When Paul, the owner of WildWeb, asked me if I would be interested in travelling to a tiny island in the middle of the South Atlantic Ocean to take photographs for a website, my immediate response was “of course!”.
Up until that point, I had never heard of the island of St. Helena but I immediately began my research on this fascinating place. Situated about 1900km west off the Angolan coast, this British overseas territory is one of the most isolated inhabited islands on earth. Up until October last year, the only way to reach this island was via a lengthy boat ride. However, all this changed when the airport was finally opened and flights from South Africa to St. Helena commenced, making the island far more accessible.
That long strip at the end of the island is the landing strip. It seems to appear out of nowhere when you come in by plane.
Jono, our head web developer, and I headed off to St. Helena in June. We flew on Airlink , an airline that is known for servicing small, and out-of-the-way destinations that larger airlines don’t fly to. There are two flights a week, one a Saturday and one on a Sunday. So, you can choose to go for one night or one week. We opted for a week.
Jamestown, as seen from the top of Jacob’s Ladder.
The purpose of our trip to St. Helena was to develop a website for Solomon & Company (locally known as Solomons). This expansive company was founded in 1790 and is one of the largest businesses on the island, offering a wide range of services including travel and shipping, retail and wholesale, insurance, production, services and the property sector. Jono was in charge of developing the website and worked closely with the team at Solomons in order to do this.
“Solomon’s is a company that’s been around for over 225 years, and many of their key staff members have grown up knowing the company and worked there for decades. They all understand the various businesses great, but the challenge was for us to take that wealth of knowledge and make it understandable for an outside audience. In a way, our ignorance about the company’s interests was really a key factor in helping us make Solomon’s relatable to a foreign audience.
We combined this new structure with a clean and simple aesthetic, punctuated with fantastic imagery we took while on the island. The result is a site that’s relatable and contemporary, bringing Solomon’s and the island of St Helena into the online space.” – Jono
The Solomon’s Office located in Jamestown, the main town of St. Helena.
My job was to take photos of the island, and all the different facets of Solomons & Company, to be used in the website build. This involved being driven around the island to various locations, which was quite an adventure for numerous reasons. Firstly, the roads are all incredibly narrow and are peppered with extreme hairpin turns. If you meet an oncoming vehicle, one of the cars will need to pull over on the side of the road to allow the other one to pass. Fortunately, with only 4,500 inhabitants, traffic doesn’t really exist in St. Helena. The most pertinent road rule seems to be that you must wave at every person and car you drive past.
An example of some of the roads in St. Helena. By the end of the trip, we were pros at the ‘slow down and hoot before the corner’ technique.
Secondly, the landscapes on the island are absolutely draw-dropping. They vary from classic English countryside to volcanic mountainscapes, to scenes that look like they were taken straight out of Jurassic park. A personal highlight for me was visiting the Solomons coffee farms, which are situated quite inland on steep slopes. The lush, rainforest feel of these areas could be easily mistaken for the forests of central Africa.
After a week of being on St. Helena, we had seen just about the entire island. Unfortunately, in between taking photos and building the website, we didn’t have too much spare time and couldn’t enjoy the numerous hiking trails that are renowned on the island. We did, however, have a chance to visit the original site of Napoleon’s tomb which is situated in a beautiful spot in the forest, as well as High Knoll Fort which was built in 1799 to assist in defending the island against potential French invaders.
We were also able to enjoy a visit to the local distillery, dubbed the ‘world’s most remote distillery’, where we were able to taste a spirit called ‘Tungi’ that is made from the local prickly pear that grows on the island, as well as gin, spiced rum, lemon liqueur, coffee liqueur, and wine – all of which is brewed by Paul Hickling using his impressive brewing setup.
The local prickly pears growing wild.
When the time came to return to South Africa, we were impressed to see a large portion of the island inhabitants at the airport, either seeing off family members or simply there to watch the plane arrive and take off. After all, airplanes are still novel for many of the locals, with many people having never been off the island before. In the short week that we were in St. Helena, we had been so warmheartedly welcomed and embraced, that we almost didn’t want to say goodbye! It’s a place that I will always remember fondly, and one day hope to return to.
Take a look at the Solomons website here: https://solomons-sthelena.com/
For more information on flying to St. Helena, visit the Airlink website here: https://www.flyairlink.com/destinations/flights-to-st-helena