by Emma Chereskin

Today we headed for Sao Tome’s Botanical Gardens at Bom Sucesso. Located high up in the mountains, it took a 2-hour long trek to get there from the city center. We were treated to a lovely road trip through villages and gorgeous rainforest, where we learned that wild pigs and goats abound on the island. The gardens are situated above the cloud bank, so we were surrounded by surreal mist as we toured the grounds.

Our guide led us around the gardens, pointing out different species of plants, some endemic, and describing their properties and uses. We were captivated by the beauty and colors of the plants. We learned which plants were good to make tea out of and which were used for medicine when you were sick. We even learned which plants were considered aphrodisiacs. One of the most interesting plants turned out to be the cinnamon tree. Cinnamon sticks come from the bark of the cinnamon tree and we were able to sniff the bark in its natural state before the drying process. So cool!

We eventually came to a small greenhouse with many hanging plant boxes. We had reached the orchid house! Our guide explained that there were many different species of orchids on the island, roughly half of which were endemic, meaning we could only see them here. The way they had planted the orchids in the hanging boxes was unlike anything we had ever seen. So beautiful!

A papaya tree was also featured on our tour and we learned that the bottom of the tree had large beautiful yellow flowers while the papaya fruit was located up at the very top of the tree. Who knew? We journeyed on to see huge elephant ear plants, a mangrove tree and even giant snails! The snails live in the jungles and make for a tasty snack in a pinch.

After the tour we were able to try some bananas that had just been cut down from a tree. We both agreed they were some of the best bananas we had ever had. The journey through the botanical gardens at Bom Sucesso was definitely worth the trek up into the cloud bank.