Lost off the coast of Africa, the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe cannot boast of sights in the usual sense, but the nature and beaches here are simply amazing.
Who and why goes to Sao Tome
This is a must-visit for nature lovers. The Obo Reserve is an untouched jungle that has become a haven for rare animals and birds. And the descent into the crater of an extinct volcano with the poetic name Laguna Amelia can be compared with a journey into the prehistoric past of our planet, when the earth’s crust was just being formed.
Architecture aficionados will appreciate the former grandeur of the colonial buildings, a legacy of Portuguese rule. Fort San Sebastian, which once protected the island of Sao Tome from sea robbers, is well preserved. The ruins of the mansion on the plantation of Agostinho Neto impress with their beauty. And the presidential palace of an unusual pink color fits surprisingly well into the colorful tropical atmosphere.
The beaches of Sao Tome offer different types of recreation. Banana Beach is especially popular. Here you can combine sunbathing with snorkeling and kayaking. The Blue Lagoon is a real wild beach, where it is always quiet and calm, almost like in paradise.
The reserve was founded in 2006 with the aim of protecting and enhancing the natural diversity of the tropical state.
The area of the reserve is about 252 sq. km, it is located simultaneously on two islands: approximately 30% of the protected area is located directly on Sao Tome and about 65 sq. km — on Principe. More than 700 species of plants grow here (100 of them are endemic), and about 30 species of birds live.
The park is famous for its diverse landscapes. Coastal mangroves coexist with impenetrable jungles, savannahs, mountain forests and perpetually wet lowlands. Abandoned plantations, almost swallowed up by lush vegetation, complete the landscape.
The visiting card of the park is the volcanic peak of Can Grande. The rock, resembling an arrowhead, rushes up almost 300 m.
Saint Nicholas waterfall
A cool two-cascade waterfall is located near a mountain road. Stopping by its churning waters is the best way to cool off on a hot day. The beautiful landscape is inspiring: against the backdrop of emerald greenery that has stuck to the rocky slope, streams of water rush down.
A bridge was built next to the bowl of the reservoir, allowing you to enjoy the water element from a close distance. The most daring can even swim in a natural lake.
Sao Tome Peak
Mount Sao Tome is an extinct volcano and the highest point of the island of the same name (2024 m). Several trails of varying difficulty lead to the peak. Most of the ascents start from Ponto Figo. The journey goes along narrow forest paths, along waterfalls and ravines. Visiting Sao Tome Peak during the rainy season is not recommended as it is dangerous.
The waterfall is located away from the beaten paths and highways. The road to it from the nearest settlement takes about 1.5 hours. The path passes through the virgin jungle, along plantations with cocoa trees. To overcome significant elevation changes, a certain physical preparation will be required.
The waterfall is hidden by lush tropical vegetation. It seems that the water flows over ferns, vines and other exotic jungle flora. There is a small dam near Bombayne.
Contrary to the name, this picturesque place lies far from the sea. Amelia Lagoon is actually the crater of an extinct volcano, which has been overgrown with dense vegetation for a long time since the last eruption. Steep slopes lead to a lowland shrouded in fog. The hike promises to be interesting, but difficult. Amelia Lagoon is part of the Obo National Park.
Fort San Sebastian
This fortification was built by the Portuguese in 1566 to protect the island from pirate attacks. Massive walls and cannons, which still adorn the territory of the courtyard, did a good job at that time. Three hundred years later, a lighthouse was installed in the fortress, and in 1928 it was modernized.
Alas, the fort gradually fell into disrepair. In the 1950s, local authorities renovated it and opened a museum there. The expositions present objects of folk art, artifacts of the colonial era and everything related to the history of the fort.
Roca Belo Monte
The former plantation, lost in the jungle on the way to the village of Praya Banana, has now been turned into a guest house. It is a reference example of the colonial style. The main 2-story building is made of massive stone, keeping cool even on a hot day. The same stone is used in the flooring — this is one of the few original details that have survived.
