Ben Fogle’s Castaway Guide to the most remote places on the Green List
Almost as remote, but now much more accessible, is Saint Helena – another island in the South Atlantic, once the home of prisoner Napoleon Bonaparte. Until a few years ago, the island was only accessible by boat, but a new airport was built. However, a design flaw meant unexpected wind shear closed it before it even opened. It is often called the world’s most “useless” airport. Delays and cancellations are common but the trip is well worth it. You can now fly there via Cape Town, but I visited aboard RMS St Helena – the island’s namesake – with Princess Anne, who was on an official visit. I stayed on board, but there is a lot of accommodation on land.
Saint Helena is another world, like stepping back in time. Imagine a colder British Cuba (but without socialism). I hired a car to explore the steep, winding roads that wind through the rich landscape. No visit is complete without walking the 699 steps of Jacob’s Ladder to admire Jamestown. It will leave you speechless.
In Jamestown, frozen in time, the cars date back to the 1970s and 1980s – as do the food and accommodation, lending the place an authentic charm. Saint Helena also has its own French enclave, Longwood, where Napoleon was imprisoned, and is home to the world’s most isolated coffee plantation, where I also met the oldest of the residents – Jonathan, the turtle, 189, who lives in the governor’s residence, Plantation House.
If you’re looking for the sun, Ascension isn’t a bad place to stop en route to some of the cooler islands in the South Atlantic. On the surface, this dark, lunar volcanic island may seem unappealing, but it is home to some remarkable horticultural experiences. In 1843 Sir Joseph Hooker visited with the Ross Antarctica expedition and came up with a bold plan to increase precipitation on the dry volcanic island by planting the mountain with trees. The result is the cloud forest that remains today. It’s like stepping into another world by climbing the 800m Green Mountain.
I walked through the cloud forest to the muddy “rain” pond at the top, where huge goldfish have made their home. The place is as eccentric as it moves. Although accommodation is limited, I have found a vibrant expat community that maintains the military base. Getting to Ascension has been more difficult since the runway at Wideawake Airport was closed due to damage in 2018. It is slated to reopen in 2022. In the meantime, you’ll need to find a ship to take you there.
The more adventurous travelers on the Green List will head south to South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. As there is no airport, the only way to get there is by boat. If you go to the old Norwegian whaling station of Gritviken, where I camped, you can visit the most isolated museum in the world. This alone is worth the trip.
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