Tristan da Cunha – it is the most remote inhabited archipelago in the world, lying approximately 2,432 km off the coast of Cape Town in South Africa.
Tristan de Cunha
When a conversation is brought up about the popular and more familiar travel destinations for holidays and vacations, it is usually no surprise that the Tristan da Cunha is usually absent from such conversations, and understandably so. This can in part be attributed to the fact that the Tristan da Cunha is famous, or rather infamous, as the remotest island in the world. It takes the crown from a number of other well known remote islands such as the Saint Helena, and it is a crown it looks certain to keep for a long, long time to come.
The Tristan da Cunha is a very compelling enigma to start with. It has dual meanings: on one part, it refers to an archipelago of islands in the middle of the south Atlantic, and on the other part it refers to the only inhabited island in these archipelago of islands. Alongside Saint Helena and Ascension, they form a trio of colonies under the united Kingdom. However, Tristan da Cunha island is more generally attributed to the populated island, and it is on this the article is based. Let’s look at one of the strangest, and most infamous tourist destinations in the world then, shall we?
As earlier stated, Tristan da Cunha island is quite simply the remotest human populated island in the world, no question. With a population of around 300 inhabitants, Tristan da Cunha island is so isolated that the nearest habitable land form, the equally popular Saint Helena is almost 3000 kilometers away. No you didn’t mishear. Three thousand kilometers. Most of its fellow islands such as the inaccessible island, nightingale Island and and middle islands are around 400 kilometers away and naturally uninhabited with the only only slight exception being the Gough island, having a research outpost. With an island so small and seemingly uninteresting, the Tristan da Cunha island is anything but and boasts of a history and amenities swarthy enough to attract tourists yearly. The Island has attracted tourists who visit just for the sheer pleasure and compliments of having visited the “most remote island in the world”, and this beautiful loner of an island opens its arms and is welcoming to all.
Discovered in the year 1560 by the Portuguese sailor who named the island after himself, one of the earliest functions the island served was merely being a feature of a favored route taken by European ships. This was followed by gradual expeditions by the British and the Dutch. Soon after, it attracted a few for seal hunting but was mainly for a short while. It wasn’t until the first world War that it served its first major important purpose, when the Americans used the island as a base. The Island was also occupied by British soldiers to prevent the French from releasing the dreaded dictator Napoleon, who had been on exile on the nearby island of Saint Helena. During the second world War, the island was also used as a base for the navy and had a radio and weather stations primarily for the monitoring of home submarines and the detection of enemy submarines as well.
Going to Tristan da Cunha island for vacation is no mean feat, and we say this in the mildest way possible. Traveling requires months to even years of careful planning to successfully execute a journey. One of the primary reasons for this is the fact that the island is so small and remote that arrival by air is simply impossible. The only means of transportation to this beauty of an island is by water, usually boat. This is a journey that takes approximately a week, and while the absence of an airport also cancels the need for documents such as visas and passports, applications still have to be submitted to the Tristan da Cunha island for acceptance before you will be welcomed into the delectable island.
Thrill aside, the Tristan da Cunha island is one of the few places in the world where one can get to experience first hand the true feel of nature in its purest and most undisturbed form. Not unlike its counterpart, the Saint Helena island, this island was untouched for a very long time before the eventual human contact, as majority of its vegetation and fauna are still unchanged. Animals such as penguins and albatrosses along with the shearwaters, squas and terns can also be found in this island. An interesting and noteworthy fact is that the Tristan da Cunha island and its neighboring Gough island are the only known breeding sites of the Petrel in the whole world. The wildlife of this island is a major pull and is credited as an important bird area by Birdlife International for its high population of endangered and almost endangered birds. The marine life is also abound, as there is a community of whales, dolphins and seals in the surrounding waters. There is also a population of Acantholatris monodactylus or Five-finger, Tristan’s most abundant fish. Other fish species include the Concha, rock shark, cat fish, octopus and other organisms. The Phylica arborea, or the island tree is known as the only native tree found on this island and is scattered around the vegetation. There is also the tussock grass, the berry bush, the small bog grass and a host of other diverse flora that can be found, and which adds to the marked beauty of this hidden jewel.
The climate of the Tristan da Cunha island is one of a typical oceanic climate, with temperatures not too high and a moderate and sometimes heavy amount of rainfall per annum die to consistent western winds. The intensity of the sun is also low and sunshine generally doesn’t show up often, as the sun is often covered by rain clouds. However, the distinct lack of a cold weather across the year has led to the climate occasionally being classified as being subtropically humid. The idea of conditions being cold to the point of icy is relatively unknown, and this takes effect at altitudes below elevations of 500 metres. Also, the summer temperatures are not intense, interestingly hardly ever arriving at 25 °C (77 °F). the warmest and driest place on the island is known as Sandy point, and this is located on the eastern coast of the island. This attribute is credited to the region being in the forefront of the consistent western winds.
