Sharing The Scenic Sights Of St Helena Island
Sharon Henry (Guest Contributor)
After a solid hour of hiking I find myself peering over the edge of a 494 metre cliff that makes the backs of my knees tingle. Atlantic trade winds whip my hair but I stay put, hypnotised by the waves crashing below, the distant roar producing that seashell sound. It’s fascinating and the height perspective makes me feel like I’m up in a crow’s nest, looking out over the vast ocean until it merges with the sky.
Welcome to St Helena Island. This is my home, all 47 square miles of a small South Atlantic protrusion. We are located just above the Tropic of Capricorn, between Angola and Brazil. A test of a good map is to see if St Helena is included.
My favourite way to explore St Helena’s scenic sights is on post box walks, like this one that’s brought me to Great Stone Top. These hiking trails run on a scale of easy to freaking scary, or more formally, from 1 – 10. Great Stone Top is a 5. Inland from this lofty vantage point is an immediate backdrop of stark lava flows and red dirt deserts. Contrasting lush green layers are further away, covering the distant central highlands. The views from here are spectacular. The camera can hardly do justice to the scene unfolding before me.
It’s through travel that I now truly appreciate the natural splendour of my island home.
I’ll always remember visiting the Grand Canyon, and my husband, Darrin feeling underwhelmed – because the dramatic St Helena landscapes had spoiled him. Albeit, on a MUCH smaller scale. Our version of America’s Grand Canyon is the amphitheatre of Sandy Bay, the partial crater of an extinct volcano. We also have a version of Peru’s, Rainbow Mountain, through the multi-coloured marls of Longwood’s, ‘Painter’s Palette.’ And we have our own mini, Table Mountain called ‘The Barn,’ a tablecloth of cloud included.
The 21 Post Box walks on St Helena are the perfect way to connect with the island’s beautiful scenery.
Blue Point Post Box, a mild 3 on the difficulty scale, is excellent for showcasing the island’s southern volcanic coastline. Plunging ravines, sharp ridges and towering columns formed a millennium ago. It’s one of Mother Nature’s masterpieces and is breath-taking in the truest sense of the phrase.
That said, the most scenic of Post Box walks is the cloud forest of Diana’s Peak National Park. At 823m it’s St Helena’s highest point with such epic 360 degree views on clear days. You won’t know which direction to look. Even misty days are good to visit Diana’s Peak – to see a cloud forest environment in action, where vegetation obtains moisture through fog condensation and from settling clouds.
I especially love walking through the exotic plant life, of jellico, cabbage trees, lobelia and giant tree ferns, all species endemic to St Helena that wouldn’t look out of place in Jurassic Park. It’s quite a magical place to visit.
Thankfully St Helena’s bio-diversity doesn’t include snakes, tarantulas, bears or anything dangerous. It’s perfectly safe to traipse freely on the hills without worry, plus, we have a very low crime rate and we’re so small you can’t get lost!
With the exception of getting lost in the natural beauty of St Helena that is.