WE ARE THE SAINTS | Darrin Henry
The questions we get asked the most about St Helena are these:
- Where is St Helena Island
- What size is St .Helena
- Santa Elena – how to pronounce it
- Cost of living in St Helena Island
- St Helena school system
- St Helena population
- How to get to St Helena
- British Saints – the nationality question
- Economy of St Helena
Tell Me About St Helena
It turns out Sharon and I are as interesting to many of the people we meet around the world, just as they are to us.
Where is St Helena Island is the first question we get asked, followed by what size is St .Helena, and amazement at the answers. We’re here in Thailand on holiday, explaining where we’re from. St Helena people like us, are known as Saints.
Pronunciation, surprisingly, is next. Most outsiders tend to say it as, Saint-Helen-ah. Our own pronunciation is more, Saint-ha-leen-ah.
The Spanish would say, Santa Elena which I love.
Cost of living in St Helena Island interests people and those with kids always enquire about the St Helena school system.
The Island Of St Helena
St Helena is one of the South Atlantic islands, and it’s tiny. It would fit into the city of Bangkok 12 times over, which gives you an idea of scale. So for Sharon and I, heading off to Southeast Asia, the other side of the world, for the very first time, not speaking a word of the language and with an itinerary that extends only to reaching our first hotel, this has been a major adventure for us both.
You don’t really want to use the ‘L’ word too soon in any relationship, but it’s clear already, we have both fallen for this part of the world.
We have met some wonderful people, kind and generous with their hospitality and friendship, which has given us a glimpse into the culture of each place.
Early in any conversation there are always questions for us, they vary a bit, but there are a few we get all the time. Here they are. The first is always:
Where is St Helena Island?
St Helena, or Saint Helena Island, is in the South Atlantic Ocean.
After struggling to draw decent diagrams of the Atlantic region, we eventually figured out that Google Maps would quickly display a St Helena map on our smart phones. Duh!
The St Helena postcode is STHL 1ZZ.
Although it’s a tropical island, St Helena weather has plenty of mood swings. As a southern hemisphere island our winter months are June to October when is often wet and very windy. August is known locally as ‘Scruffy August.’ Generally, people in the know will plan to visit St Helena from December to April, which is typically summer weather months.
What Size Is St Helena Island?
We are very isolated; a tiny 47 square mile outcrop in the South Atlantic Ocean. Not much.
What Is the Population of St Helena Island?
The St Helena population is just over 4,200, and those of us born on the island are known as, ‘Saints.’ Now you see how we chose our blog name.
Jamestown, St Helena is the island’s capital.
How Do I Travel To St Helena Island?
Travel to St Helena Island is a topic that always creates plenty of conversation. At the moment (May 2015) St Helena Airport is still under construction but should open next year. For now, we have two options of how to get to St Helena, both are by ship.
- Two-day journey from the smaller island of Ascension, 700 miles away. From Ascension Island there is a nine-hour flight on a Royal Air Force plane to Brize Norton in the UK.
- Five-day journey from Cape Town to St Helena.
There is a small selection of St Helena hotels to choose from, and a range of self-catering bed and breakfast options.
What Nationality Are Saints? Are you South African?
No, St Helena is a British Island and islanders hold full British passports.
But there are South Africans living in St Helena as well as other nationalities.
More About St Helena – What Is There To Do?
It’s a microcosm of somewhere like a town in the UK; with banking, shops, schools, businesses, a hospital, law and legal, pubs, restaurants etc.
Schools follow the UK curriculum.
St Helena jobs cover the full spectrum of skillsets and there are plenty of adverts every week in the two local newspapers.
As for things to do in St Helena recreationally, there are community driven events such as organised sports, charities, and entertainment. The infrastructure is quite modern although there are problems mainly linked to the island’s isolation.
For tourists considering a St Helena holiday it is worth doing some research beforehand. For instance, advance bookings for St Helena Island tours can save disappointments later as low numbers of customers mean services can be irregular.
To help maximise a visitor’s time in St Helena we have 10 suggestions for things to do in a week.
What Is The St Helena Economy Based On?
Success with different economic ventures has been limited over the years, including fishing.
The New Zealand flax plant which covers the central peaks of the island is a reminder of a once successful industry from the first half of the 20th century. Raw flax fibre was exported to make rope and twine.
More and more people have heard about St Helena coffee which has prestige around the world, however, the industry and exports are of a modest size.
The island has functioned from annual subsidies provided by the British government.
Most goods and materials are imported which drives up costs.
It is hoped the airport, which opens next year (2016), will establish affordable flights to St Helena Island from South Africa and thus provide the basis for building a sustainable economy based on tourism over the coming years.
What Languages Do You Speak On St Helena?
The St Helena language is English.
I’ve never heard of it before, is there any reason I should know about St Helena?
Our most famous resident, albeit not by choice, was the French Emperor, Napoleon Bonaparte, who was exiled there in October 1815. His story began and finished on islands – Napoleon’s birthplace was Corsica but he died on St Helena in May 1821 after six years of exile.
His body was later removed to France, however, his last residence, Longwood House, St Helena and his now empty tomb are carefully maintained by a resident French Consul and is a very popular tourist attraction.
More Information About St Helena Life?
There are two media organisations operating radio stations and producing weekly newspapers on the island. The newspapers are the St Helena Independent and the St Helena Sentinel.
What The Saints Did Next produce an annual e-magazine called Breeze, all about St Helena which is available for FREE as a PDF download, by signing up to our blog by email.
To view some great pictures from St Helena check out our previous blog posts, here.
We also post pictures and updates daily on our What The Saints Did Next, Facebook Page.