Where is St Helena Island?

Answers to the most frequently asked questions about St Helena

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Where Is St Helena Island?

St Helena island is one of the most remote destinations in the world.

A tiny speck in the South Atlantic Ocean, St Helena lies approx. 1,000 nautical miles from Namibe, off the coast of Angola, west Africa. Recife, on the edge of South America, is approx. 2,100 miles in the opposite direction.

The nearest neighbour to St Helena, is Ascension Island, approx. 700 miles to the north-west.

The question, where is St Helena Island, is not one many people can answer.

St Helena Population

The St Helena population is small but is constantly changing.

The February 2021 Census recorded the number of people living on the Island was 4,439. This was 95 persons, or 2.1%, fewer than the 4,534 persons recorded as living on St Helena in the 2016 Census.

St Helenians are predominantly descendants of English settlers, slaves from West Africa, Madagascar, Bengal and Asia, and Chinese indentured workers. And the influences have widened over the years since.

English is the language spoken on St Helena, although visitors comment on the accent of the island’s people. A number of influences continue to flavour the local accents the down the years, including Saints travelling and working abroad, new people coming to live on St Helena and modern-day media now easily available in most homes. A strong local Saint dialect can sometimes be a challenge for outsiders to understand. All part of the charm!

Airlink flight landing at St Helena

Inside St Helena Airport

Inside St Helena Airport

Flights To St Helena Airport

Flights to St Helena island airport are still quite a new thing.  

The airport was built between 2012 – 2015, with commercial flights beginning in October 2017. Before then, the only method of travel to St Helena was by ship.

South African operator, Airlink, fly to St Helena once per week, on Saturdays, using an Embraer E190 aircraft, carrying up to 100 passengers. This is the only scheduled air service to the island.

To book a flight to St Helena online, go to the Airlink website directly, or otherwise most of the main travel booking platforms now include St Helena.

The IATA code for St Helena Airport is HLE which you will see printed on your baggage labels and tickets.

The ICAO code for St Helena Airport, used by aviation professionals to identify the airport, is FHSH.

Longwood House

Longwood House and gardens

Longwood House and gardens

The St Helena Napoleon Connection at Longwood House

French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte was exiled on St Helena in 1815, following his defeat at the battle of Waterloo and subsequent surrender.

Napoleon lived at Longwood House, guarded by British soldiers. The island’s absolute isolation and towering coastal cliffs provided a natural fortress to thwart any romantic hopes of rescue or escape.

Napoleon died on St Helena six years later, on 5 May, 1821, and was laid to rest in a tomb near Hutt’s Gate. His body was exhumed 25 years later and returned to France.

However, the St Helena Napoleon connection remains very strong.

The original Longwood House, vacated after Napoleon’s death had fallen into disrepair, even converted to a flour mill. In 1857 the French bought the property and immediately resurrected it as an ambassador’s residence.

Today, the property has been beautifully restored as a museum and is arguably the island’s most famous attraction.

Jamestown St Helena – The Island’s Capital

Jamestown, St Helena represents the island’s hub for almost everything. It’s where you will find the island’s main shops, restaurants & cafes, banking and other key business activities.

The St Helena Government is based at The Castle, the police headquarters is just up the street and the St Helena General Hospital is found at the top of Jamestown.

Jamestown is also home to a significant portion of the island’s population.

In 1871, there were 2,963 people living in Jamestown, excluding 99 people living in Rupert’s.

By 1976 that number was 1,516, including the Rupert’s residents.

The 2021 census recorded there were just 629 people living in Jamestown – including those in Rupert’s.

Although Jamestown may seem busy today, it was once heaving with people when more than 1,000 sailing ships used to call each year, during voyages from Europe to the far East.

This relentless flow of sea traffic ceased when the Suez Canal opened, in 1869.

This Jamestown video gives a good little insight to life in the island’s capital.

St Helena Map

St Helena is as tiny as it is remote.

Just 47 square miles in size, but don’t let those numbers fool you. Quite often, the St Helena map fails to convey just how challenging the terrain can really be.

Nowhere is flat! The island is made up entirely of steep hills and valleys with sheer cliffs forming the outer coastal perimeter.

The island’s outer border is volcanic and harsh. Inside this border though is a whole other story. The central region of St Helena is green and lush.

The highest point on St Helena is Diana’s Peak, at 820m. It’s the centre-piece of the St Helena Peaks National Park and the cloud forest.

Things To Do On St Helena

Swimming with Whale Sharks

Swimming with whale sharks on the island has only been happening for about 10 years, but it’s become one of the most special things to do on St Helena for visitors.

As the name implies, whale sharks are big and heavy; they can grow up to 12 metres long and can weigh 20 tonnes.

Despite their formidable size and name, whale sharks are gentle giants of the sea and tolerate snorkellers until they are bored and then just dive or swim away.

5 Fun facts about whale sharks

    1. Whale sharks are the largest fish on the planet.
    2. January to April is peak whales shark season on St Helena
    3. Whale shark skeletons are made of cartilage, not bone
    4. The IUCN have listed whale sharks as Vulnerable, mainly due to fishing
    5. Whale sharks reach sexual maturity at around 30 years and it is believed they can live up to 70 – 100 years.

On St Helena whale sharks are a protected species.

The whale shark tours on St Helena that have started up over the last 10 years, which includes the opportunity to swim with these giant creatures, is regulated by policies designed to prevent over-commercialisation and causing disturbance to the animals.

Ask your accommodation provider about arranging whale shark tours.

Endemic black cabbage trees

Inside the cloud forest

Inside the cloud forest

St Helena Cloud Forest

St Helena’s cloud forest is part of Diana’s Peak National Park, one of the most important eco-systems in the world.

At least 250 unique endemic species live in the Peaks National Park, including both endemic plants and invertebrates. They represent one sixth of the unique species from within the entire UK, including all the overseas territories.

Locally, the Peaks are the principal source of the island’s fresh water supply and it’s estimated that 60% of this is obtained via mist capture by the cloud forest.

Hiking the island’s central Peaks offers stunning panoramic views across the island. However, perhaps even more special is the opportunity to experience the walk surrounded by fog. It means you would be inside a working cloud forest, witnessing up close, the quiet wonder of the natural world.