A gate leads into the courtyard, as if torn from the fortress wall. A bell is installed at the top, and cannons perched on the sides — a rather colorful entourage turned out.
Cathedral of the Holy Mother of God
The construction of the cathedral began in the 16th century, but due to lack of funds, it ended only in the 19th. The reconstruction of the building was carried out twice, significantly changing the facade.
The cathedral has the shape of a Catholic cross. There are two towers on the sides, one of them is equipped with a belfry. The facade is decorated with narrow arched windows and a round rose window under the roof. But the interior decoration is ascetic. The main decoration of the cathedral is an altar with a figurine of the Virgin Mary and wall paintings with biblical scenes.
Pink 2-storey building built in colonial style. The main facade is decorated with a portico with a row of massive columns and a large balcony. In the right wing there is a covered gallery. Arches and tall windows complete the look of the building.
You can’t get inside — the head of state is under round-the-clock security. But you can take a walk in the garden adjacent to the palace. Small and compact, it is notable for its finely mowed lawns. Opposite the palace is a fountain, alas, inactive.
Agostinho Neto, founded in 1865, was part of a network of six plantations where cocoa trees were grown. Among others, it was the largest, with about 2.5 thousand people permanently living on it. In 1910, the economy acquired its own railway with a length of about 68 km. The rails connected the warehouses and the port, from where the products were delivered to Europe.
After the archipelago gained independence from Portugal, the settlement was renamed in honor of the President of Angola, Agostinho Neto. He made a great contribution to the development of the young state. When the plantation fell into disrepair, the building was converted into a hospital, but soon it stopped working due to a lack of staff and medicines.
Now tourists come to Agostinho Neto to see the ruins of the once beautiful estate, chat with the friendly villagers and walk among the exotic chocolate trees.
The beaches of Sao Tome and Principe
The visiting card of Principe is Banana Beach, which got its name due to its characteristic shape. The descent to the coast here is quite steep: the elevation changes reach up to 100 m. This factor must be taken into account on the way back when you have to climb.
The sandy beach covered with golden sand is a true paradise. Tropical vegetation creates a romantic entourage, clear water shimmers with all shades of blue, huge boulders become an obstacle to big waves. This is the best place for a contemplative rest.
Those who are not used to basking in the sun for a long time go kayaking and snorkeling here. Equipment must be brought with you — there is no sports equipment rental on Banana Beach. Only cafes and sunbeds are available for guests.
A long beach with crystal clear waters will appeal to those who crave a relaxing holiday and are looking for beautiful natural views. When spreading a towel on the golden sand, you need to be careful — you can stumble upon a turtle laying eggs. In the autumn-winter period, thousands of these animals come here to leave offspring.
In addition to tourists, there are locals here — they come to collect coconuts, which they then sell in the markets to the guests of the island. There is a small restaurant right on the beach.
A tiny island of volcanic origin with an area of only 3 square meters. km lies near the island of Sao Tome. There is only one small hotel here, extremely popular among tourists. The thing is that the equator passes through the territory of Rolash — a symbolic demarcation line is indicated by a pillar. Here you can literally stand with one foot in the southern hemisphere of the Earth, and the other in the northern hemisphere.
The chamber lagoon is sandwiched between steep banks that lava formed thousands of years ago. The surrounding landscape is defined by the African savanna and huge baobabs. The water in the lagoon is absolutely clean, and thanks to its shallow depth it warms up perfectly.
The beach is sandy, but there are a lot of stones on it. There is no infrastructure in the usual sense. However, a nearby tent sells fried bananas, tortillas and simple seafood dishes.
Unlike other beaches of this tropical state, dominated by palm trees, here is the real kingdom of tamarind trees. And the sand, according to local residents, is the softest on the island. However, you still have to wear protective shoes, as there are sharp stones on the beach — left over from a volcanic eruption.