We were staying on the African island of Principe, and after five nights at Roça Sundy, we moved to their sister property, Praia Sundy, a 20-minute drive on a rough downhill track.
The beachside property has 14 tents, although tent was an understatement as we had a huge comfortable four poster bed with full set of drapes which were pulled around at turndown, and a complicated console on each bedside table to control the myriad of lights. A three-seater sofa and chairs were covered in what I thought were elegant, but impractical cream covers, whilst his and hers wardrobes, all in a cream leatherette, lit up automatically when the door was opened. There were more drawers and cupboards than our 11 kg of luggage needed and to avoid losing things, we used the long writing desk to store things to keep them in sight. There was a coffee table, safe, TV, drinks cabinet with beer, soft drinks and snacks along with tea and coffee making facilities. The air conditioning was not particularly effective despite three units, due to the size of the room.
Apart from an enclosed shower and loo, the rest of the bathroom was open plan with two basins behind the bed, and a large, deep granite bath where nearby windows could be opened up for virtually al fresco bathing.
On our decked area at the front, there was another three-seater sofa, two chairs and two loungers which faced the trees and the sea. We never used this area as we spent the vast majority of our time on the beach. All in all, it was very over the top.
The best thing about Sundy Praia was Delfina the manager, who introduced herself at the first opportunity and was one of those people with the knack of appearing to be in more than one place at a time.
Our meal plan included breakfast and dinner (but not lunch) and a selected range of drinks. Unlike our experience at Roça Sundy, there was never a problem with the availability of these drinks, which to our delight, also included sparkling wine.
Each night dinner was a different experience. On arrival, we had a beach BBQ with salads, pasta, mussels, fish, lamb chops, rice, steamed vegetables, prawns and a selection of fabulous home-made breads. Our second night was the most disappointing as the buffet was late and possibly because of this, was a little cold. Each table had a tall three-pronged candelabra which when lit, could have been romantic if you’d been able to see your partner. Just as we were finishing the ‘entertainment’ began – women banging on drums with them taking in turns to vigorously shake their tumba (bottom) and we retired to the bar before the inevitable audience participation began.
On ‘Principe evening’, Gavin, the South African chef, handed over the kitchen to his staff to prepare local dishes whilst he acted as taster in chief. There were five courses: a green coloured soup (not too creamy, not too much and well-seasoned), sea snails (four in a sauce and sat on plantain), Calulu De Peixe (a delicious fish stew served with rice), and chicken with sprinkled ground manioc to soak up the tasty sauce. We wisely chose to share dessert of rice pudding with coconut milk and sweetcorn.
On our final night, dinner was set up on the lawn in front of the bar as there were only eight of us.
Breakfast had a good range of juice including fizz, cold meats and cheese, breads, salads, cakes, pancakes, cereals, yoghurts and fruits, quiche etc and a variety of eggs could be ordered.
On our final morning, Delfina suggested breakfast on the beach as it was ‘low season’. We enjoyed a true feast, which was beautifully presented: scrambled eggs, as ordered, three types of fruit (passion fruit, mini bananas, and papaya), juice, an assorted breadbasket with butter and two types of jam, a plate of cheese, ham and chorizo, a small jar of ginger juice, with coffee and milk in flasks. Just as we began tucking in, out came a bottle of fizz.
The swimming pool had several loungers around it, but we preferred the beach which was down a short flight of stone steps. Having found a couple of loungers, we were enjoying the peace and quiet only to be told rather rudely by another guest, that there were reserved for the front row tents. As there was nothing to indicate this, we sought out Delfina, who rolled her eyes and arranged for our loungers from the deck moved onto the beach. The guest then complained that her cushions were wet and sandy (erm, this is a beach) and as she never returned, we had the entire beach to ourselves. During the next few days, we watched as other guests selected the beds and were also turned off.
The beach was beautiful for walking along in both directions, the sea was warm and more importantly, easy to get in and out of, with no stones and a shallow gradient.
A complimentary 30-minute massage in the small spa was relaxing and there was a stack of books at reception for borrowing.
Despite the remote location of both the island and hotel and limited number of guests, we discovered the only other British couple lived in the small East Yorkshire town where I went to school, and where several friends still live. It can be a small world.