What To See
You don’t have to venture far on Ascension to notice its many strikingly beautiful, golden-sand beaches. For those arriving by sea, Long Beach stretches out a warm greeting – looks are, however, deceiving, as this beach is not considered safe for swimming.
Strong undercurrents deem this beach fit only for the hundreds of Green Turtles that visit each year – and Long Beach, as their main nesting site on the island, is one of the most important Green Turtle nesting sites in the world.
If you do fancy a swim though, the beach next to the pier head is perfectly safe for swimming if sea conditions are favourable. The most popular beach for swimmers is undoubtedly English Bay – a 15 minute drive from Georgetown. Wildlife lovers are in for a treat here – simply don a mask and snorkel and paddle around, just off-shore you will be able to spot just about all of Ascension’s smaller tropical fish species in one place! The numerous “black fish” are very inquisitive but harmless, you don’t want to be in the water though if someone decides to throw a morsel of food in!
Comfortless Cove is also a popular beach, though its name may suggest otherwise. Much smaller, quieter and more secluded than English Bay, this beach is perfect for a more relaxing day out. If you venture up the stairs from the beach and follow the trail, you will find yourself at Bonetta Cemetery – Comfortless Cove was so named as it was the site that fever-ridden sailors were quarantined on the island around the 1830′s to 1870′s – some of the stricken men were buried here and in a few small cemeteries around the cove.
Alternatively, there are three outdoor swimming pools on the island, Two Boats and Travellers have fresh water pools, whilst the pool at Georgetown is filled with sea water. All except the Travellers Pool are free to use, and only Travellers Pool has a lifeguard.
If you’re a little more adventurous you can visit Ascension’s natural lava caves. The largest and most interesting are located at the northern base of Sisters, at the foot of Command Hill and near the Grotto – be sure to take a torch and it is advisable to go with a party of at least 3 due to tricky terrain and conditions.
There are many great walks to do on Ascension – some quite casual and others rather more tricky. Most of them, however, offer some fantastic views around the island. Pick up a “Letterbox Walks” guide from the Conservation Office or Buy Online, then go and explore! Again, for safety reasons, you should always go in a group of at least three. A spectacular view of Boatswain Bird Island can be seen by walking from the beach near the Ariane Station at North East Bay, south east along the coastline.
Along the way you can stop to admire the spectacular blow hole – when sea conditions are right, water will shoot several feet up into the air – a great photo opportunity! There are several blow holes around the coast line, but this one is probably most spectacular, the one at the Scouts Beach hut, near Catherine Point, provides a fun way to cool off on a hot day and is a little easier to get to.
THE MUSEUM – HERITAGE SOCIETY
A visit to the Islands’ museum is highly recommended – with an extensive collection of photographs and artefacts the museum and Fort Hayes provide an enlightening glimpse into the Islands rich heritage. The Museum opening hours are 1700-1900 on Mondays and 1000-1200 Saturdays.
Thanks to its location just a few degrees South of the Equator, Ascension is blessed with warm tropical weather nearly all year round, however, if you want to get away from the heat, a trip to Green Mountain could do the trick. The mountain is nearly always shrouded in cloud, and the lush vegetation and cooler climate is quite a contrast to the rest of the island – you could be forgiven for thinking you’d stepped into a rainforest. The only exotic creatures you’re likely to encounter though are a few feral sheep and the land crabs, the picnic area near the Red Lion is often full of colourful African Monarch butterflies. The views from the Mountain are spectacular on a clear day, and there are several walks which take you around the top of the mountain. A short trek from the Red Lion will bring you to the summit – 859 metres above sea level – and the Dew Pond surrounded by a towering bamboo grove.
WIDEAWAKE FAIRS & ENDEMIC SHRIMP
Ascension has an abundance of seabirds, and one of the easiest ways to see some of them up close is to visit the Wideawake Fairs, a walk of about half an hour from the back of the Air Field, over some rocky and dusty terrain, will bring you to the nesting site of the Sooty Tern or “Wideawake” – they nest here every 10 months. Since the eradication of feral cats from the island, their numbers have been steadily increasing.
Follow the coastline eastwards from the bird ground to get to the tide pools which are home to an endemic species of shrimp. The pools are about 50 to 100 metres inland but have an underground connection to the sea. The walk to Shelley Beach is considerably more tricky and arduous than the trek to the fairs, as with all walks on Ascension, be sure to wear suitable footwear and carry plenty of sun screen and water.