Sao Tome and Principe Travel Guide
Sitting off the coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea, the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe has all the hallmarks of a tropical paradise. It sits on the equator, it is blessed with an abundance of beaches, and it has a beautiful mountainous interior, which are all things that travel operators should be salivating over.
Instead, its location in Africa and the lack of effort into tourism promotion by the government has allowed to fly under the radar. Looking to diversify its economy from agriculture, things may be about to change soon, so if you’re looking to discover one of the few remaining unspoiled tropical hideaways on Earth, now is the time to discover Sao Tome and Principe.
Currency: Sao Tome and Principe Dobras
Languages: Portuguese, Forro
What To Do
Begin your time on the islands by visiting the Museu Nacional De Sao Tome & Principe. This institution contains many artifacts from this nation’s history, including a variety of items from plantations across the two main isles, and specimens detailing its natural history.
Don’t leave without checking out the photographic exhibit of the Batepá massacre, a tragic disaster that was easily the darkest hour of San Tome and Principe. After hearing about a plan to bring over additional workers from Cape Verde to help alleviate an alleged labor shortage, protests were organized by the Creole community to voice their displeasure at this proposal.
Wanting to quell this dissent quickly and decisively, rumors were spread by authorities that a Communist revolution was in the offing. Militias were formed by white plantation owners and non-Creoles, leading to the deaths of many hundreds of protesters.
Their atrocities included extensive torture sessions for some of those that were detained, with many succumbing to their injuries.
While many visitors view the beaches in San Tome and Principe as places to relax and soak in one of the few remaining unspoiled tropical paradises in the world, many of them are also critically important breeding grounds for a variety of endangered marine turtle species.
Learn about the efforts of conservationists here by tagging along with those employed by the Observacao de Tartarugas Marinhas. In addition to learning about these beautiful animals, you may get the chance to accompany them on night time hikes to retrieve eggs after turtles lay them in the sand.
Lit only by the light of the full moon, you will be able to watch sea turtles dig decoy nests, only to empty their eggs into the true one. After the mother turtle has left, conservationists at the center will then collect the eggs and place them in a nursery, safe from the reach of predators that would otherwise end up eating them.
This is a fate that befalls as much as two-thirds of all eggs laid, making this practice a crucial part of helping sea turtles rebound from their current predicament.
Active travelers will not want to miss the chance to climb Pico Sao Tome, a volcano that is responsible for creating the entire island of Sao Tome. With its summit sitting at an elevation of just over 2,000 meters above sea level, reaching the top will grant you relief from the heat of the tropical lowlands.
The early portions of your hike will take you through cocoa and coffee plantations, two crops which constitute a significant portion of the economic output of San Tome and Principe. The length of the hike means that climbing Pico Sao Tome is an endeavor that will take at least two days.
Thankfully, there is a camp located several hundred meters beneath the summit that will allow hikers to stay the night before making an attempt on the peak the next morning.
If you are more content to simply take in the sights rather than climb them, don’t neglect to check out Pico Cao Grande, as it is one of the most prominent natural sights in San Tome and Principe.
A legacy of Sao Tome’s volcanic past, this 370-meter high tower of rock was formed by solidified magma that maintained its shape even after the surrounding sedimentary rock eroded away. Although this spire is popular with rock climbers, it is not to be taken lightly, as not only the are the routes very challenging, but snakes also live in its crevices.
Although only Sao Tome and Principe is far from the most popular destination with tourists worldwide, this island nation has more than its fair share of amazing beaches. If you are on Sao Tome, be sure to set aside at least one day to relax on the sands of Praia Jale.
Swimming can be problematic due to the presence of a strong current, but if you are well-educated on rip currents, it may be a great place to go surfing.
However, if you are looking to experience this country’s best beaches, you are best off searching for them on the island of Principe. On this isle, Banana Beach is the best of the bunch, as the colour of the sand is white to off-white, the water is a divine shade of blue-green, and there are some excellent opportunities for snorkeling just offshore.
Best of all, since you are in Sao Tome and Principe, chances are good that you will be the only tourists on this beach, and even if you aren’t, you will be able to count your fellow foreigners on one hand.
What to Eat
If you are having breakfast in Sao Tome and Principe, be sure to try some Arroz Doce. Translating into English as rice pudding, the version enjoyed in this country is the Portuguese one, which is made by combining rice with cinnamon, lemon peel, sugar, eggs, and milk.
Those wishing to sample the national dish of Sao Tome and Principe will want to ask around where Calulu is served. Made in a pan using fish, chicken, or pork, it is cooked together with beans and palm oil.
You will most often find this dish at religious festivals and in family homes, so be sure to be on the lookout for either opportunity during your time in the country.
When it comes time for dessert, be on the lookout for some Canjica. Made with maize kernels, sugar, cinnamon, water, and eggs, it is a porridge that many locals hold in high esteem, so be sure to try some while you are there.