Be first to go: Africa's little-known tropical islands
Off the coast of Gabon, 140 miles adrift in the Atlantic, Príncipe is a jungled, mountainous speck of land about 20 miles by five. Settled in the 15th century by Portuguese mariners, much of it was turned over to cacao plantations. Since independence in 1975, many have been abandoned, slowly returning to nature, until the whole island was designated a UNESCO Bio Reserve in 2012.
It now has more endemic species per square mile than anywhere else on Earth. Príncipe first caught our attention the following year, when South African tech billionaire Mark Shuttleworth opened Bom Bom Island lodge on one of its islets. With its name aptly meaning ‘good, good’, Bom Bom was conceived of as part of a more ambitious project for Príncipe: sustainable development in partnership with the local authorities.
Now all eyes are back on the island as Shuttleworth is set to open a converted plantation house, Roca Sundy, and a tented beach camp, Sundy Praia. Builders have restored the house back to its turn-of-the-20th-century heyday, around the time when, curiously, Sir Albert Eddington helped prove Einstein’s theory of relativity with his photographs of stars taken during the 1919 solar eclipse here. In December, Sundy Praia opens with 15 tented villas, a thatched bamboo restaurant using organic local produce, and a spa where therapies incorporate essential oils produced by the community.
Source: Condé Nast Traveler.