Travel hipsters might want to add a visit to this tiny African island nation on their bucket list.
I’ll be honest, before the age of 27 I had never even heard of Sao Tome & Principe. In fact, if the name came up on a quiz night, and I had to guess which continent the island nation resides – I would probably have lied and thought it was some exotic, tropical paradise in the Caribbean. I would, sadly, be only half right.
Sure, the remote country is both a tropical haven and a lush paradise; but in terms of the location, it’s actually closer to home than many would think: right here in Africa!
Sao Tome & Principe are two separate islands off of the coast of West Africa but they both make up one country. The small nation is home to just 204,000 people — to put that into perspective, the population of both islands combined isn’t even as big as the 25 most populated cities in Africa! Despite this, the Principians are a hard-working people and have made the most of the cocoa-dense environment to build a stable economy.
On top of all of this – Sao Tome & Principe has emerged as one of Africa’s hidden gems for travellers. The island duo boasts a variety of natural features from beautiful beaches and shallow waters for snorkelling; tropical jungle for adventures and a mountainous landscape for hiking. One particular route will take you to the most beautiful waterfall you have ever seen.
Sao Tome & Principe is also home to the Obo National Park, one of Africa’s most diverse eco-parks which is home to literally thousands of different species of plants and animals. A naturalist described to The Guardian, “They have more endemic species per square mile than anywhere on Earth. It’s the African Galápagos!”
Many of the beaches and jungle routes on both islands are completely untouched. Sao Tome and Principe might be former Portuguese colonies, but they were spared the over-industrialisation that has threatened to ruin other natural African beauties.
Believe it or not, Sao Tome and Principe is a vegan’s dream (although meat-eaters won’t feel out of place!). With the range of fruits and vegetables which can literally be picked off and eaten immediately, one farmer described it well when he said “We can’t be poor here. We don’t even need to farm, the fruits grow for themselves!”
Getting there isn’t the easiest trip in the world. You’d first have to land in Sao Tome, before taking a smaller flight to the more hilly island of Principe. The travel within both countries isn’t the simplest either, but any adventurous traveler will be able to get by.
If you’re looking for a truly unique holiday experience, something that will make people ask “Where is that?!” – then you can do a lot worse than Sao Tome and Principe.