What to expect from Sao Tome and Principe | Forgotten Countries in Africa
Ever heard of Sao Tome and Principe? Well, sometime in 2017 we heard about Sao Tome and Principe for the first time but unable to find a Nigerian who had explored the Island. Good news........An experienced travel curator recently organised a trip to the Island and she has graciously agreed to share all about her three-day exploits with us. Can we get a whoop! Rosemary Okoli, popularly know as Rory hosts trips for TripZapp (a travel Company helping Nigerians travel for less) and she is the contributor of this article.
So I’ve finally found a free Sunday morning to write this post about my trip to Sao Tome and share with y’all (This adult life!). Hopefully I make it to the end before work or hunger comes for me.
I’m Rory by the way. I think that’s it. I’m not that interesting. :)
Sao Tome and Principe! I guess the first thing that struck me about this destination was how very few people have heard of the country or know that it is just a flight away from Ghana. I got a lot of “where’s that?” when I posted about the trip on my Instastory. I was to host the group trip to two countries, Sao Tome and Ghana, which was organized by my Company, TripZapp, over the Easter holiday. I couldn't have been more excited even though that was technically a working trip but hey who’s complaining?! The itinerary was all planned out for the trip, I just had to make sure everything went smoothly.
After the struggle of doing James Bond in the early hours of Thursday morning just to make it to the airport in time due to the road blocks and mandatory public holiday as Mr President was coming to town, we finally all landed on this tiny, gorgeous, Portuguese-speaking, African island country - Sao Tome and Principe.
We got past immigration and got into the country on our US visas without any extra fees, although we had to activate a little French to answer basic questions like "where are you staying?" and "how long are you in the country?". The country is all Portuguese but French is the next best thing so leave your English behind and work on signing and French. Thankfully, TripZapp had an English speaking Sao Tomean host so we didn’t have to worry about language barriers as much.
Once we got out of the airport, we easily spotted our host, Flavio, who was holding up a TripZapp name-card. We loaded up our stuff into the vehicle and set off for the Pestana Hotel (which is unquestionably the best place to stay in Sao Tome) where we spent the next three (3) nights.
By the time we arrived the hotel, the group had bonded over travel and work stories and the adventures of the morning. We checked in and later met up for dinner at the hotel’s outdoor restaurant overlooking the ocean, cracked open a bottle of wine, unwound & enjoyed the laid back vibe.
I made my rounds early Friday morning, waking everyone and making sure we were ready to leave by 10am. (I told you I was working, right?!). Flavio and the tour guide were there to pick us promptly so after breakfast we hit the road, heading south of the island.
As we headed down the windy roads, our first stop was at a bridge overlooking a stream. Why? Because a ton of women were washing clothes there. This is a thing in Sao Tome. They prefer to wash in the streams as this is regarded as cleaner and they do so together - women washing, children playing- so it does look quite colorful.
We then explored the Roca Agua Ize, a colonial cocoa plantation. The old hospital building there is gorgeous and looks like something out of an old English movie. It’s a great spot to “do it for the ‘Gram” and of course we did the most taking pictures, making videos and generally fooling around. If picturesque old buildings do nothing for you, perhaps Boca de Inferno will.
The view at Boca de Inferno is literally to die for! The water is so stunningly blue-green you want to jump in and the rock formation at the edge where water rushes and crashes every few seconds….just amazing! There’s a legend around it too – a Portuguese Colonial Master transported himself on his horse to Portugal through the Boca de Inferno, which means Devil’s Mouth. No wonder no one has tried to verify this but sounds like visa free entry to me. Lol!
We drove further south of the island and passed by the interesting needle shaped peak, Pico Cao Grande, the second highest peak in Sao Tome (not to be climbed), before ending up on the beach for a swim. We finally got to soak ourselves in that stunning warm water. It’s just so pretty you want to simply sit and look at it and listen to the sound of the ocean. We couldn’t sit there all day though, there was more to see and food to eat so we headed back north to have a fresh catch at this really cute restaurant with a breathtaking view.
On our way back we stopped at Pesqueira waterfall, which is opposite a small tiny island that I’m going back to claim for myself. We were dead beat from the day so instead of hitting the clubhouse after dinner, like we planned, we passed out.
