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São Tomé and Príncipe a hidden treasure and the Galapagos of Africa


These two idyllic islands are often called the ‘African Galápagos’ due to the high number of endemic birds present in such a small area, these islands offer a rare glimpse into the natural world stood still for hundreds of years.

If you are looking for an outdoors adventure miles off the beaten tourist track, then the leafy paradise of São Tomé and Príncipe may just be exactly what you are looking for.

This little-known corner of the world is home to at least 25 endemic bird species, along with many of the West African mainland specialities. Besides being a birders’ paradise, they also host a small number of endemic reptiles, amphibians and several plants!

São Tomé and Príncipe gained independence from Portugal in 1975, having once been home to a vast network of plantations and a centre of global cocoa production.

São Tomé is the larger of the two islands, home to the capital (São Tomé) and main airport. A daily flight connects the smaller island of Príncipe, which is often referred to as ‘The Galapagos of Africa’.

On Príncipe in particular, an island of just 7,000 inhabitants, there are unspoilt beaches, jungles to explore, colourful culture and a myriad wildlife –all making it a delight for ecotourists.

Príncipe is part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, a global programme designed to foster the conservation of biological and cultural diversity, promoting economic and social development.

Confusingly, São Tomé is actually the capital of both the islands (São Tomé and Príncipe). It can be an interesting place to spend a day or two learning about its Portuguese colonial history – the capital was first the centre for the Atlantic slave trade, and then was a hugely productive spot for coffee and cocoa cultivation. Today, the locals are relaxed and friendly, adding a huge amount of charisma of visiting the country that time forgot. 

Where is São Tomé and Príncipe located?

São Tomé and Príncipe are located off the West coast of Africa, with its closest mainland countries being Gambon for the bigger São Tomé Island, and Equatorial Guinea for Príncipe Island. The Islands are around 140km apart from each other and are located around 225km off the coastline in the Gulf of Guinea. 

When to visit São Tomé and Príncipe

São Tomé and Príncipe lie on the Equator and as such have a warm and humid climate virtually all year round.

Temperatures average between 23°C and 30°C throughout the year, with cooler temperatures in the mountainous interior.

A rainy season runs between October and May, with April and November traditionally the wettest months.

May and October are often seen as the best times to visit weather-wise, while those visiting between July and October have the best chances of seeing migratory humpback whales.

Why go on a São Tomé and Príncipe holiday?

Activities to be enjoyed in São Tomé and Príncipe range from whale & bird watching, to hikes, to scuba diving or simply sauntering around a fishing village enjoying the local bustle of island life.

  • It is a rare slice of untouched island life. For those who don’t like the bustle of tourism, then there is possibly nowhere better to get lost than on these islands where you really feel as though you are discovering a paradise of natural wonders and the palpable history all for yourself.
  • The unspoilt jungles will delight birders & wanderers alike. Not a big mammal destination as it has always been separate from mainland West Africa, but one for those who appreciate the little things from insects, to frogs, to the extremely rare & endangered São Tomé fiscal – there is so much to see here for nature connoisseurs.
  • Activities for true adventurers; there is so much to do here from deep sea fishing, to snorkelling, to relaxing on the beach and on to jungle treks, birding and whale watching. Something for everyone in this lost world of a bygone era.

Why is Eco tourism on São Tomé and Príncipe so important?

Eco tourism at its finest: The only few lodges where you can stay on the islands completely revolve around and pride themselves on eco-tourism, and here, unlike many other destinations, you can truly educate yourself on & immerse yourself in the conservation projects on the island

For further information, please do feel free to contact Nicola directly or at The Explorations Company for further inspiration and unforgettable safaris and holidays to Africa, Asia, and Latin America

Or, if you would like to just dream some more for now then you can by visiting our Video Library.

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