Sunday, 2 December 2012

Stargazing On St Helena

In a galaxy far, far away...dark skies enthusiasts should set their sights on a new stargazing tour to the remote South Atlantic island of St Helena to marvel at some of the southern hemisphere's most stunning constellations in the company of astronomer extraordinaire, Steve Owens.

A professional stargazer, dark skies consultant and author of the book "Stargazing for Dummies," Steve set up the first International Dark Sky Park in the UK, in Galloway, Scotland, in 2009. Since then he has helped Sark and Exmoor achieve similar status and is working with a growing number of other places, including St Helena, looking to protect their nightscape.

The new 19-day tour departs from Cape Town onboard the RMS St Helena (above), one of the last working Royal Mail ships in the world, following in the footsteps of Edmond Halley (he of comet fame) who set up an observatory on St Helena to catalogue the southern hemisphere's stars. The island's location just 16 degrees south of the equator ensures virtually every constellation in the sky is visible at one time or another during the year, and this is one of the few places where both The Plough and the Southern Cross can be seen in the sky at the same time. Visitors can also marvel at the the Magellanic Clouds and the galactic centre of the Milky Way.

Time on St Helena will include guided tours of Jamestown's historical sites and buildings, visits to local landmarks such as the Heart Shaped Waterfall and Diana's Peak, coastal sightseeing, including seeking out dolphins, and nocturnal sky watching.

The tour, departing Cape Town on April 29, costs from £2,948 per person, including accommodation in a shared two-berth cabin on A deck with private facilities and full board on the ship; in a twin/double room with shared facilities on St Helena at Wellington House Hotel on a bed and breakfast basis; and all tours on St Helena with lunches and evening meals where mentioned. International flights are extra.

For bookings, be sure to check with the Cruise Line Ltd on 0800 008 6677, the UK's adventure-cruising specialists.