Adrift in the Gulf of Guinea, some 140 miles off the western coast of Africa, a primordial rock skyline pokes up through an impossibly green forest. This is the real-life island of Príncipe, the oldest of a string of three volcanic islands—and the entire place is protected as a UNESCO biosphere reserve. On the isle’s golden-sand fringes, cocooned among tropical almond trees and hanging vines on land that was once a vast cacao plantation, are the 15 tented villas of Sundy Praia. At once sumptuous and true to place, the wood-paneled structures stand as testament to the days when fishermen huts stood in this place at the edge of the sparkling sea. Nesting turtles take refuge here, and the jungle beckons tantalizingly, rich in endemic birds and hidden waterfalls.
After South African entrepreneur and millionaire Mark Shuttleworth became the first African to rocket into space, he returned to Earth with a new perspective on the planet’s fragility. He visited the remote, wildlife-rich island of Príncipe and fell under its otherworldly spell—and formed the company HBD Príncipe, an affiliated NGO, and a network of four luxurious eco-lodges with the stated mission of transforming Príncipe into a model of sustainable development. The lodge is a pioneer in recycling initiatives and is striving to completely eliminate plastic from the island. Engaging with the native community is also integral to the lodge’s goals. Sundy Praia gives the island its first five-star accommodations, run by a highly trained and eager local staff made up of the descendants of slaves and plantation workers.
Each of our lodges has created a special complimentary experience offered exclusively to guests who visit through a National Geographic expedition. At Sundy Praia, National Geographic guests are invited to take an exclusive canoe tour with a local fisherman on a traditional wooden pirogue.
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