São Tomé and Príncipe |
Travel - Leisure
Your secret African travel destinations:
São Tomé tropical island paradise
São Tomé hosts the capital with the same name of Africa's smallest state São Tomé and Príncipe, consisting of only two volcanic islands in the Gulf of Guinea just north of the equator. A former Portuguese colony transferred into a developing democracy, the country with a GDP smaller than many companies is too tiny to hit world media, or even to market its great tourism potentials.
While Príncipe is mountainous and very sparsely populated, São Tomé island has its non-active volcano providing it with a spectacular landscape, tropical rainforests and cocoa plantations making it an evergreen, and just enough inhabitants to provide some urban feeling and services without making it crowded or stressed.
And then there are the beach
Leaving the capital, you will find the best beaches just a few kilometres to the north at Praia das Conchas. The white sands, perfectly clear waters, coconut palms and occasional fisherman in their dugout canoes amount to a tropical paradise postcard dream come true.
But there are also a number of superb beaches to the south of São Tomé, many more easily reached than Praia da Conchas. And a beach hopping excursion to the south is a good way to learn to know the island and escape from the very few tourists you meet in the capital.
On an afternoon off the beach, the charming town of São Tomé is well worth walking around. Among friendly, helpful and welcoming São Toméans, there is never a long way to a refreshm
Walking in São Tomé, you will be delighted by the robust, warm and colourful colonial architecture along with wooden houses, all supervised by the old Portuguese fortress and the magnificent cathedral. A rather sleepy atmosphere secures the right holiday modus.
Culturally, the island is very homogenous to be an African state. Portuguese from 1493 to 1975, and with a population mostly being descendent of sugar and cocoa plantation slaves brought from the African mainland, a Portuguese-African Creole culture developed over the centuries. In fact, it is a beautiful and pleasant cultural mix with a Latin African flavour.
São Tomé, which soon hopes to become an oil producing nation, is still a poor and agriculturally based society. Infrastructure, also for tourists, is poor, also meaning you should be careful regarding
But if you like the genuine and rural touch to your tropical paradise, São Tomé still provides this. And if you can be persuaded to leave the wonderful beaches, the wonderful green landscapes leading up to Pico de São Tomé (2024 metres) a well worth one or several trips.
What looks like dense jungle from below, is to a large degree farmlands with cocoa and coffee production, including small scale farms and large estates. There are some few trekking routes, including one to the panoramic Casa de Repouso some 15 kilometres outside the capital.
You can also find guides taking you into the real rainforests of the more remote interior of the island, giving you the real expedition feeling. Here, along with native wildlife, you come across spectacular waterfalls, dramatic views and the occasional bushmeat hunter.
And after an expedition into the mountain jungle, maybe the surprising nightlife of São Tomé may be a good conclusion of your trip? São Toméans know how to party till late in the
Have you decided to give São Tomé a try? Usually, the easiest way to reach the island state is from Portugal, where there mostly are direct flights. Also, there tend to be flights from Douala (Cameroon), Libreville (Gabon), Malabo (Equatorial Guinea) and some other African capitals.
And before you book a flight, consider the climatic variations in São Tomé. The price for a rainforest is much rain - which is however bearable in this warm climate. The heaviest rains are from June to September, but there are occasional rains all year round.
Your secret African travel destinations series
This article is one in an afrol News series dedicated to the many genuine and "undiscovered" travel destinations in Africa, published daily throughout the (northern) summer of 2010. Click here to get more inspiration and new ideas for travelling to the great and welcoming continent of Africa.
By staff writers
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