A basket of jars filled with golden honey and rich, berry jams sits atop the bar at Furnas Lake Villas on the island of São Miguel in the Azores. One of the varieties, ‘Incense Honey’, is only produced in the Azores and New Zealand. You can try a bite of the sweet goodness right there in the Furnas Lake Villas restaurant or take some jars home with you when you leave; however, it’s only once you’ve witnessed the property’s bee-keeping endeavors in person that you can truly appreciate the natural liquid gold for all that it is.
Scattered amongst the hydrangea gardens and rolling hills of the breathtaking Furnas Lake Villas property lie several dozen bee hives. Owners Manuel and Helena offer a wellness experience where you can venture up the mountainside with them in their old Land Rover truck and visit the hives in person. There, you’ll learn some bee keeping 101, be outfitted in cool protective bee gear, and catch a glimpse of where the magic happens. Their passion for the flora and fauna around them, along with sustainable endeavors, is beyond inspiring. For us, it was truly one of the most special hotel experiences we’ve ever had the fortune of participating in.
As it turns out, bee keeping is delicate and hard work; the hives must be tended to and the bees kept happy. In order to approach the hives, we had to cover ourselves head-to-toe in the protective gear and netting. Bee suits properly adorned, Manuel burned banana leaves and grass to create smoke to waft around the hives to calm the busy bees. Helena pumped the smoke as we approached the hive area.
Each bee colony consists of at least 20,000 bees and the sound of thousands of those tiny insects buzzing about is thrilling and slightly unnerving at the beginning. As we opened the first hive, a swarm of bees flew right out. Instinct tells you to get away and avoid being stung! Luckily, our suits kept us safe and Manuel and Helena knew exactly what they were doing.
Explaining everything as we went along, the owners taught us about the queen bee and where she lays her eggs. We learned that bees can find their specific hive from some 2-3km away, and that newly hatched bees can’t fly.
They told us how often they harvest the honey and that, as children, they chewed the honeycomb wax like gum. In awe of every moment, all we could do was nod our head and stare with saucer eyes as we witnessed the incredibly beautiful work of these tiny insects.
Manuel selected a portion of honey for us to take away and we closed up the hives. It’s crazy to think that nothing must first be done to the honey before we can enjoy it – so tasty and so natural.
Away from the bees, Helena carefully cut into the honeycomb, letting the gorgeous gold nectar slowly seep out. We enjoyed it like candy; sucking the honey from the comb and chewing it until all the goodness was gone.
We enjoyed our honey along with the most amazing mountain top picnic experience at Furnas Lake Villas -what an incredible night!
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