SÃO TOMÉ & PRÍNCIPE

IT’S NOT EASY TO GET TO WEST AFRICA’S ‘CHOCO­LATE ISLES’, OFF THE COAST OF GABON, BUT ANY CON­CERNS WILL MELT AWAY ONCE YOU REACH THESE EX­QUIS­ITE EN­CLAVES

Getaway (South Africa) - - NEWS - WORDS & PHO­TO­GRAPHS BY JUSTIN FOX

Justin Fox cap­tures the al­lure of these isles off West Africa in pic­tures

HOW HE GOT THE SHOTS

Just be­fore jump­ing into the edi­to­rial hot seat at Getaway, pho­to­jour­nal­ist Justin Fox was in­vited by Clas­sic Port­fo­lio to ex­pe­ri­ence a num­ber of eco lodges on São Tomé and Príncipe. South African en­treprenuer Mark Shut­tle­worth has in­vested in the lodges to up­lift these for­mer Por­tuguese plan­ta­tion is­lands. It’s not a bud­get hol­i­day, so vis­it­ing is likely to be a once-in-a-life­time ex­pe­ri­ence.

TRAVEL PLAN­NER

It re­quires a flight from Joburg to Luanda (about R6 000 pp re­turn) with TAAG An­gola, then a con­nec­tion to São Tomé on a Fri, Sun or Wed (about R5 100 pp re­turn). Flights from Cape Town to Luanda (about R7 800 pp) re­turn via Joburg. Flights be­tween the is­lands cost R3400 re­turn on Africa’s Con­nec­tion. It’s warm all year round in the trop­ics; the rainy sea­sons are from Oc­to­ber to De­cem­ber and March to May (although on Justin’s rainy-sea­son trip there was plenty of sun). Ac­tiv­i­ties in­clude bio­sphere trails, is­land tours, com­mu­nity visits, plan­ta­tion tours, scuba div­ing and snorkelling, boat trips, bird watch­ing and mon­i­tor­ing tur­tles. Justin stayed at: Omali

Lodge, a bou­tique ho­tel on the beach­front in São Tomé town (from R2540 pp shar­ing);

Roça Sundy, on Príncipe, of­fers two colo­nial guest houses on a work­ing plan­ta­tion (from R2490 pp shar­ing); Praia Sundy has luxury

tented vil­las amid the for­est on a pri­vate beach (from R7280 pp shar­ing). Any is­land stay can be tai­lor-made, but we rec­om­mend the seven-night, DBB pack­age for R5 893 pp shar­ing per night, which in­cludes stays at all three lodges, flights be­tween São Tomé and Príncipe, trans­fers and is­land tours. En­quire about fam­ily pack­ages. For reser­va­tions, email sales@hbd.com (dis­cov­er­principeis­land.com). For info, call 021-876-2153. clas­sic-port­fo­lio.com

LEFT With vol­canic peaks ris­ing out of the ocean, im­pen­e­tra­ble forests and iso­lated beaches, com­bined with a high den­sity of en­demic species, Príncipe is of­ten re­ferred to as the ‘Galá­pa­gos of Africa’. We took a boat from Praia Sundy to go snorkelling in the se­cluded bays of Príncipe Bio­sphere Re­serve, which cov­ers the south­ern half of the is­land.

BE­LOW The ribbed ceil­ing of the restau­rant at Praia Sundy makes it feel as though you’re in­side the stom­ach of an ar­bo­real whale. Chefs use the is­land’s culi­nary tra­di­tions and nat­u­ral bounty – plants sourced from the forests, and tuna and wa­hoo from the sur­round­ing wa­ters – to cre­ate un­usual and de­li­cious sea­sonal menus.

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