image

Colonial "Roça" and plantations houses

Sao Tome and Principe Island's have a vibrant and fascinating history. They were discovered in 1471 and became a Portuguese colony; historic claims to fame were as a “holding center” for slaves taken from West Africa enroute to the Americas. In the early 1800s, coffee and cacao plantations (locally known as “Roças”) were developed on the island's rich volcanic soils. By 1908, Sao Tome had become the world’s largest producer of cocoa. Since then, the country has suffered many years of agricultural decline although cocoa continues to be a major cash crop.

This fascinating history dominated by the slave trade and plantations, has left several historical landmarks. A plantation slavery culture in the ‘roças’ has been eradicated and some of the owners’ mansion houses are now used as small boutique hotels. Take the time to pay a visit to the various plantation houses dating back to the colonial epoch. Many of them are now run as hotels or cafés where you can spend the night and relax on the spacious verandas. Others are now abandoned and reverting to interesting secondary forest growth.

Take a trip to an old plantation and visit some of the most beautiful roças and travel in time to the days when Sao Tomé was a slave station on the route to Brazil. Here are some plantations worth seeing: Ponta do sol (on Principe), Agua Izé, Ribiera Peixe, Monté Café, Roca de São Joao, Roca de Bombaim, Roca de Monteforte.

Sundi and St. Joaquim
Sundi was once the home of the Portuguese royal family. Only by visiting this roça can you come to understand how self-sufficient such colonial farms once were. Sundi boasts a very large hospital, a church, a very big workshop, some stables, coffee- and cocoa-roasting facilities, an enormous mansion, the sleeping quarters for hundreds of labourers, a railway network with steam locomotive and various other outbuildings.