SÃO TOMÉ & PRÍNCIPE
The forgotten islands in the Bight of Biafra archiplegao off Equatorial Guinea in Central Africa
A veritable paradise awaits any visitor to these remote islands - the smallest country in Africa after the Seychelles -
lying just off the coast of Central Africa
Not yet discovered by the traveling community, these islands would be on almost every travelers' list of places to see, if they had ever heard of the country. With cloud-capped volcanoes, mistry rainforests, splendid white-sand beaches and crystal-clear waters the islands are the perfect place for adventure, mainly for the intrepid traveller dubbling with the idea of exploring these two islands.
One of the main appeals is the isolation and unparalleled peace and quiet. The local poeple are laid back to say the least with a culture revolving around "leve-leve", which roughly means "take it easy". However, energetic travelers, such has ourselves, will arrange 4x4 jeeps and explore the islands. Driving and trekking aorund the islands brought us to timeless fishing villages, historic plantations, and several natural wonders.
São Tomé and Príncipe is one of those places that you want to keep for yourself and go back to again and again.
Location: The islands of São Tomé, Rolas and Príncipe, during three weeks
We designed a trip during the winter time for three weeks where the first two weeks was spent exploring all of São Tomé island and the last week was spent crisscrossing Príncipe island. The islands are some of the most expensive to get to with few connections to the continent, but once there we kept costs low by living mostly in Airbnb houses and eating street food. We also arranged 4x4 Toyota land cruisers on both islands to obtain ultimate freedom to explore.
On São Tomé we based ourselves in three different locations: the capital in north, Porto Alege in south and on Illhéu das Rolas off the south coast. From the capital we traveled across the interior and the remote northern and western coasts of the island. The island of São Tomé is primarily dense mountainous rainforest and cacao plantations, capped by 2024m Pico Cão Grande which is surrounded by a dozen other inactive volcanic cones all over 1000m high. The interior part is therefore cloudy, misty, and refreshingly cool. Here, we would explore the areas around Trinidade, Bombain, Boa Vista and Bom Successo – the area boasts many coffee and cocoa plantations, waterfalls and small markets. Going north and west, the terrain gets drier with rolling hills, rocky beaches and baobab trees. We did several day trips here to explore Guadeloupe, Fernão Dia, Morro Peixe and Neves as well as the many beaches in the area: Micoló, Governador, Tamarindos, Conchas and Lagoa Azul. These beaches offer excellent snorkeling and in season also egg-laying turtles.
By any measure the most charming part of São Tomé island is the east coast from the capital down to Ribeira Peixe which is covered by small fishing villages, rivers that plunge into the sea, and the forest that creeps down to sandy beaches, white, golden, graphite-grey, where we did not meet any single tourist. Recommendable stops are Santana, Roca Água Íze, Ribera Alfonso, Santa Cecilia, São João dos Angolares and Dona Augusta while several beaches are splendid such as Melão, Amador, Sete Ondas, Platos, Micondó, Angra Toledo, Angobó, Sta Cruz and Rei. In our view, this stretch is the heart of Santomean culture and an assault on the senses with people and pigs in the streets, women walking to the rivers to wash and dry their clothes, markets with piles of green lime, red chilli peppers green herbs and the metallic colors of swordfish for sale. The whole place feels very “undiscovered” and the further south we went, the poorer generally the people. In the south and at the tip of São Tomé, the islands’ isolation and poverty is striking. This part however offers the best beaches in the entire country such as Canada, Jalé, Piscina, Inhame and Alegre. Also, we went to offshore Illhéu das Rolas for some hiking, snorkeling and standing right on the equator.
If we thought São Tomé was beautiful, Príncipe was even more astonishing. The entire island is one big UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a truly authentic travel experience. During our week here we based ourselves in Santo António and did daytrips to everywhere on the island. The plantations in north around Sundy and Belo Monte are marvelous as are the many beaches in north such as Boi, Ribeira Izé, Local, Camphaina Coco, Bom Bom, Raita, Cajú, Banana and Praia Grande, the latter also excellent for encountering egg-laying turtles. In the central and eastern part of Príncipe, don’t miss out on the small hamlets of Picão, Nova Estrala, Abade and São Joaquim as well as Salagada beach and Praia Caiocão Baía das Agulhas. Finally, the south is great for hiking, especially to take in the views of the south of Príncipe island and Ilhéu Bone do Joqquei. The remoteness and laid-back atmosphere of Príncipe has real charm. "Leve-leve" you might ask? Here, it is called "móli-móli" - it's the same thing, only slower.