Sao Tome and Principe

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São Tomé and Príncipe is a small island nation off the Atlantic coast of Central Africa, located in the Gulf of Guinea, straddling the Equator, west of Gabon. Discovered and claimed by Portugal in the late 15th century, the islands' sugar-based economy gave way to coffee and cocoa in the 19th century -- all grown with plantation slave labor, a form of which lingered into the 20th century. Although independence was achieved in 1975, democratic reforms were not instituted until the late 1980s, and the first free elections were held in 1991. (less...) (more...)

Population: 186,817 people
Area: 964 km2
Highest point: 2,024 m
Coastline: 209 km
Life expectancy: 63.86 years
GDP per capita: $2,400
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About Sao Tome and Principe

Climate

At sea level, the climate is tropical—hot and humid with average yearly temperatures of about 27 °C (80.6 °F) and little daily variation. The temperature rarely rises beyond 32 °C (89.6 °F). At the interior's higher altitudes, the average yearly temperature is 20 °C (68 °F), and nights are generally cool. Annual rainfall varies from 5,000 mm (196.85 in) on the southwestern slopes to 1,000 mm (39.37 in) in the northern lowlands. The rainy season runs from October to May.

The equator lies immediately south of São Tomé Island, passing through an islet named Ilhéu das Rolas.

Activities

The waters around Sao Tome are clear and rich with life. Consequently, diving, fishing and boat tours provide much to see. One of the few operators that offers these activities is Club Maxel [7]. The forests of both islands lend themselves wonderfully to hiking.

Walk Around. Traffic is light, the sea breeze is cooling, and you can admire the architecture and people. The capitol city of Sao Tome is replete with public art. Painting and carvings by local artists, in addition to old Portuguese statues, can be found throughout the city. Oftentimes you will walk down the street and turn a corner to come up suddenly against a colorful and sprightly painting right in front of you.

Claudio Corallo Chocolate. Tours of his chocolate factory are give on request. He or one of his sons will gleefully describes the shocking inferior stuff that passes for chocolate around the world. Claudio maintains complete control of the chocolate making process, from growing the pods on his own plantation on Principe through to packaging the chocolate in his own vacuum-sealed clean rooms. He gives copious free samples during the demonstration, and sells all his products right there in the demonstration room. Expensive but worth it.

Food

Fish is a staple of the São Toméan diet, often served with breadfruit and mashed, cooked bananas. The variety of fish is wide, including flying fish at certain times of year. Inland, many São Toméans get their protein from buzios, large land snails. Sea snails are also quite common along the coast. In spite of the abject poverty, São Toméans can always count on some sustenance from the wide array of tropical fruits. The hotels in the capital offer European-style fare at European prices.

Bigodes. Near the airport, if you decide to wait for your flight here the airport will call to let you know when your flight is boarding. Good lunches and great view.

Café e Companhia. The expat hangout in Sao Tome. This is THE place to let people know you have arrived in country. Café and Companhia is popularly known as “MJs”, after the owner and former manager Maria João. MJ leases the business to a new German manager but makes appearances when she is in country. C & C is known for Thursday night jazz and the “Atomic Penis”.

O Pirata. Located next to the Pestana Hotel, it is one of the few places open on Sunday morning, but one suspects they just party through Saturday night. Good place to nurse a cup of coffee and an omelet and just watch the ocean. A sunken ship is right off the restaurant… hence the name “The Pirate”.

Roça São João dos Angolares. Make reservations as far in advance as possible, but it is worth it. Gourmet meals served as a multiple course prix fixe are worth the extra workout you will need.

Sum Secreto. Standard grill fare, but they can handle large groups without a reservation. Service is generally very good, and the meat and fish are excellent. Nothing fancy, but the place is popular because it has that secret something.

Drinks

Beer is readily available everywhere, though São Toméans are not known as big drinkers. Local brands include Creolla and Rosema. Inland, palm wine is available very inexpensively from vendors along the road. In the capital, whiskey and other spirits are popular among the elites. Wine, especially Portuguese vinho verde, is popular with fish dishes.

