Some countries are so remote and obscure that it’s unlikely that we’ll ever hear of them. The island nation of Sao Tome and Principe is one such country. It turns out that these spectacular islands, which lie off the west coast of Africa, have some pretty amazing attractions for you to see. Are you ready to discover them? Let’s get started:
A brief history of Sao Tome and Principe
Located in the Gulf of Guinea, Sao Tome and Principe consists of two main islands that are 87 miles apart, together with a series of smaller islets. The islands were uninhabited when they were discovered by the Portuguese in the 15th Century, and they were gradually colonized and settled over the course of the next century. They soon became vital commercial and trading centers for the Atlantic slave trade.
The islands’ rich, volcanic soil made them ideal for cultivating sugar, coffee and cocoa. In fact, Sao Tome became the largest cocoa producer in the world by the beginning of the 20th Century. The country, which has a population of approximately 200,000 and is the second-smallest African country by geographical area, gained independence from Portugal in 1975.
1. Bom Bom Island
This beautiful little island, which lies just off the northern coast of Principe, is home to just 15 people, and covered in lush vegetation and boasts a tourist resort that lies between two beaches. It’s a great place to go deep sea fishing. If you’re lucky and there at the right time of year, you might just get to see a pod of humpback whales swimming nearby.
2. Obo Natural Park
Covering some 35% of Sao Tome, this incredible national park is home to one of the most striking geological sights in the entire world – the Pico Cao Grande. The needle-shaped volcanic plug peak rises dramatically over 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape, and has a summit that’s 2,175 feet above sea level. If that isn’t enough for you to take in, then you’ll be happy to know that the park is also home to some 700 different flora and fauna species.
3. Lagoa Azul
Lagoa Azul, which translates as “Blue Lagoon” into English, lies past the secluded beaches of Praia das Conchas and Praia dos Tamiraindos on the island of Sao Tome. In addition to being surrounded by giant baobab trees that are full of birds, the lagoon has crystal-clear water teeming with all kinds of marine life. There are few places in the world that are better for a snorkel than here.
4. Principe Island
Covering some 53 square miles and home to 5,000 people, Principe Island is actually a heavily-eroded volcano that’s believed to be some 3 million years old, and its topography is pretty much unique. It’s covered in numerous other small volcanic mountains, as well as dense rainforests. If empty beaches and beautiful bathing waters sound like your idea of fun, then you should definitely consider Principe.
5. Praia Jale
This idyllic beach is famous for giant female leatherback turtles making their way onto the sand in the early hours of the morning to lay their eggs. For a full-on tropical beach experience, be sure to spend a night or two in a hut on the beach – there’s no electricity or other modern distractions to speak of.
6. Boca de Inferno
Hell’s Mouth, as this place is called in English, is home to a natural phenomenon that’s caused by waves finding their way into a narrow ravine that leads into a cave with a hole in the roof. Water pressure gradually builds up and water is forced out through the hole, making for a spectacular sight.
7. Cascata Sao Nicolau
Beautiful waterfalls are a dime a dozen, but how many do you know that appear to gush right out of a vertical wall in the jungle? You’ll need to travel a few miles inland into Sao Tome’s mountains to see it, but it’ll definitely be worth your time.
8. Sao Tome
The capital city of Sao Tome and Principe is home to about 60,000 of the country’s inhabitants. Remnants of its colonial past can be seen everywhere, perhaps most notably in the architecture of the presidential palace and the cathedral. A highlight is the Sao Sebastiao Museum, which incorporates the first fort to be built on Sao Tome.
9. Roca Belo Monte
During the time of the Atlantic slave trade, plantation owners used to live very comfortably in Sao Tome and Principe. Remnants of this forgotten life can be seen in various plantations houses that still stand today. Most have been converted into hotels, with one of the best being Roca Belo Monte. In addition to the surroundings of jaw-dropping beauty, a visit to this hotel will allow you to take a step back in time.
10. Praia Banana
The most famous beach on Principe once starred in a famous commercial for Bacardi Rum, but you’ll be pleased to know that you’ll be highly unlikely to come across a camera crew when you visit. This picture-perfect beach is the perfect place for a spot of true relaxation.