Mark Russell aka Crowley from DIVE magazine recently visited St Helena Island and had the following diving tips to share.
What first made you want to visit St Helena?
I had seen some of the previous articles in DIVE Magazine but as soon as somebody said “whale sharks”, that was it! I was very curious about visiting such a remote location – a first for me – and it took me about 30 seconds to decide if I should go.
What was your first diving experience on St Helena like?
Unfortunately the weather wasn’t great and a swell had rolled in from the ocean so I didn’t get to see the famous clear blue water on day one. I think the locals were worried about the conditions but I had a great time! On the first dive at Egg Island we had a pod of pan-tropical dolphins accompany us on the way out, a Chilean devil ray came to play with us during the dive, and we sighted a whale shark on the way back. I joked at the time that I might as well finish my magazine article there and then. Dolphins, devil ray, whale shark. Done!
What was the highlight of your visit?
I keep saying whale sharks but for me, getting to spend 30 minutes swimming with one of these fantastic beasties was not just the highlight of my visit, but one of the highlights of my entire life. If you read the first article I wrote about the experience you will get some idea of how much it meant to me.
How does diving on St Helena compare to other dive destinations you’ve been to?
Very highly. It might not have the coral reefs of the Asia-Pacific region, but the clarity of the water is comparable to the best that the Red Sea has to offer, and the fish life is amazing. The underwater topography is fascinating and it’s very easy diving; no big currents, no tricky conditions. The dive operators – Sub-Tropic Adventures and Into the Blue – are well equipped and very professional. I described my last dive at Long Ledge as ‘glorious’, because that’s what it was.
What tip would you share with anyone thinking of coming to St Helena to dive?
Bring a snorkel! Whale shark encounters happen at the surface. I left mine in the UK and kept having to borrow from other people. But seriously, if people are thinking of visiting then it’s worth pointing out that when the local diving is described as ‘pristine’, it’s not just about the conditions and the dive sites, but also the fact that you’re diving in a location that only a very few people have ever dived before.
What else did you enjoy doing during your visit to St Helena?
Everything! It’s a fascinating island with a wonderful, friendly atmosphere and I completely fell in love with the place. I had a great off-road tour with Aaron Legg and spent some time soaking up the history with Basil George (and Jonathan!) and the views from places like High Knoll fort and Diana’s Peak are stunning. And the food was great – from the local plo to more upmarket cuisine, it was all delicious. The only thing I didn’t like about my visit was the fact that I had to leave….