Rest Your Head - SUNDY PRAIA

Rest Your Head

As it recovers from a dark history and its native wildlife thrives, sustainable tourism is transforming the twin West African islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, which together form one of the world’s smallest nations.
Quite honestly, it is something of a miracle that these two stunning equatorial islands, which lie 210 km off the coast of West Africa, have remained under the tourist radar for quite so long. Part of the reason that these former Portuguese colonies have been overlooked is that they have lacked the kind of properties to attract all but the most adventurous traveller.
Then, eight years ago, tech billionaire Mark Shuttleworth visited Príncipe, the smaller and quieter of the two islands but still a riot of dense jungle and volcanic rock. Shuttleworth fell in love with the place and its people, bought the island and embarked upon a dynamic investment programme in tandem with an enthusiastic president. The result is a harnessing of sustainable tourism to reinvigorate Príncipe’s ailing economy, provide employment and protect the island’s fragile ecosystem. The island’s dark history of slavery was completely flipped. Plantations that once exploited Angolans and Cape Verdeans were transformed into hotels, organic farms and small-scale co-operatives.
Fashioned by French architect Didier Lefort and located on a secluded Príncipe bay, handsome Sundy Praia lodge consists of 15 seriously smart and spacious tented villas, beautifully designed and elegantly furnished. Each boasts a mammoth stone bath standing in a windowed alcove; a huge bed offering stunning vistas of the beach and sea through floor-to-ceiling windows, and a private pool on a sprawling timber wooden deck. Toiletries, spa products and even mini-bar snacks are made using organic and sustainable local ingredients. Everything is cocooned using indigenous plants, soaring bamboos and massive trees populated by monkeys and 28 bird species found nowhere else on earth. The oldest of three oceanic volcanic islands in the Gulf of Guinea, the whole of Príncipe was declared a UNESCO biosphere in 2012 since it’s an area of great interest for the conservation of global biological diversity. So, if you are craving a Galapagos-like adventure in Africa, a visit to Sundy Praia on Príncipe will surely not disappoint.