Tristan da Cunha island is an island with a thriving economy and a primarily farming population. Commercial fishing is also known to take place on this island, as it is home to Tristan Lobster fishery, a major income pull for the island. Fishing boats from the neighboring African country of South Africa are also known to come down to the island for fishing for about a dozen times a year, also aiding in the islands tender economic growth. Another fact of note is that there is no internet or telephone coverage in the island, with the former initially present before it was eventually discarded due to its high cost of maintenance.
Scattered around the Tristan da Cunha island is a mass of hills and volcanic rocks which will be perfect for hiking expeditions. With popular attractions such as the Devil’s hole which singularly attracts a lot of tourists due to its mystery and trickery, there are also a few other mountain ranges such as the The Base, Patches Plain, Big Green Hill and a host of others, all well suited for hiking and camping activities. There is also a Tristan peak challenge where hikers strive to get to the top of Queen Mary’s peak and pictures are taken. The queen Mary peak is also big with lovers and couples as they get the breathtaking view of the heart shaped lake down below. The thrill of standing atop one and looking at the vastness of ocean going on for miles and miles is truly second to none.
The volcano site and an adjoining volcanic park is also located on this island. Since the volcano is no longer, there are hikes which are organized with the attendance of a guide or can also be done on their own. The volcanic park was built as a 50 year remembrance of the last volcanic eruption which led to the evacuation of the occupants of the island to Southampton.
Although primarily English is spoken on the island, there exists a local dialect which is a derivative of the many cultures to have settled in the region over a period of time such as the Portuguese, French, German, Dutch, Irish e.t.c. Worry not, however, as this dialect is not too difficult to understand and better still not compulsory to learn.
Thee tourism center located on the Tristan da Cunha island is truly a sight to behold. While still only growing, the tourism center caters to the tastes of tourists as it gives that feel of visiting a new place and soaking up the experience. There is a museum which gives account of the detailed history of the island, and it’s dark and prosperous aforetimes. There are also handicrafts and souvenir shops situated not far from the post office (Yes, there indeed is one to cater for your mail needs) which showcases the homegrown talents of the occupants of the island and the skills demonstrated in making these crafts. Souvenirs in the form of handicrafts and other gifts can also be bought from the island store and the famous Rockhopper gift shop, as it is recommended to take a little piece of this fabled to gift to friends, or to fit on your homes and in your hearts (a piece of the Islands finest art collection).
Yatch trips are also organized along with cruise ship visits to enjoy winding down and fully immersing yourself into that life of luxury and freedom on the water. There is also a golf course for tourists who are more grounded and less adventure seeking to try their hand at a hole or two in the relaxing environment that is the Tristan da Cunha island. Local boats are available to fulfill the need for offshore fishing which the tourist might have the privilege of being a part of. Local guides are also present and are mandated to follow each excursion group to ensure that cases of getting missed or accidents as a result of unfamiliar terrain and geological patterns are few and far between.
Your stomachs are also not left out of the equation, as the Tristan da Cunha island offers delectable cuisine that will tickle the fancy of anybody, tourist or local. More commonly known is the Cafe da Cunha, known to serve hot drinks, soft drinks and cold drinks at any time of the day and also the occasional hot food per request. Light refreshments alongside light lunches are also provided on Wednesdays, and usually entails specials which are not usually prepared and served on other days of the week. There is also the Albatross bar at the prince Philip hall in the community, which primarily provides alcoholic beverages and other type of alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks, and also provide light refreshments for those on cruise visit and Yatch trips. There is also an old Cafe building which, although no longer functioning as one, is still given out to locals to sell food items and delicacies. The space is also rented out for occasions such as parties and get togethers.
Accommodation for tourists is also not a problem, as there are both government and privately owned lodgings to fit the taste and budget of tourists. With about 11 guests houses present in the island, the tourists has an array of accommodation spaces to choose from. There is also the Tristan Thatched House Museum which is also available but strictly for one-night stays only. All of these lodgings are equipped with the necessary amenities and necessities to make your stay a delight, with a few even possessing the luxuries of hot tubs and open plan kitchens.
The Tristan da Cunha is a miracle and a gift that keeps on giving. Visit for that surreal and magical feeling, and don’t let the seeming difficulty of the trip deter you, because I assure you it will be absolutely worth it!.