Incredible Islands – Tristan da Cunha

trstndcnhThis speck of a place that is located in the Atlantic Ocean almost, give or take a few hundred kilometres, equidistant from Africa and South America is also the most remote inhabited island in the world.

Tristan da Cunha is a group of volcanic islands that are so small they can’t be seen on most world maps. The name is shared by both the island group, and the main island, which has a permanent population of just about 270 people.

To give some idea of just how tough life on these islands is, one of the other islands bears the name Inaccessible.

Tristan da Cunha is a British Overseas Territory that was named after the Portuguese explorer who discovered them. The capital, and only town, bears the intriguing name of Edinburgh of the Seven Seas. It’s only resemblance to the Scottish city of the same name is that is does have a pretty spectacular mountain behind it.

Although the islands were first settled by farmers from Massachusetts in 1810, most of them died shortly afterwards, leaving one lone survivor. The British annexed the islands in 1816 after imprisoning Napoleon Bonaparte on the islands nearest neighbour, St Helena, which is a mere 2430 kilometres to the north.

Although temperatures on the island are generally pleasant, due to its location in the middle of the Atlantic it has a substantial rainfall. On the main island the town has been established on the only piece of flat land, and the rest is rocky and hilly. The highest point on the island is the volcano Queen Mary’s Peak which has an altitude of 2,062 metres (6,765ft) and which gets covered in snow during winter.

Getting to the islands is something of a chore, as the only public transport is by boat from Cape Town, South Africa, which services the island with supplies.

You can’t just lob onto the island, as there is a procedure to follow, which includes requesting permission to visit by stating the full purpose and duration of your expected stay, from the Island Council to visit Tristan da Cunha, providing that berths on the visiting ships are available for passengers.

Once on the island, accommodation options are limited as Edinburgh of the Seven Seas is a small village and home to some seventy families who are all farmers. Activities include grazing their animals on communal pastures and cultivating crops, especially potatoes, in walled patches using only hand tools. Visitors are encouraged to become part of this traditional community by renting a guest house or by staying in homes on a full board basis.

That, and climbing to the top of the volcano, guarantees and action packed time on tiny Tristan da Cunha.

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