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Ascension Island - Overview

Ascension Island Highlights


Ascension Island, named after the day it was discovered, is predominantly used as a military base and for many years this South Atlantic island was inaccessible to tourists. But recent flights introduced by the RAF and a few guest cottages that have sprung up has made it an attractive sport fishing destination. Much of the island is a volcanic wasteland and notoriously it also has the worst golf course in the world!


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Surrounded by turquoise blue waters and sandy white beaches, the British territory and volcanic island of Ascension is named after the day of its recorded discovery. This tropical and very remote destination steeped in history was initially discovered in 1501 by Portuguese seafarer Joao da Nova Castelia, only to be rediscovered two years later on Ascension Day by Alphonse d'Albuquerque.

Ascension Island remained uninhabited until 1815 when Emperor Napoleon I was incarcerated on St Helena and ownership of the island was taken over by the British when they established a naval garrison. It later became a place of quarantine when the HMS Bonetta brought her yellow fever victims here in 1838, many of whom went on to be buried at the aptly named Comfortless Cove. Today it is a popular place for relaxation and a pleasant shelter against big waves for swimmers and a small cemetery named after the ship can be found here, providing testimony of this era.

Turtle tracks in the beaches' sand are a common sight on Ascension Island, known for its green turtles, which come ashore from January to May to lay their eggs. Despite being home to over 44 dormant volcanic craters, this arid island comes with a soft centre, namely the Green Mountain National Park. The 3,000-foot (914m) Green Mountain radiates a verdant halo shaped by the abundance of bamboo encircling its higher ground. Lower down lies the perfect material for building sailing ship masts; a plantation of tall Norfolk pine trees, originally planted by British mariners for that exact purpose, should the need arise of course. Wild flowers flourish sparsely while large colonies of land crabs can be found scuttling through the brush on the mountainside.

Most visitors to Ascension Island find themselves in the capital and port of Georgetown, one of the five main settlements and home to all four of the island's pubs, each with their own peculiar opening and closing times. Among some of the town's historic sites are a small Roman Catholic church, the 'Grotto', and the remains of a mosque, which served Muslims from West Africa in the early days of occupation.

Ascension Island may be small, but there is plenty to keep the active tourist busy with numerous walks, scuba diving opportunities, and a wide variety of sports including golf, albeit on one of the world's official worst golf courses. Sea fishing is also a popular pastime with a wonderful variety of open-ocean fish, including sharks, wahoo, tuna, marlin and sailfish.

Flights to Ascension Island are operated by the Royal Air Force, with only a limited number of civilian passengers allowed per flight. The Royal Mail Ship Saint Helena also travels between Portland, Tenerife, Ascension Island, Saint Helena, Walvis Bay and Cape Town. A shuttle service runs between Saint Helena and Ascension Island.

 

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