Travel journalist Mark Stratton returns to St Helena
Mark Stratton is a freelance travel journalist who writes for titles including Wanderlust, the Daily Telegraph and National Geographic Traveller. He recently visited St Helena on assignment for Conde Nast Traveler USA.
When did you first visit St Helena? What were your first impressions?
It was back in 2012 I took the RMS St Helena on an epic 4-day sea voyage from Cape Town that instilled a sense of travelling to one of the world’s most remote islands. First sighting at dawn was this brooding rock with a menacing cloud hanging over it and I wondered what I’d let myself in for? Little did I know this was a nuggety outer shell with a tasty treat inside.
What has changed most noticeably since your previous visit?
I was amused to see young Saints on their smartphones, something absent last time. I felt a little more urgency to life but in a progressive way.
I was lucky enough to try both new hotels: Mantis and the Blue Lantern, both great additions.
Tell us what you enjoyed the most about your return?
Greater opportunities for marine excursions, not least whale shark snorkelling. Swimming with these colossal sharks and soaking in every detail of the experience was the most exhilarating marine adventure I have ever enjoyed.
What would be your top three recommendations for anyone visiting St Helena?
1. Whale sharks for sure but also a boat trip to see cavorting pan-tropical dolphins.
2. Go hiking. I can’t believe last time round I missed out on a spectacular ridge walk from Blue Hill out towards Manati Bay
3. Visit a local pub like The Standard. Get to meet the Saints.
Finally, consider spending two weeks. You need a week to visit the main highlights such as the Napoleonic memorials. But the real joy as I discovered 2nd time around is exploring the nooks and crannies of an island folded in history and natural beauty
Is there anything you would like to see introduced or added to encourage tourists to St Helena?
I think a circular hiking trail linking the fabulous Post Box walks would garner international attention to the island’s superb walking.