St Helena Island is one of the remotest places on Earth, more than a 1,000 miles of the coast of Africa in the Southern Atlantic. It is also one of the most extraordinary places to visit and to dive. It has a unique character and an unspoilt beauty with spectacular scenery, a rich cultural heritage and a stunning marine environment extremely rich in biodiversity
Clear, warm waters, wrecks and fascinating marine life make St Helena Island an enticing snorkelling and scuba diving destination. Dive site habitats vary from rocky reefs with caves and areas of boulders to cobbles and sand, all teeming with marine life and all within easy reach of the wharf in Jamestown.
The wrecks dotted around the coast present popular dive and snorkelling sites.
Sea temperatures vary from 19 to 25°C (66 to 75°F) and visibility can range from 5 to 40m (16 to 130ft) with peak visibility being from December to May.
Dives vary between 5 to 30m+ (40 and 130 feet) and offer a range of diving opportunities. There are a number of local laws for divers to abide by, including no wreck penetration and rules for swimming and interacting with whale sharks.
Further information can be found in the 'Diving and Snorkelling St Helena Good Practice Guide' and 'Whaleshark Guidelines'.
Some of the popular dive sites are Buttermilk Point, Cat Island, Cat Island Main, Cavalley Point, Egg Island, Ladies Chair, Long Ledge, Robinsons and Thompson’s Valley Island.
Most of the dive sites are located on the leeward side of the Island where divers can experience a bit of surge from the ocean swells, but there are no strong currents. These dives are suitable for both beginners and advanced divers.
If a visitor is planning to scuba dive they should bring their certification and log book.
There are two dive operators on St Helena and both offer PADI diving courses, dive excursions and marine tours. The St Helena Dive Club is a thriving group on the Island. Many divers are trained through the club each year.
There are snorkelling nature trails at the wharf steps in Jamestown and also at Lemon Valley which can be done at one’s leisure. Snorkelling tours are available for those unqualified in scuba.
There are eight shipwrecks around St Helena that divers can explore, and many dive sites are scattered with articles of marine archaeological interest, such as cannons and anchors.
1 Bedgellet - The salvage vessel for the Papanui, sunk in 2001 as an artificial reef.
2 Frontier – A drug running fishing trawler confiscated and sunk in 1994. The Frontier has become a popular wreck dive for advanced divers.
3 Portzic –A drug running fishing trawler confiscated and sunk in 1994. The Frontier has become a popular wreck dive for advanced divers.
4 Atlantic Rose - A fishing vessel, old and unrepairable, so sunk in 2008 as an artificial reef.
5 Spangereid – A boat first used for cargo and later converted into a fishing vessel until it broke its moorings and sank.
6 Papanui – A coal ship that caught fire and sunk 1920. Over the years the Papanui has attracted an abundance of marine life and the many endemics and other species of fish that can be found here is testament to the island’s strict conservation efforts. The Papanui lies in approximately 20 to 40 feet (6 to 12m) of water. The stern post protrudes above the surface occasionally as the tides move in and out. This is one of the most popular dive sites around St Helena for both the beginner and the experienced diver.
7 Darkdale – A royal fleet auxiliary tanker sunk by a German U-boat in 1941. The Darkdale is a war grave and displays the union jack on the stern. An early morning dive is the best time to visit the Darkdale.
8 Witte Leeuw – A cargo ship sunk in 1613, lying approximately 35m (115ft) deep. Jacques Cousteau dived this wreck many times when he visited in the 1970s.
Nearly 750 marine species have so far been recorded, with at least 50 of those being endemic. Divers and snorkellers will encounter a vast array of marine life including fish (of which 16 species are endemic) and various invertebrates including sea slugs and anemones (about 40 of which are endemic). Green and hawksbill turtles are often seen and visits from devil rays are not uncommon. The island also has resident populations of pantropical spotted, bottlenose and rough-toothed dolphin and is seasonally visited by a number of transient species, including humpback whales which can be spotted from June to December.
January and February are the hottest months on the island, which correlates with fish spawning patterns and the appearance of whale sharks. Reaching lengths of up to 12m (40 ft) or more, they scoop up plankton and small fish
with their colossal gaping mouths while swimming close to the water’s surface. Seeing the whale sharks during their seasonal visit is not to be missed. Although massive, whale sharks are docile creatures and it is possible to swim with them. Whales hark interaction is strictly regulated on the island and is only offered by accredited local marine tour operators.
Besides world class diving the unique island has many other attractions not to miss…
• Birding and wildlife
• Indigenous fauna and flora
• Walking and hiking
• Dolphin and whale tours
• Historic legacy and cultural tours
• Astronomy and photography
Telephone: +290 22158