Ascension Island, St Helena (Cruise-by) cruises

Your first view of land fills you with anticipation as it rises slowly from the horizon. Stunning views then impress and excite as you sail towards the beauty of Ascension Island. Seeing is believing.

Surrounded by crystal clear sea and some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, Ascension is 800 miles northwest of ‘nearby’ St Helena, located in some of the Atlantic’s most remote waters.

The main settlement and harbour is Georgetown with just over 200 residents. Until quite recently Ascension was closed to tourists but now visitors are extended a very warm welcome. The pace of life is relaxed and laid back like a world from a different era – even the jail looks like a quaint, comfortable bungalow.

This tiny volcanic island was discovered by the Portuguese on Ascension Day in 1501 (the Christian feast day when Christ is said to have ascended into heaven). For all its small area it is full of surprises. There are 44 volcanoes and 32 sandy beaches. The rollers crashing on the golden sands look like a perfect place to swim but there are treacherous undercurrents. Keep your eyes peeled as there are often sharks spotted in the waters.

Many beaches are nesting homes for the endangered green turtle. During your cruise to Ascension, you may be lucky enough to see the hatchlings rushing towards the sea in a bid to avoid the predatory frigate birds.

The Green Mountain National Park is home to some fantastic, rare seabird colonies. The island was a natural haven for seabirds before people settled on the island, as there were no predators like cats or rats. Conservation teams are now working to ensure the seabirds return and the island can be a haven once again.

After looking up at the skies, cast your glance down to the sea as there is plenty of marine life to be spotted. Pods of bottlenose dolphins can often be seen frolicking in the wake of the ship. Lucky visitors may even see humpback whales.

The highest peak in Green Mountain Park is 2,817 feet high and it stands tall and proud looking out over the park. A bizarre mixture of plants and trees fill the park. Settlers in the 19th century decided to experiment and turn the desolate volcanic island into the thriving green mosaic of tropical vegetation it is today. The crown of Green Mountain is a lush halo of bamboo standing right next to fully grown trees planted long ago by British mariners to be used as replacement masts.

The palm trees on Ascension not only look beautiful but they make a delicious contribution to the food cooked by the locals. Both bananas and coconuts are widely used with seafood to create a ‘Jambalaya’ type of dish. Spices are expensive and thus quite precious to home cooks but used widely to liven up fish and meat dishes. Food is not a big part of the island culture but when you cruise to Ascension Island its beauty will feed your soul.