Shopping

São Tomé and Príncipe uses the Dobra, which is a restricted currency (the import and export of local currency is prohibited). The import of foreign currency is unlimited subject to declaration, and you may export only up to the amount you import. Travelers' cheques are generally not recommended. Euros, and sometimes dollars, are commonly accepted at larger restaurants and shops.

Shopping is limited, but there are a few things worth purchasing, and possibly of export quality:

Coffee. Sao Tome was famous for its coffee. The quality suffered a bit after the newly-independent Sao Tome government broke up the old rocas into sharecropper lots, but given the quality of the volcanic soil the coffee was still great. There has been a recent surge in interest in Sao Tome coffee, mostly due to Claudio Corrallo’s work, but you can walk into any shop in Sao Tome and get great coffee cheap.

Rum. Sao Tome has two rum factories within an easy trip: 'Gravana, which is sold out of a car repair shop next to the Central Market, and Me-Zochi which is in Trindad behind the church. Prices of a one liter bottle of rum vary from USD 3 – 7 depending on the price of sugar. Gravana rum is dark and sweet, and is best served over ice and savored like a scotch. Me-Zochi rum is also good, but the factory also sells different types of liqueurs made from local fruits. Most of their product is shipped to Europe.

Baskets. Baskets are part and parcel of everyday life in Sao Tome. Therefore they are plentiful and cheap. They are not fancy but have their charm.

Miscellaneous Tourist Stuff. Ossobbo is across from the Fort Sao Sebastiao. The shop features local artisans and products of Sao Tome, from coffee, chocolate, cinnamon and vanilla to carvings, t-shirts and thumb drives. Prices are reasonable, but the best part is the shop is run by the non-profit Sisters of Misericordia; all profits go to the craftsmen or charitable works.

This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article São Tomé and Príncipe on Wikivoyage.

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São Tomé Island is the main island of São Tomé and Príncipe.

Interesting places:

  • Estadio Nacional 12 de Julho
  • Fort de Sao Sebastiao
  • Ilheu das Rolas Beach
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panoramio Photos are copyrighted by their owners

Points of Interest in Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome & Principe were both uninhabited prior to colonization by the Portuguese. Since then, much of the landscape has remained unchanged or, where former plantations once stood, reclaimed by the rainforests. The islands are covered by lush rainforests and with a small population and very few tourists, it remains a veritible tropical paradise.

The interior of Sao Tome island contains Obo National Park. Find a local guide to take you bird-watching, climb 2,024-meter Pico de Sao Tome, trek to a secluded waterfall, or try to spot as many of the island's 109 species of orchids as you can. Waves enter an underwater cave on the south side of Sao Tome island and, with nowhere to go, shoot straight up through the Boca do Inferno (Mouth of Hell) blowhole in an impressive show for visitors. The isolated beaches on Principe are both breathtakingly beautiful and romantic...don't blame yourself for feeling like you're on a deserted island in the South Pacific.

Just offshore are coral reefs with a large diversity of sea life—including a few endemics as the waters between other islands and the mainland reach 2,000 meters! Diving and snorkeling are the ideal ways to explore the underwater side of this paradise, during which you can come face-to-face with dolphins, large green turtles, and a wide array of colorful fish. Experienced and daring divers can even explore underwater caves.

Among the few human-made sights on the islands is Fort São Sebastião. Built in 1575, the fort was refurbished in 2006 and is now the São Tomé National Museum. The fort is absolutely beautiful at night. Essential for every visitor is a tour of one of the islands' colonial-era plantations—roças—which lie in many different states, from centuries-old buildings slowly being overgrown by rainforest to lovingly refurbished ones operating as bed-and-breakfasts. One of the more easily accessible, Monte Café, has a new coffee museum set and, since it is in the mountains, is cool and inviting. The Sao Tome market is, like many in the region, a bustling, colorful experience while photographers will love city's quaint colonial-style architecture.

Estadio Nacional 12 de Julho - Sao Tome Island

Banana Beach - Principe Island

Fort de Sao Sebastiao - Sao Tome Island

Ilheu das Rolas Beach - Sao Tome Island

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