This post was written by Ana Margarida Martins, someone who believes in paradise, but – ‘it’s not where you go it’s how you feel’. Not in a place but in a moment.
The Democratic Republic of São Tomé & Príncipe is a Portuguese-speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa. It has two main islands: the island of São Tomé and the island of Príncipe. São Tomé is a volcanic island very close to the equator and the second-smallest African country. I visited the island for the first time in the summer of 2010 with a group of 5 people in an humanitarian mission working as a volunteer in an NGO.
1. How did you hear about São Tomé and Princípe in the first place?
Since I went there as a volunteer in an humanitarian mission , the first time I heard about São Tomé was in the Portuguese Cooperation for Development where I did all the training to prepare myself for the work I did there. I had the opportunity to choose from two different countries and I decided to go to São Tomé mostly because it’s so unexplored and not so popular around tourists. This is a place where you can find true genuine people (of course I am not talking about the politicians there)!
2. For how long did you stay there?
I stayed in São Tomé for more a less 2 months. However, I try to repeat the visit to this country every two years and every time I learn and get to know something different or leave a new adventure in a different place. When you fall in love with a place it seems that the time you stay there is never enough and this happened to me when visiting São Tomé. Despite the fact the island is pretty small, you can always find a new place that was hidden from everyone. Maybe because this island has not so much touristic life and is not so “popular” around the universe of “dream fancy holidays” every place seems so wild and an unexplored territory, like a secret place you feel the need to discover.
3. How did you prepare your trip to São Tomé and Príncipe?
Sometimes I guess everyone’s got the same idea about traveling. We all travel thousands of miles just to check in to somewhere with all the comforts that we have at our home. I think you gotta ask yourself: what is the point of that? I was looking for something more beautiful and simple, something more exciting… And yes, I wanted to do something good to people to whom it’s easy to help with our simple and small actions. The first time I went to the Island I take some first aids training, since I was going to work in places with no hospitals and with very poor people. I also read something about the culture in the country so I could avoid the cultural shock and I try to leave all my “modern society” prejudices behind.
4. Is there any hidden spot that you want to share with us?
São Tomé is not a very touristic island so there aren’t many attractions in the travel guides apart from the main town. The best spots in the island are the ones you discover when you leave the trails and go to non-touristic areas. Rent a jeep and a map and go explore all the off roads, all the not so accessible beaches. Don’t ask anything to the the tourist guides, ask the people who leave there, not in the city but in the villages. Tell them you want to learn with them and to get to know their territory and make them trusting you: that’s how you’ll find all the secret spots.
5. If you could come back but just go to a single place there… Which would you choose? And why?
I would definitely go to Santa Catarina, one of the villages near the sea where people leave mostly by fishing, being very simple, happy and humble.
6. Can you leave us some special places for staying, eating or visiting in São Tomé and Príncipe?
One of the most special cities in the island is Neves, in the Lemba district. It is a small town on the north west coast of São Tomé. People there are known by their hospitality and you will find amazing places to eat. You can sleep in one of the typical villages (called “Roças”) in “Roça São João de Angulares” , “Roça Diogo Vaz” or “Roça de Ponta Figo” you will find amazing places to stay for the night. The biggest trick to do good in Sao Tome is always ask the people. Don’t be a “regular tourist” that went to visit Africa and thinks how poor they are. Be a friend that wants to know their culture and wants to learn with them. If you can make the natives trusting you, they will tell you all the best places to visit.
6. When is the best time for visiting São Tomé and Príncipe?
In São Tomé there are two rainy seasons (from September to November and from February to April) being the last one the long rains season. From June to September you have the “dry season”, the weather is very hot during these months and despite the fact that there is no rain you always feel the “weight” of the humidity in the air like a strong tropical climate. You can visit São Tomé any time of the year and each month has some special characteristics to offer, depending on what you’d like to do there. If you like bird watching you should go there in December, if you like going for long walks and do some trekking maybe the dry season is the best for you. From December to February you can watch the beautiful ritual of the turtles in the beach, they put the eggs there and near 44 days later you can see the eggs hatching.. If you prefer dolphins you can see them from mid August to October. Every month you have nice weather to go to the beach but let me tell you something: you will love São Tomé mostly because of this people if you take the time to know them and to talk and learn with them.. And they are there the whole year!
Categories – Beach || Nature
Natural Beauty –
Cultural Offer –
Best way to move – By foot or jeep
Cost – Between 10 and 20 € / day, everything included