A lush diamond in the other-wordly rough
A volcanic outpost in the subtropical Atlantic midway between Brazil and Africa, Ascension Island is actually the tip of a volcano deep under the ocean, part of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, the longest underwater mountain range in the world. As one of the United Kingdom Overseas Territory of St Helena, Ascension, and Tristan da Cunha, Ascension is 1,300 and 3,700 kilometers away (respectively) from its sister islands, making it as remote as they come. Discovered in 1501 by a Portuguese sailor, it was settled by the British in 1815 to deter attempts to rescue the exiled French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte on St. Helena. The island has only 800 residents at any given point, all employees of the island and their families. But being notoriously hard to get to makes this a special port of call on your Azamara journey.
The remnants of old forts and installations remind us of Ascension’s historic role as a strategic military outpost. Wideawake Airfield was used by U.S. forces in transit during World War II and is now home to a U.S. Space Force ground tracking station (which was also used by NASA). And the island’s dramatic lunar-like landscape of volcanic craters, cones, and ancient lava flows also served as a testing ground for Apollo moon buggies. Today you can play a round at what has been called the worst golf club in the world. You’ll find One Boat Golf Club on a lava field between Georgetown and Two Boats village, where you play nine holes on “browns” instead of greens, the fairways are rocky, and you drop your fees in a box on the clubhouse door.
But the heart of this island is the ocean that surrounds it, now a planned Marine Protected Area (MPA). This haven of biodiversity covers 445,000 square kilometers of pristine, abundant, and shockingly untouched ocean and is home to some of the largest most important fish species found anywhere on earth including yellowfin tuna, albacore tuna, swordfish, and marlin. It’s also an important breeding ground for the endangered green turtle. During nesting season, watch for the trademark flipper trails of the thousands of turtles who make their way here from Brazil to lay their eggs.
There is little in the way of shops and restaurants, but this is a place that is best explored outside. Stunning deserted white sandy beaches, impressive volcanic rock formations including lava flows, fumaroles, and caves. Where the sea is crystal clear and warm and the ordinary world feels very, very far away. Peaceful, tranquil, and most definitely unusual. Remote, yes, but also hopeful. It might almost feel like a land that’s been forgotten, but on your journey, it never will be.