A new destination for those after a tropical island beach holiday
A beautiful pair of tropical islands off the coast of West Africa, perfect for an off-the-beaten-track bespoke beach holiday.
In the Gulf of Guinea off the equatorial West African coast, Africa’s second smallest country offers a wonderful choice for those after a refreshingly new destination with some exquisite beaches and unspoiled, wild places. A tropical climate means there are lush rainforests inhabited by small wildlife and birds, including some of the world's rarest species. A reminder of former Portuguese occupation, the aesthetically appealing, crumbling buildings in urban centres and on old colonial plantations, which add to the islands' charm.
Of much interest to nature enthusiasts is Obo Natural Park, which receives national protection and was set aside in 2006. Pico Cao Grande, an remarkable, finger-shaped mountain in south-central Sao Tome, rises abruptly to 663 meters. It is the world's tallest volcanic plug and is surrounded by dense equatorial forest, which in turn is listed as one of the world's 200 most important sites of biological significance. (In 1998 biologists classified these forests as the second most significant of 75 forested sites in Africa).
Habitats in the park - which covers a substantial portion of Sao Tome and extends to some of Principe - include lowland and high altitude Atlantic rainforest, mangrove and savanna. Secondary rainforest including abandoned plantations are known as capoeira. Altitude in the park varies from 0 - 1,973m above sea level). Rainfall on average is 2,493mm per anum. Fauna in the park include the very rarely seen West African manatee; endemic birds such as Dwarf olive ibis, Sao Tome short-tail, Giant sunbird, Sao Tome giant weaver, Sao Tome fiscal (critically endangered), Sao Tome oriole, Sao Tome thrush and the enigmatic Sao Tome grosbeak, which managed a disappearing act of some 100 years. Endemic amphibians include Newton's grassland frog, Sao Tome giant reed-frog; Moller's gulf frog and Sao Tome caecilian. You may see Sao Tome leaf-nosed bat.
Because the islands - which are just under an 8 hour flight from Lisbon - are as yet not well known on the international tourist map, you'll never have to worry about crowded beaches. Those interested in marine wildlife can enjoy whale watching or, watching turtles come ashore to lay eggs in season. (Whales visit these waters from July to September while turtles are best observed in December)
Keen naturalists can go on hikes of various grading in dense tropical rainforest on both islands. Diving, whale watching and turtle watching excursions can be arranged; ask us for details.
Our Sao Tome & Principe Island Getaway is a sample itinerary which can be tailored to suit individual interests and special requirements.
When to visit Sao Tome & Principe
Find out the best time to visit Sao Tome & Principe with our month by month guide.Read more
The short dry season continues through to March. This is a great time for exploring Obo National Park on Sao Tome, as well as scuba diving, hiking and seeing turtles nesting and hatching. Bird watching is superb for those who want to see the bright breeding plumage.
The dry weather continues throughout February, meaning hiking in Obo National Park on Sao Tome is particularly good, although the heat can be quite intense. Scuba divers will delight at the water clarity, whilst those down at the beach may catch the end of the turtle nesting season. Bird watchers will enjoy seeing the bright breeding plumage of local species.
The long wet season begins with daily rain showers and intense humidity. However the rain doesn't last all day, and the showers leave behind clear blue skies, making this an ideal time for photography. March is good for orchid spotting too.
The wet season continues with daily rain showers and high humidity. Hiking becomes tricky on the muddy terrain. April is actually a great time to visit as it's not quite as hot as in February and March, and the rain showers clear the clouds leaving sunny blue skies, which is ideal for photography. Orchids are flourishing at this time of year
May sees the end of the long wet season with daily rainfall showers and intense humidity. It's a good month for orchid spotting and photography, but hiking remains difficult on the muddy terrain.
The main dry season runs from June through to the beginning of September. It's the perfect time for hiking, exploring beaches and swimming in the turquoise sea. This is the hottest time of year, but the cloudy skies offer some protection from the sun.
July is the heart of the long dry period, defined by the absence of rain, and the presence of cloudy skies, which will give some respite from the heat. Hiking and swimming is particularly good at this time of year.
The dry season continues into August, an ideal time for beaches, swimming and hiking the trails around the islands. There's no rain, but no blue skies either. Humpback Whales, Killer Whales and dolphins begin migrating along the north east shores. August is a month of Saints' feast days with several cultural celebratory events where the streets come alive with open air food stalls, music and entertainment.
September sees the dry weather period drawing to an end. It's still a good time for hiking, walking along the beaches and taking a tip in the ocean. Temperatures are still soaring, but the cloudy skies offer some protection from the heat. It's a great time for whale and dolphin watching as they migrate along the north east shores.
October is a bit of a mixed bag, with the short wet season beginning in earnest. Hiking becomes more difficult but it doesn't rain all day, so it's still a good month for most island activities. The whale and dolphin migration continues along the north east coastline.
In recent years November has been the month with the highest rainfall, heralding the beginning of the short wet season. Skies are grey, but the bird nesting season begins which is good news for bird watchers, and from mid-November turtles start nesting on the beaches.
December sees the beginning of the short dry season. There's still a bit of rain around, but nothing to really disrupt activities. It's a great time for bird watching and seeing the bright breeding plumage, and the turtles continue to nest on the beaches.
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