With phonolitic towers and lofty peaks, all carpeted with lush, green vegetation, the island’s backdrop would not be amiss on a Jurassic Park set. The waters are crystal clear and, below the surface, is a pristine underwater world.
Tourism is in its infancy here but, for those making the journey an authentic and sensory holiday awaits. Focus has been placed on sustainable development and an inclusive industry which will educate the residents of Principe, empowering them with the skills needed to become the hotel managers and service providers of the future. For those employed here, there appears to be sheer joy in the work and a sponge-like desire to learn and improve; their smiles and laughter attest to their enthusiasm.
Some 59% of Principe is inscribed as a natural park, with development largely along the northern and northeastern shores. Further south, the density of vegetation, the unforgiving terrain and lack of pathways leave the area largely unexplored except by boat.
Golden beaches surround the island and it is not unusual to find that you are alone on this stretch of paradise. Most bays are bordered by basalt rocks, protecting the beaches from swells and providing excellent snorkelling opportunities. Take a picnic and while-away the hours, dreaming you are on your own desert island.
Santo António, the island’s capital, is located on the east coast of the island. Picturesquely positioned on reclaimed marshland between two rivers, the city is a mix of colonial and traditional island architecture. Take a stroll around the central square ‘Marcelo da Veiga’, named after the writer who was born on the island, and visit the island’s oldest church ‘Nossa Senhora da Conceiçâo’, which has undergone restoration several times, and the handicraft stores located here.
The island’s colonial and plantation history is still evident. Cocoa and coffee crops were introduced by the Portuguese, and bananas, coconuts, breadfruit and pineapples remain staples of the local diet. No visit to the island is complete without a guided tour of, or stay at, a former plantation (Roça); Roça Sundy, Roça Pacienca, Roça Porto Real are open for visitors.