Meeting the oldest living land animal

Earlier in the year. I was a guest speaker on a cruise going from Cape Town to Namibia and then 1200 miles across to St Helena and Ascension Island.

Sand dunes in Namibia

While we were berthed in Namibia, I was able to do a day excursion  into the Namib desert with its striking vistas of endless barren canyons and sand dunes.

St Helena vista

St Helena is surprisingly verdant and tropical with green meadows dotted with cattle as this vista shows.

Jonathan and me

The highlight of the day spent touring the island was a visit to the Governor’s residence – Plantation House – where the oldest living land animal in the world resides. He is Jonathan, a Seychelles giant tortoise, brought to the island as a gift in 1832. He’s a friendly gentleman who allowed me to sit alongside him and scratch his neck.

Long Beach on Ascension Island

The weather was calm enough to allow us to tender ashore at Ascension Island. This gave me the chance to wander along a deserted beach in Robinson-Crusoe-style, dodging the Atlantic surf which pounded in. Long Beach, as it’s called, is one of the world’s biggest breeding sites for Green turtles. 10,000 nest here, the evidence clear in the huge bomb-like craters that lined the top of the beach.

One man and his goat

From Ascension Island we headed on round the coast of Africa to Senegal and berthed in Dakar. From here, I took a ferry across to the World Heritage site of Goree Island, for over 300 years, one of the most prevalent slave transit points. While perched on the ramparts of the island’s fort, I spotted a local giving his goat a thorough wash in the sea before trotting him back down the high street.