If you are inspired by World Animal Day, held on 4th October, then visit the remote island of St Helena, which is home to a wealth of unique animals including whale sharks and ‘Jonathan’ the tortoise, who at 190 is the oldest living land animal on the planet!
Situated in the midst of the South Atlantic Ocean, St Helena features two main unique animals: the 190-year-old tortoise who is celebrating his birthday this year, as well as the ‘gentle giant’ whale sharks which are found each year in the waters surrounding the island. In addition, the island has its own unique ‘Cloud Forest Project’ devoted to protecting more than 250 wildlife species which can’t be found anywhere else on the planet.
Jonathan the tortoise is the oldest known living land animal on earth, and also the oldest chelonian ever recorded. Born in the early 1800s, Jonathan has lived on St Helena since 1882.
He has spent his island life in the grounds of Plantation House, alongside a handful of other tortoises, all of whom are of course much younger. He has lived through two world wars, and has watched the island introduce radios, telephones, TVs, internet, cars and an airport.
While Jonathan is the island’s most famous permanent resident, whale sharks are the most famous transitory ones. Last year, more than half (58%) of the whale sharks, Earth’s largest fish, identified in the waters of St Helena, had never been recorded anywhere in the world before.
Whale sharks migrate to St Helena every year between December and March and can often be seen amid the moorings in James Bay. As the gentle giants swim up to the surface, snorkelling with the whale sharks is a great attraction and participants can also expect to see an array of fish, dolphins, turtles and rays.
St Helena’s small community (4,439) is dedicated to the protecting the astounding amount of wildlife that calls the tiny, remote island ‘home’. The St Helena Cloud Forest Project is a collaboration to restore and protect the only remaining cloud forest on British territory. The globally significant area holds more than one sixth of the UK’s total endemic biodiversity (approximately 250 unique species), provides the majority of the island’s fresh water through mist capture and groundwater recharge, and offers a unique wilderness experience in an area that has been voted one of St Helena’s ‘Seven Wonders’.
Over the next five years, works will take place to safeguard the internationally important wildlife hotspot from further extinctions by increasing the cloud forest habitat by 25%, boosting the island’s water supply by a fifth and supporting the sustainable development of the island through eco-tourism.
From 8th October 2022, Johannesburg based airline, Airlink, will resume a weekly scheduled flight service between South Africa and St Helena. This increase follows the reduced fortnightly flights that were taking place due to the pandemic.
The resumption of weekly flights between Johannesburg’s OR Tambo International Airport (JNB) and St Helena Airport (HLE) will boost accessibility to the island, enabling UK travellers to discover the volcanic peaks, protected national parks, and world-class diving sites. The increase in flight services to the island came alongside St Helena Government’s decision to lift all COVID-19 entry regulations from 8th August 2022.
If you would like to discover wildlife holidays in St Helena then for more information, visit: www.sthelenatourism.com