Culture, plantations and beaches
Breathe in chocolate-scented air as you wander through tropical plantations, leave footprints on deserted beaches and chat with local fishermen
Floating 2 km north of the Equator in the Gulf of Guinea, São Tomé is just 48 km long and 32 km wide, although it's still larger than its sister island of Principe. Formed by a massive shield volcano rising up from the Atlantic Ocean floor, São Tomé boasts ruggedly beautiful topography with the incredible volcanic plug of Pico Cao Grande rising over 663 metres out of the forest towards the centre of the island. Surrounded by dense equatorial rainforest , this iconic rock pillar can be seen from many parts of the island, but the best place to view it from is Obo National Park, which covers much of the São Tomé and is particularly popular with nature and birding enthusiasts. Referred to by some as the 'African Galapagos', São Tomé is where you'll find some of the world's rarest species, including endemic birds such as the dwarf olive ibis, the giant sunbird and the critically endangered São Tomé fiscal.
São Tomé is a real melting pot of cultures, with the 200,000 inhabitants speaking Portuguese as well as Forro, Ngoloa and Angolar which are Creole-based languages. The Portuguese were the first people to arrive and colonise the islands, and from the 1400s they began settling convicts and slaves. Life revolved around the plantations - São Tomé was once a large cocoa producer - but today most have fallen into decline and now the majority of São Toméans live either in the capital, also called São Tomé, or in fishing villages around the coast. Agriculture is an important means of livelihood especially in the northern and eastern regions, and exports are mostly cocoa, coffee and copra.
With just 13,000 tourists a year, the islands remain a relative secret, thus offering a wonderful new destination for those after something refreshingly different. As well as nature, visitors come to São Tomé to enjoy its forest trails and stunning beaches, and for coastal pursuits such as scuba diving and turtle nest watching. Ask us for details about hiking excursions, visits to plantations and villages, as well as a range of other activities.
There are a range of beautiful hotels, from classy lodges with incredible food, to rustic eco-retreats on remote beaches that are perfect for turtle watching. Check out our São Tomé & Príncipe holidays to see which will suit you best.
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