Ascension Island, Africa - Stein Travel



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Welcome to Ascension Island

Surrounded by turquoise blue waters and sandy white beaches, the British territory and volcanic island of Ascension is named after the day of its recorded discovery. This tropical and very remote destination steeped in history was initially discovered in 1501 by Portuguese seafarer Joao da Nova Castelia, only to be rediscovered two years later on Ascension Day by Alphonse d'Albuquerque.

Ascension Island remained uninhabited until 1815 when Emperor Napoleon I was incarcerated on St Helena and ownership of the island was taken over by the British when they established a naval garrison. It later became a place of quarantine when the HMS Bonetta brought her yellow fever victims here in 1838, many of whom went on to be buried at the aptly named Comfortless Cove. Today it is a popular place for relaxation and a pleasant shelter against big waves for swimmers and a small cemetery named after the ship can be found here, providing testimony of this era.

Turtle tracks in the beaches' sand are a common sight on Ascension Island, known for its green turtles, which come ashore from January to May to lay their eggs. Despite being home to over 44 dormant volcanic craters, this arid island comes with a soft centre, namely the Green Mountain National Park. The 3,000-foot (914m) Green Mountain radiates a verdant halo shaped by the abundance of bamboo encircling its higher ground. Lower down lies the perfect material for building sailing ship masts; a plantation of tall Norfolk pine trees, originally planted by British mariners for that exact purpose, should the need arise of course. Wild flowers flourish sparsely while large colonies of land crabs can be found scuttling through the brush on the mountainside.

Most visitors to Ascension Island find themselves in the capital and port of Georgetown, one of the five main settlements and home to all four of the island's pubs, each with their own peculiar opening and closing times. Among some of the town's historic sites are a small Roman Catholic church, the 'Grotto', and the remains of a mosque, which served Muslims from West Africa in the early days of occupation.

Ascension Island may be small, but there is plenty to keep the active tourist busy with numerous walks, scuba diving opportunities, and a wide variety of sports including golf, albeit on one of the world's official worst golf courses. Sea fishing is also a popular pastime with a wonderful variety of open-ocean fish, including sharks, wahoo, tuna, marlin and sailfish.

Flights to Ascension Island are operated by the Royal Air Force, with only a limited number of civilian passengers allowed per flight. The Royal Mail Ship Saint Helena also travels between Portland, Tenerife, Ascension Island, Saint Helena, Walvis Bay and Cape Town. A shuttle service runs between Saint Helena and Ascension Island.


Business

Business is conducted much like in the UK. Politeness and punctuality are key to good business relations, and initial meetings are often conducted formally and impersonally, becoming more open and social as things progress. Business cards are exchanged at introductions. Dress is formal, with dark suits preferred. Business hours are generally 8am to 5pm Monday to Friday with an hour taken at lunch.

Climate

Ascension Island experiences warm weather all year round with the average temperature reaching a maximum of 86ºF (30ºC) during the months of January, February and March. The South East Trade Winds moderate these temperatures and rainfall is variable. Temperatures at sea level range from 68ºF to 88ºF (18ºC to 31ºC) and about 58ºF to 78ºF (8ºC to 28ºC) on Green Mountain. Showers occur throughout the year with slightly heavier rains in the January-April period.

Communications

The international dialling code for Ascension Island is +247. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (eg. 0044 for the united Kingdom). Prepaid phone cards and telephones are available from Cable and Wireless Ascension Island. Most hotels provide Internet connections.

Customs

Customs in Ascension Island are much like those of the UK with handshaking being customary when introduced to someone new.

Duty Free

Travellers to Ascension Island over 16 years with goods purchased personal consumption do not have to pay duty on these goods provided they are for personal use or are gifts for family and friends. This does not apply to large quantities of alcohol or tobacco if the amounts exceed the following limits: 200 cigarettes or 250g tobacco, 1 litre of spirits, 2 litres of wine or 12 x 340ml beer.

Electricity
Electrical current is 240 volts, 50Hz. Flat three-pin plugs are standard.
Health

Medical insurance is required when visiting Ascension Island. No vaccination is required before travel but a vaccination against yellow fever is recommended in case of a flight/ship being diverted to a risk area (Africa). Non-malarial mosquitoes can be a nuisance and travellers should arm themselves with mosquito repellent. A small hospital is available to deal with day-to-day complaints but sophisticated treatment is not available on the Island. Travellers should carry adequate supplies of prescription medication. A UK-qualified dentist is available on the island. Travellers planning on diving should be aware that there is no decompression facility on Ascension, nor are there qualified rescue divers.

Language
English is the official language.
Money

The currency in use on Ascension Island is the Saint Helena Pound which is fixed to the British Pound Sterling. This is divided into 100 pence. Saint Helena banknotes are accepted on Ascension Island and Saint Helena only. They cannot be exchanged in UK banks. Notes and coins are the same as in Great Britain apart from the design British money is accepted all over the island as well as the US dollar at Cat Hill (US Base). UK Pound Sterling banknotes are accepted on Ascension. Some outlets also accept US Dollars.

Passport Visa

All visitors to Ascension Island require entry approval prior to travel. All visitors must complete and return the 'Ascension Island Entry Permit' before travelling. The entry permit is the equivalent of a travel visa. This applies to all visitors who intend to clear passport control, including those who are transferring from ship to plane and vice versa. A medical insurance is required. Maximum stay on the island extends up to 3 months.

Safety

The level of crime on Ascension Island is very low. Crimes or violence against residents or visitors are virtually unheard of. Visitors hiring cars should be aware that wild sheep and donkeys can congregate on the roads, especially during wet weather.

Time
Local time in Ascension Island is GMT. (GMT -1 between the last Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October).
Tipping

Tips of 10 to 15% are expected in restaurants and upmarket hotels in Ascension Island if a service charge hasn't been included. Other services are discretionary.

Surrounding Ascension's highest peak, Green Mountain National Park is the best place to go to experience the island's natural beauty. A strange mix of endemic plants (which are propagated in nurseries dotted around the park), and Norfolk Island pines (planted in the 1800s to provide timber for ship masts), Green Mountain National Park is also home to land crabs, fairy terns and red-necked francolins. The Park is criss-crossed by historic walking trails, all of which provide panoramic views of the island, and there are plenty of picnic tables on offer, as well as a children's play area. Additionally, the area surrounding Green Mountain is generally a few degrees cooler than the rest of the island - offering welcome relief on sweltering days.


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