hotel Enquiries: +290 25505 | st.helena@mantiscollection.com  |  www.mantissthelena.com

Marketing Enquiries & Mantis Collection: +27 41 404 9300 | info@mantiscollection.com

The Essential St. Helena Travel Guide – by Lee Abbamonte

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The remote and mysterious island of St. Helena has recently opened its airport to commercial flights. The beauty and culture of the island is now available for all to visit. I had wanted to come to St. Helena for a decade but didn’t want to take the now decommissioned RMS St. Helena because it was 5 days each way on the ship. So the airport made it a no-brainer for me and I couldn’t have been more pleased with my visit! Here is the essential St. Helena travel guide in order to maximize your stay on the island.

How to Get to St. Helena

As of the time of writing there are only 2 ways to get to St. Helena: flying and via ship (cruise, cargo or private yacht). There are only a handful of cruises or repositioning ships that stop in St. Helena each year and they all involve 3+ week itineraries either from South Africa or South America to Europe or vice versa. There is also a non-frequent

The Essential St. Helena Travel Guide, St. Helena, St. Helena Airport

The St. Helena Airport view from the air

The second Saturday of each month the same Airlink flight does a very expensive continuation flight to Ascension Island-a further 2 hours from St. Helena. You must book this leg with the Ascension Island flight booking office via email. It’s annoying and time consuming but not that complicated once you get approved for the entry permit which you first need to buy the tickets. You also need proof of $500,000 in travel insurance coverage. This once a month flight gives you two options.

The Essential St. Helena Travel Guide, St. Helena, St. Helena Airport

St. Helena tarmac at dawn

First, you can get off on St. Helena on that Saturday and stay a night, as the flight to Ascension will spend that night on Ascension. Then you can board the flight back to Johannesburg via St. Helena and spend one night on St. Helena.

Ascension Island, Coming in for landing on Ascension Island

Coming in for landing on Ascension Island

The other option is you can take the Airlink flight all the way to Ascension Island and spend a night there. Then you can fly back to St. Helena the following day (Sunday) and spend six nights on St. Helena. This is the only option if you want to see both islands and don’t want to spend a month on Ascension Island.

Welcome to Ascension Island, Lee Abbamonte

Welcome to Ascension Island, Lee Abbamonte

Please note, at time of writing Airlink markets and sells a flight from Cape Town to St. Helena via Windhoek where you’re told you can meet the flight from Johannesburg. This is not currently possible because they haven’t been granted Fifth Freedom Rights by Namibia. This means that you cannot sell a flight from one country to a second country to join a flight to a third country. Basically, you must fly to St. Helena from Johannesburg as I learned the hard way when I was rerouted to Johannesburg from Cape Town at 5am; which made a very long day longer.

Read more on Lee Abbamonte’s insightful travel advice