Mantis St Helena is a brand new hotel on the mystic St Helena Island which is located in the middle of the South Atlantic. The hotel officially opened its doors on the 28th of October 2017, and Mantis Collection thought it the perfect time to commission the first professional photographer to capture its new gem. True to Mantis’ mission; Mantis St Helena is an example of the best St Helena has to offer and was built and developed in harmony with the culture, architecture, and environment of the island’s capital – Jamestown. 8 of the hotel’s 30 rooms are Heritage Rooms which are located in the East India Company’s old Officer’s Barracks constructed circa 1772. Lovingly and respectfully restored by Mantis, this building now forms part of the hotel and is the basis of the architectural style chosen when the building plans were drawn up.
When Mantis Collection’s Group Marketing Manager, Sasha Ella, and the GM of the hotel, Matt Joshua, set off searching for a photographer they decided it could not be someone focused on buildings and room photography. “We needed a photographer who could encapsulate all the characteristics of a St Helena island experience, because truly – it is like no other”. When the pair found Des Jacobs of Mpumalanga, South Africa, it was not his vast and impressive portfolio of the best lodges in South Africa that landed him this job; but rather the spark in his voice when he spoke about his great love for landscapes. “His passion was evident as our eyes picked up on minute details tentatively brought to life on stunning images of vast bodies of land, water, and air”.
Des was ready to leave the day he got the call confirming he would be photographing one of the world’s last virgin landscapes, he could have walked out the house that minute with just his hiking boots, his Canon 6D and a 17 – 40 mm lens. His flight was booked for Saturday 28th October, however, due to heavy mist causing zero visibility on the runway – SA Airlink could only fly out following Monday. The technology that allows us to travel safely to this remote island is one of the few differences between us 21st-century sojourners, and the pioneers who ‘discovered’ it in 1502.
With clear skies predicted for the tropical South Atlantic island on Monday 30th of October, Des Jacobs and many other excited tourists, businessmen, and Saints set off from Johannesburg to the island of St Helena. Des described the flight as pleasant and filled with excited angst which boiled over in the conversations between passengers as the dramatic landscape came into sight. The winds were calm, and the Embraer airplane landed smoothly into the brand new airport. The airport staff serviced the passengers with the highest efficiency and an uber friendly manner. One thing Des hopes for is that the genuine and friendly service never wanes as the airport gets busier – it’s a highlight he will never forget.
Des was met at St Helena Airport by Matt Joshua, GM of Mantis St Helena. They hopped into a local taxi and enjoyed a 30-minute drive into Jamestown. “The drive was so beautiful, its given me new meaning to the words scenic or picturesque,” Des recounts checking into the hotel, and once again being blown away by the friendliness of The Saints. The locals working at the hotel are naturally hospitable, they want to assist you, and make you feel at home – it’s just in their nature!
The hotel has 30 rooms and is the most luxurious one on the island, the rooms are very nicely done. I had the best fish dishes there, I think apart from breakfast – all I ate was fresh seafood. There is nothing like that in Mpumalanga, so how could I resist? I suppose it could be put down to South Africa and St Helena’s mutual history, but I found the food to be familiar and very much what I am used to eating at home. There were some interesting twists though, like Black Pudding on the breakfast menu which I just had to try, and was pleasantly surprised by!
Walking out the hotel and up and down the hilly streets of Jamestown was my favourite part the day on the Island, there was always someone coming up to me and having a chat. One guy saw I had a camera and he took me for a quick tour of Jamestown, showing me nooks and crannies I would have certainly missed. Everyone is just so friendly and always greeting with smiles in their eyes.
For a small place, there is so much happening, and nothing stays the same which meant I always had something new to find and do in each moment. I made the most of my time there by doing what was best in the moment. When the sun is shining and the winds are calm, quickly get to the dive centre because you don’t know when next you’ll be able to explore ancient ocean wrecks and lose yourself in the undersea caves. I loved how accessible every place is from Mantis St Helena hotel – I could walk out the door and find myself climbing Jacob’s Ladder, fishing, or shooting from Diana’s Peak, wherever the moment took me.
When asked what his favourite lookout point on St Helena is, Des unwaveringly said Blue Hill. He said standing at the ‘Man and Horse Cliffs’ kept him in total awe of the contrasting yet complimentary sects of land and water in one line of vision. “St Helena is not a typical island. When I told my family I was going there they immediately starting going on about white-sand beaches and palm trees. Even when I first read about it being a volcanic island I imagined a mixture of barren, dark soil and greenery. I was never ready for the variety in the land, and the environment. With every turn I took I saw something different; I was the proverbial kid in a candy shop. There are variations of beauty there – from the barren, rocky shores, the green pastoral hills, to the desert-like areas – all so very different. The tropical weather ebbed and flowed as the clock ticked through the day, and the skies consistently reset the mood. St Helena is my muse!”
Click here to see some Des Jacob’s photographs of Mantis St Helena and the island.
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