You enter this plantation on Príncipe through a picturesque fairytale, if slightly askew, crenellated entrance gate, with an old rusty cannon outside.

The casa grande is a double-storey mansion with arched windows and doors and bare wooden floors, with a large slave bell in one corner. From spring 2014 you can stay overnight on the plantation, as it has been turned into a luxury plantation experience, under the supervision of Zimbabwean Henry Cronje, who fell in love with Príncipe. The inhabitants were resettled in two dozen purpose-built houses next door.

A short walk south from the plantation leads to a telecommunications mast with a viewpoint for Praia Macaco. What most visitors do, though, is head north for a sweeping balustrade terrace, the miradouro, the best viewpoint for Banana Beach, also reached after only about ten minutes. A guide once told me of his father relating to him the atrocities of the colonial era that happened here, of men being tied up and thrown over the balustrade. A track leads down to the beach (maybe a 15-minute walk), and from there you can carry on walking along the coast.

The Belo Monte plantation entrance, São Tomé and Príncipe by Kathleen BeckerThe picturesque fairytale, if slightly askew, crenellated entrance gate to the Belo Monte plantation © Kathleen Becker

I’ve found people here to be very friendly and chatty, and it shouldn’t be difficult to arrange a guide. The beach down the other side is the black-sand Praia Preta, and the local name for the conical mountain behind is Pico Mae (‘mother’).

To reach Belo Monte from Santo António, head out towards the airport, but take a right at the tarmacked turn-off, going through a village. The tarmac soon turns into a red dirt road, only negotiable by 4×4. At the first fork in the road, take a right (the left-hand track leads to lovely Roça Paciencia).

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