Africa’s Hidden Jurassic Park Island

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The island of Príncipe, the smallest inhabited island in Africa’s island-nation of São Tomé and Príncipe, will take your breath away with its untouched nature, azure waters and relaxed way of life. Just a 20-minute hop via commuter plane from the larger sister island of São Tomé, Príncipe is my favorite location to hide away, reconnect with nature and completely let go.

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Rimmed with incredible beaches and swaying coconut palms, the island begs to be discovered. This gem of a place is largely visited by affluent West Africans from countries like Gabon and Nigeria – as well as Portuguese who take advantage of the only non-stop flights from Europe on TAP Portugal from Lisbon’s Pertola International Airport. The island is a biosphere reserve and a perfect match for those looking to immerse themselves in eco-friendly luxury, sea turtles, dolphin and whales included.

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My favorite place to stay on the island, out of several luxury options, is the incredible, beachside Bom Bom Island Resort. The hotel is located on a quiet, private beach that peers out onto the crystalline gulf of Guinea. It features 19 intimate bungalows outfitted with large living rooms, white linen-clad beds, spacious bathrooms and vaulted wooden ceilings. Everything is decorated in airy white tones, which keeps the eye focused on the sea right at your doorstep.

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The property of the hotel is set within a jungle, which has been cleared, slightly, to offer a main reception area with gift boutique, spa, pool area and a long wooden bridge that glides over the emerald waters and into the restaurant, which sits on a separate rocky island overlooking the sea. At Bom Bom, you are literally in an oasis of calm and luxury – which is very difficult to pry yourself from even for a moment to see the rest of the island.

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Walking through the pathways of the resort, you might bump into a lizard scampering down the stalk of a ginger plant, or bats flying overhead.

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Once you’ve had enough of the relaxation at Bom Bom, the hotel will organize a tour of the island – which includes journeying through its many mountain roads (offering stunning views), and into the small town of Santo António. In town, you can walk around the small square which is flanked by historic colonial buildings erected by the Portuguese during their rule.

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The streets are quiet – no traffic here. Bom Bom will even organize lunch, a $5 extravaganza of homemade local seafood, rice, fruit, coffee and more – all fantastic and delicious.

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What I love most about Príncipe, aside from the nature, are the colors that pop-up everywhere…

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Local children can often be seen playing with each other in-town, on the beaches or near their homes in the hills.

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Smiles seem to greet you wherever you go.

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On Príncipe, you can expect to stumble upon many abandoned cacao plantations – some that are still in operation – but many that stand only as relics of the past.

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And, again, the nature will stun you.

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Whether you’re familiar with São Tomé and Príncipe or not, it’s a must for 2017. Only a 6-hour flight from Portugal, getting here is not as hard as it may seem. American visitors do not need a visa for stays under 15 days. There is no place quite like this African nation and, I have to say, it’s one of the most unique and beautiful places I have ever seen.