São Tomé and Principe Holidays – Tours & Adventures Travel Guide
“The remote island nation of São Tomé and Principe is an exotic paradise offering a unique mix of isolated natural beauty and classic architecture. It has a breathtaking landscape with once-active volcanoes, rugged terrain, beautiful palm-fringed beaches and dense forests. Nature lovers will get a chance to see a wide range of exotic birds while art buffs will get a chance to witness colonial Portuguese architecture. There are a host of fun filled activities for everyone to enjoy.”
São Tomé and Principe Holiday Highlights
History & Culture - Africa's second smallest nation, São Tomé and Principe consists of two main islands and a number of smaller islets. Portuguese navigators discovered the islands, while searching for a route to India in the early 1470s. The Portuguese used convicts and imported African slaves to work sugar plantations. After cacao was introduced in 1822, São Tomé and Príncipe went on to become a leading world producer of cocoa. São Tomé and Príncipe gained independence in 1975, although the first free elections were not held until 1991.
The capital and largest town is also called São Tomé and lies exactly on the equator. It has picturesque colonial Portuguese architecture and features the Presidential Place, the Fisherman’s Church and a cinema as well as attractive parks and many squares. There are some of the best examples in the world of Portuguese forts, estates and buildings, including the fortress museum at São Sabastiao where colonial art and religious artifacts can be viewed. The Agustinho Neto Mansion is a beautiful colonial Portuguese mansion, and São Joao dos Angolares is an ancient fishing town where the people speak a unique Creole language.
The main town of Principe is Santo Antonio, and is most intriguing with its well preserved colonial architecture that has managed to preserve the atmosphere that once existed in the region. The Bello Monte estate on Principe is a beautiful Portuguese estate and mansion.
Nature & Wildlife - The rainforests and tropical jungles of São Tomé are full with a rich variety of exotic birds. Make it a point to stop for bird watching on your hiking trip through the rainforests in order to marvel at the variety that lives in the jungle.
Humpback whales come to the waters around São Tomé from July to October. If you haven’t had a chance to see the biggest mammal of the water world you will definitely get the opportunity to gaze at the wondrous humpback whales is São Tomé. This is one of the most unique activities that visitors will get to experience on the island.
The Obo National Park is a reserve in the south-west part of São Tomé Island. The native flora includes a hundred different types of orchids. Local guides offer trips with bird-watching, observation of marine turtle nesting and ascension of Monte Pico. Turtles lay eggs from October to February at Praja de Micolo.
Walking, Trekking & Hiking - One of the best activities to engage in these exotic islands is hiking through the dense rainforests. São Tomé has a fascinating rainforest laid out over a massive stretch of land offering stunning views and an exuberant variety of plant and animal life.
Water Sports - The islands have some of the most exotic palm-fringed beaches with crystal-clear water and white and black sand due to the volcanic history of the island. The beaches offer visitors the chance to bask in the sun with the cool sea breeze blowing in their faces.
Water sports enthusiasts will find São Tomé and Principe offers them the ultimate environment for swimming, snorkeling or diving. The region boasts some of the clearest waters on the west coast of Africa. The Blue lagoon known as Lagoa Azul is one of the top sites for snorkeling on São Tomé.
Deep sea fishing - The waters are clear and rich with marine life which is great for fishing and boat tours. The most popular spot for deep-sea fishing is Bom Bom Island. There is a wide variety of fish in the waters surrounding the island and charter boats are readily available along with all the necessary equipment.
Visit the Rocas - The region of São Tomé and Principe is rich in cocoa plantations, known as rocas. Visitors should not miss the chance to witness the largest cocoa plantation in the country known as Agostinho Neto, which will give a clear feel for the region’s colonial past. Other cocoa plantations to visit include Ribeira Peixe, Monte Café and Agua Ize. Agua Ize can be explored by train, which makes the trip all the more fun.
Scenery & Landscapes - The country is rugged with mountains, dense tropical forest and palm-fringed beaches. There are a number of dormant volcanoes spread across the country. The tallest peak known as Pico de São Tomé stands at a height of 6,800 feet and is definitely worth a visit.
One of the most fascinating aspects of São Tomé is the many waterfalls that exist on the island. Waterfalls like the Boca de Inferno known as the Hell’s Mouth sea water fountain is an awe inspiring site that is truly worth a visit. Other prominent waterfalls that visitors should explore are the Cascada São Nicolãu situated near Pousada Boa Vista and the Ilheu de Rolas on Turtledove Island.
When To Go
Situated on the equator, the climate has heavy rainfall, high temperatures and humidity. The south of Sao Tome Island is wetter than the north because of the mountains. The main dry season is from early June to late September and you can visit then to coincide with whale watching between July and October. There is a second dry season, known as ‘Pequenha Gravana’, around the month of January. Between March and May the daily rains are normally followed by clear hot weather perfect for the beach.
- Although the country has a relatively low crime rate, visitors should be cautious as sporadic incidents of armed robberies do occur in the region.
- Good boots are a must especially if you plan on making your way through the rainforest.
- Visitors wishing to photograph local people should ask permission first.
- Greetings are expected to include a handshake.
- Hike through the rainforest.
- Visit the rocas.
- Visit the fortress museum at Sao Sabastiao.
- Indulge in gourmet chocolate.
- Go snorkeling at Lagoa Azul.