Three dream holidays for nature lovers

Castara Retreats in Tobago
Castara Retreats in Tobago is situated in the oldest forest reserve in the Western hemisphere

From São Tomé and Principe – “Africa’s Galápagos” – to turtle habitats in Tobago, Alice Gråhns reports on some secluded holidays for nature lovers.

“As I fly the 180km from São Tomé – the big brother of the two-island country of São Tomé and Principe that attracts only a dribble of visitors – Principe erupts from the Atlantic, vertiginous incisors of jungle-clad rock spiking towards the gods,” says Ian Belcher in The Times. Sundy Praia (SundyPrincipe.com) is located on the northwest coast of Principe in a Unesco biosphere reserve and is “the planet’s… perhaps most discreet wilderness retreat”.

Sundy Praia’s 15 villas have “tasteful contemporary designs [and] clever local flourishes”. The infinity pool “is surrounded by walls of the island’s black basalt”, while the reception has a beautifully carved check-in desk. The surrounding forest has mango and coconut trees, alongside banana palms and fan-leaf bushes. São Tomé and Principe also has 28 bird species found nowhere else in the world, including the exquisite blue and gold conobias, along with unique amphibians and snakes. The country is sometimes called “Africa’s Galápagos”, but that short-changes these two small islands that have similar numbers of endemic species in just an eighth of
the space.

Turtles in Tobago

The Main Ridge Forest Reserve of Tobago is “the oldest forest reserve in the Western hemisphere, and is teeming with wildlife”, says Tamara Hinson in the Daily Express. “After 48 hours in this nature lover’s paradise, nothing surprised me.” Tobago has no chain hotels, but loads of eco-resorts, and one of the best is Castara Retreats (CastaraRetreats.com), a cluster of wooden villas built into a hillside and connected by palm-fringed walkways on the western side of the island.

Activities include a kayak excursion to Bon Accord Lagoon, which is “one of the world’s best spots to experience bioluminescence” – the light given off by microscopic organisms, and “one of Tobago’s many natural wonders”. There are also yoga sessions and massages on offer. Some of Tobago’s most secluded beaches are close by, and the southern tip has some of the country’s most important turtle habitats.

The world’s largest waterfall

“There’s something very compelling about Iguazú Falls, a curtain of thrashing water nearly two miles long, which is claimed to be the largest waterfall system in the world,” says Sarah Marshall in The Daily Telegraph. The waterfalls spill over the Paraná Plateau, straddling southern Brazil and northeast Argentina, and are split between two national parks. Eco lodge Awasi Iguazú (AwasIguazu.com) recently opened in the wilder, more rugged Argentinian sector. The 14-villa property has a private guide system – with one adventure expert and vehicle allocated to each guest –tailoring a choice of activities to individual requests. Two hours from the falls is Yacui Reserve, “a swathe of forest flourishing with native rosewood and palm heart trees”. Here guests paddle along a quiet tributary of the Iguazú river, “where dragonflies and driftwood are the only passing traffic”.