Many Island Holidays’ clients know Ascension Island as the place where you get off the aeroplane for some fresh air and a stretch of the legs en route to the Falklands. In the transit area you’re aware that it’s a warm place, but that’s about it.
The island is located just south of the Equator in the South Atlantic Ocean and at first sight seems to be a lump of mountainous rock. But it’s much more
than that. With 32 sandy beaches, most of them home to nesting turtles in season, blow holes, fumaroles, hidden glades and valleys and 44 volcanic craters there is much to interest the visitor. Tourism is still in its infancy and within 24 hours you feel that you are part of the community.
For the walker, Ascension is the perfect place with 20 wonderful “Letterbox” walks – the letterboxes dating back to 17th century when passing ships would leave communications to be picked up and passed on.
The stars of the show are penguins – five species plus an itinerant Erect-crested which has somehow found his way to join the resident Rockhoppers. The wonderful Black-browed Albatross breeds on some of the islands and there is no better experience than to sit close to a colony watching as pairs show their very real affection for each other.
Bird life isn’t just limited to the seabirds. The rare Striated Caracara (known as Johnny Rook) and its more common relative the Crested Caracara are among the birds of prey, along with such specialities as Red-backed Hawk while the Long-tailed Meadowlark (or Military Starling) adds colour and character.
Meanwhile the rocky shores and beaches and the neighbouring thickets of tussock grass are home to Sea Lions and Elephant Seals while Killer Whales patrol offshore. Flowers and plants add to the interest with many of the islands being thick with the Falklands’ equivalent of heather, diddle-dee, the berries of which make superb jam.
Visit Stanley and Volunteer Point, the largest King Penguin colony. Then move on to Port Howard, to Sea Lion Island and Pebble Island Saunders. Stay on the enchanting Carcass Island and take a day trip to West Point with its Black-browed Albatross & Rockhopper Penguin colony, English country garden and famous afternoon teas.
Gloriously remote and a world apart, the Faroe Islands lie in the North Atlantic half way between Shetland and Iceland. Here the islands' 45,000 inhabitants live amidst dramatic mountain and cliff scenery, politically tied to Denmark but with the kind of independent streak essential to living in such a remote environment.
These are islands where the past and the present sit comfortably side by side. The Faroese are proud of their heritage and maintain their traditions in language, in music, in dance and in national dress. These islands are different. Where else would you find a sheep grazing on the roof of a house? Where else would you find some young men going in to the sea to scuba dive to recover from a heavy night? Where else would you find an international pop star performing at a concert alongside school kids playing classical music?
Many of those of you who have been to the Faroe Islands before have been captivated by their very special atmosphere and stunning scenery and surprised by the geographical scale which means that it's not possible to incorporate all the different islands and possibilities in one holiday.
Visit the southern islands and also Vagar. If you are there in July, take in the St Olaf Festival when Torshavn lets its hair down and celebrates its heritage and independence as its Parliament opens. Traditional costumes, the chain dance in the streets of Torshavn, boat races and racing of Icelandic ponies plus exhibitions throughout the town create a unique experience of a Festival geared to local people but where visitors are welcome.