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Roça Abade - A view from our expert author


The Hotel Rural in Roça Abade, São Tomé and Príncipe by Marco Muscarà, www.marcomuscara.comThe Hotel Rural in Roça Abade – the main house of the plantation has been completely renovated in a traditional style © Marco Muscarà, www.marcomuscara.com

The main house of the plantation was resurrected from the ruins, using natural materials by amenable Carlos Pinheiro, of Príncipe Tours. Daily life continues at the small settlement across the green. Various hikes are possible; ask Carlos for the illustrated itinerary sheets he has prepared. The managers sleep in the plantation below. I have wonderful memories of armchair birdspotting from the breakfast table, with monkeys clamouring in the tree behind the house. The cook, Minga, can wash your clothes for you. If you’re feeling energetic, Carlos makes available his mountain bike, and if you need to connect to the virtual world, he will bring his Wi-Fi router over.

Motocross bikes, and a car with or without driver are available for hire. Information on various guided walks is on offer in English and French. I recommend a longish 5- to 6-hour hike via Azeitona that includes Ribeira Izé with its fine swimming beach, and the site of the first capital of Príncipe. Of the possible boat trips, there is the volta a ilha tour around the island, with or without sleepover on Praia Grande Beach. Another very special boat excursion could be organised to the Boné de Joquei islet (305m), for snorkelling and a picnic (note that you have to swim the last bit to get there).

Birdwatchers can tick off some Príncipe endemics from the breakfast table at this cosy and charming plantation.

You will be given a warm welcome at Roça Abade (9 rooms, some en suite; just 7.5km (30mins’ drive) from the capital; tel: 991 6024; email: rocaabade@gmail.com), a satellite of the Porto Real plantation, starting with flowers from the colourful garden on your bed. It is a bit out of the way, but there is a cosy feeling about this place and its remoteness makes it charming, too. At 90m above sea level, there is often a little breeze, which also helps to keep away the mozzies. Of the three nearby beaches, pretty Salgada is fairly accessible just down the road, Praia Abade, while nearer, has a fishing village, and to reach Esprainha you really need a guide.

Non-motorised travellers can request transport with Carlos or organise a motorbike from town. Meals are taken on the large veranda, and breakfasts of fresh fruit, juice, rolls and jams (sometimes local, sometimes imported quince) are good, though you might have to request a couple of things the day before. In the evening, you can request grilled fish with the Principe speciality of molho-no-fogo (a smoked fish dish), for instance. As a general rule, while Carlos’s employee, Ceita, is lovely and gradually picking up some English, you’re probably best off staying here when the owner is around. Camping is also planned; at the moment you can bring your own tent and for a small pitching fee also use the bathroom facilities.

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