On Saturday we set out for a more culturally immersive experience. We took a tour of the Forte de Sao Sabastiao and learned the history of slavery and colonialism in Sao Tome. See ehn, the tour will make you feel all kinds of way but let’s leave that for another day.
We then went to explore the center of the island, an area called Trinidade. Now the drive is pretty cool because we were ascending, so the farther we went, the cooler the temperature got. We stopped at Monte Café, a coffee plantation, where we learnt how coffee is grown and processed and ended the coffee tour with cups of freshly brewed Sao Tomean coffee. The temperature was so cool and it was views all day – hills touching the clouds and greenery all around. I’m now ready to own my coffee plantation and move here!
Next, Sao Nicolao Waterfall! The nicest, largest drop of falling water on the island! It was so pretty but a little too chilly to get under although that didn’t stop the local kids. Driving round the windy death trap roads without railings on the cliff side was a little scary but it was still gorgeous. We took pictures for the gram and then went to fill our bellies with three (3) courses of local Sao Tomean delicacies at Roca Saudade. Fitfam, clean eating people will love this spot. Everything is fresh and straight from the farm. There were banana bunches hanging next to the tables as décor to eat. Oh and the food was yummm!
After lunch we only had the energy for one more stop at the Botanical Gardens at Bom Sucesso. Let me just say nature is fully alive on this island. The air alone is like holy water for your lungs. We finally made our way back to the hotel after the Botanical Gardens. We chilled, swam and had dinner and this time we made it to the clubhouse.
Nightlife in another country is something I don’t get to try often because I travel solo a lot and I’m not trying to get roofied but it’s always an experience. We were told Kizomba was the happening spot so of course we had to go there but after 5 minutes we knew it wasn’t for us even though it was trips being there. The name should have given us a clue. The music was kizomba, the dancing was kizomba. Kizomba was everything! So after taking a look around, we headed back to the more touristy club right next to the hotel. We managed to order our drinks without Flavio to translate. The music was slow and we did not come out to play so we had to show our Nigerian selves. I went up to the DJ pointing to my phone, asking him to play “Fia Fia.” He laughed and shouted “Davidooo!!!” Best believe we had a turnt night and the DJ was playing for us.
We slept in the next and final day in Sao Tome, and spent Easter Sunday lounging at the hotel. The rains destroyed our plans to swim and slay for the gram but we were quite tired anyway so the rest was good.
Me looking at the rain destoying our plans to swim and slay
We checked out and caught our evening flight to Accra, where our airport pickup was diligently waiting. Even though we were tired and it was quite late, we went for dinner at this really nice place with a Mexican vibe called Little Havana. Some strings had been pulled to keep it open for us. 😎 I can’t rave enough about how good the food and drinks were.
On the final day of the trip, we took a short tour of Accra. We went to the Independence Square and climbed to the top of the Black Star Gate Monument, visited Jamestown, Art Centre, Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum, and ate local Ghanaian food at Buka. If you don’t plan to spend money, leave your wallet in the car before visiting Art Centre ‘cause you’ll definitely end up buying something. I went away with two bags.
After lunch we were dropped at the airport. Everyone said their goodbyes and I was so thankful I got to meet some awesome people and more importantly that the trip came off without a hitch.
Final thoughts about Sao Tome and Principe
Sao Tome is the second smallest country in Africa after Seychelles. A country that is barely visible on a map, perhaps that's why it is a 'forgotten country'.
Sao Tome was uninhabited until it was discovered by Portuguese explorers in the 15th century and it only received its independence from Portugal in 1975. It has since become one of the most peaceful countries in Africa.
Lest I forget, Sao Tome is also home to some of the best chocolate in the world as well as world-class coffee. No doubt that we enjoyed exploring the culture and history of the Island. Sao Tome is a tropical paradise with spectacular natural beauty, clear blue unspoiled beaches but yet there was just a hand full of tourists. It is perfect for a honeymoons, getaways and general relaxation. I look forward to planning another trip there!. Join me by following my Company's pages below.
Travel is necessary, especially in the developing world like ours. You need days to catch up mentally and physically with yourself. I usually encourage everyone to enjoy a nice hotel, a massage or just hang out, far away from home. I don’t do it often but when I do I never regret it!. TAB