“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
When travelers plan for vacations in Africa, there are many countries which come to mind like South Africa, Kenya, Mauritius, and Morocco. However, there are some lesser-known countries with spectacular attractions which deserve recognition and in this category are two-island nation of Sao Tome and Principe.
Sao Tome and Principe lies off the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. This is the second-smallest country in Africa only in front of the Seychelles. Though relatively unknown among many travelers, Sao Tome and Principe offers a perfect getaway. There is everything for everyone. With only 20 visitors per week visiting this country, you will get to explore the beauty that Sao Tome and Principe has to offer in a serene and peaceful environment.
Sao Tome which is Portuguese for Saint Thomas is the administrative capital of Sao Tome and Principe. In terms of attractions, this is where the bulk of the activities are. The most recognizable attraction in the capital is the Obo Natural Park.
The Obo Natural Park is a vast expanse of land covering over 235square kilometers. In comparison with other natural and national parks on the African continent, Obo Natural Park is fairly young as it was established in 2006. The park is characterized by rich dense virgin forests. The park is covered by a range of biotopes from the mountains to the plains. Obo Natural Park has both the high altitude dense rainforest and the secondary rainforests which were formerly plantations. In addition to the rainforests, there are also savanna and mangrove type vegetation thus the park has diverse offerings of ecosystems.
In the Obo Natural Park, your first port of call will be Bombain. This is the highest settlement in Sao Tome and Principe with an elevation of over 500 meters above sea level. Bombain also offers both the remote road and the hiking trail to the country’s tallest summit, the Pico de Sao Tome. Obo Natural Park has an abundance of wildlife including elands, wild beasts, and zebras among others. Different species of birds also breed in the Obo Natural Park due to its unique ecosystem. Among the popular species that you will find here but which are rare in other parts of the world are Sao Tome Grosbeak, Sao Tome Scoop Owl, dwarf olive ibis, sun birds, waxbill and many others. The Pico Cao Grande is a needle-shaped volcanic plug peak found in the Obo Natural Park. The Pico Cao Grande has a height of 370 meters on surrounding terrain but rises dramatically to 668 meters at the summit. This great feature was formed by solidifying magma in the vent of an active volcano. The Pico Cao Grande offers a great hiking experience for those who love hardcore adventure.
The Sao Sebastiao Museum is a great monumental figure in Sao Tome containing colonial era and religious art artifacts. The museum opened its doors in 1976 and has since developed to be one of the most revered places in Sao Tome and Principe. Among the art artifacts are the paintings of Manuella Vigoco a distinguished artist of his time (late 19th century).
Principe is the other island which is part of Sao Tome and Principe. Principe came to be as a volcano heavily eroded over 3 million years ago as per reports. A thick forest to the south of Principe forms part of the Obo Natural Park. Principe is surrounded by smaller islands each with their own history, these include a part of the Cameron Line Archipelago, Tinhosa Grande, Tinhosa Pequena, IIheu Caraco and IIheu Bom Bom.
In Principe, the major attractions are the sandy beaches. The beaches have many trees and palms offering the perfect tropical landscape. The beaches are not overpopulated by tourists as such the experience will be calm and comfortable in a cozy environment. Other activities you can engage in on the beaches of Principe are snorkeling, swimming and also you can go out fishing in designated zones.
In 2012, the nation of Sao Tome and Principe established the Island of Principe Biosphere Reserve. The Reserve covers the plains and the mountainous parts of Principe. The Reserve has great biodiversity in its marine and terrestrial ecosystems. There are different species of bats, reptiles, birds, sea turtles, seabirds, insects together with a large variety of vascular plants and molluscs. The Island of Principe Biosphere Reserve has been recognized by UNESCO as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Depending on your preferences in traveling, when interested more in bird watching it is best to travel between October and March as many migratory birds will fly in during this period from Europe and the Gulf of Guinea. However, for those who love safaris and game viewing then the best time to visit Sao Tome and Principe is between April and September during the dry season.