September 20, 2022
Even as late as 1908 a form of indentured labour persisted, and yet very little in the way of monuments or museums bearing witness to the horror of slavery can be found on the islands of São Tomé and Principe; nor does there seem to be any record of what was probably the first major revolt by slaves — a successful attack on the capital made in 1574. Similarly in the Americas the extraordinary and unique success of the slave revolt in the early 19th century which led to the defeat of the Napoleonic army in Haiti and the birth of the first democracy run by former slaves is underplayed by most historians.
Ultimately, the massive production of sugar and then cotton only made possible by slavery drove the Industrial Revolution and created employment and fabulous wealth for America, Britain and other nations.
This brief overview of one country’s involvement in slavery is by way of introducing you to these islands which have become a forgotten backwater. Today, they constitute a biodiversity hot spot, which perhaps explains why a billionaire philanthropist has recently invested around $100 million in an ambitious low-impact high-spend tourism project in the region. There are now a couple of special places to stay on the islands which are accessible via Lisbon and should definitely be on your bucket list.
Click here for more information on a collection of dreamy places to stay: HBD Principe Island. HBD stands for ‘Here Be Dragons’, an old cartographer’s shorthand for terra incognita.
- Príncipe island, the smaller island next to São Tomé, is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and the home to twenty-seven or more endemic bird species — more than the number of endemic species to be found on the Galapagos.
- The tourism levy you pay when staying here directly contributes to environmental and conservation efforts.
- Excursions accompanied by trained local guides support local communities, and searches by guests for endemic species help to raise awareness amongst Santomeans.
- Very yummy chocolate is made here and cacao is still the principal export.
- Three types of turtles nest on the beaches; join in the monitoring during the laying and hatching season from November to April.
- Take a boat to the pristine Banana beach which was the backdrop for the famous Bacardi Rum commercial.
- Sundy Praia with fourteen villas is a nature lover’s paradise beach hotel.
- Roça Sundy is a lovingly restored old plantation house and the site where Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity was proven in 1919 by Sir Arthur Eddington, a British astrophysicist.
For further reading and with thanks to these authors:
Born in Blackness, by Howard W. French: a fascinating and easy to read account of slavery and the making of the modern world.
Equator, by Miguel Sousa Tavares: an excellent novel about Sāo Tomé in the early 20th century.
The Slave Trade, by Hugh Thomas: a rather weighty but well researched tome on the subject.
Call Miles on 0207 723 5858
* Present-day northern Angola, the western portion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Republic of the Congo.
** Some people called the Angolares escaped enslavement to build a new life in the rugged, forested interior of São Tomé maintaining their autonomy until the late 1800s, eventually around the settlement named after them, São João dos Angolares.
NB prices shown were current at the time of writing the newsletter and are not necessarily current now.
Please ask for an updated quote.
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