Tours of Sao Tome & Principe with Kathleen Becker


Sao Tome & Principe with Kathleen Becker (Author of the Bradt Guide)

Style: TravellerCultural discovery away from the crowds
Duration: 10 days
Type: GroupTravel with a small group of other travellers

Dossier

Imagine travelling to tropical islands with white palm fringed beaches, crystal clear water, unexplored jungle and a friendly people who rarely see tourists. Welcome to São Tomé and Príncipe, a remote archipelago off the coast of central Africa that few people have even heard of, let alone been to. On our tour we explore the colonial heritage of the islands by staying in restored plantation houses, walk through unspoiled forests in the interior and relax on pristine beaches. Explore a truly undiscovered destination.


Tour Rating

Fitness ●●○○○ | Off the Beaten Track ●●●●○ | Culture ●●●○○ | History ●●●○○ | Wildlife ●●●○○

Tour Pace

Moderate

Tour Highlights

  • Discover a largely undiscovered, uniquely rewarding and safe destination with an exciting blend of African and Portuguese cultures with a Caribbean feel. 

Tour Essentials

Accommodation: Comfortable hotel accommodation and 'roças' (plantation houses) - please see notes 
Included Meals: Daily breakfast (B), plus lunch (L) and dinner (D) as shown in the itinerary
Group Size: Maximum of 12
Start Point: São Tomé
End Point: São Tomé
Transport: 4WD or minibuses, internal flights, boat
Countries: São Tomé and Príncipe 

Tour Itinerary Notes

While our intention is to adhere to the day-by-day itinerary as printed below, a degree of flexibility is built in. Overnight stops may vary from those suggested and on occasions alternative accommodation, of a similar standard to that named below, will be used.

Tour Guide

This trip will be led by Kathleen Becker, author of the Bradt Travel Guide for Sao Tome and Principe. Kathleen will take us into the heart of the country to provide a unique insight into this small and enchanting destination. Described in the Bradt Travel Guide as a 'largely undiscovered, uniquely rewarding and safe destination with an exciting blend of African, Portuguese and Caribbean cultures', our discovery of this island will include visiting secluded beaches, swimming in its pristine waters and hiking in its rainforest while on the lookout for an abundant array of wildlife, specifically birds and plants. A boat trip along the wild west coast of the island will lead to hidden waterfalls and rock formations while there are opportunities to visit colonial plantation houses and sample some of the best coffee and chocolate in the world. Combine this with gaining an insight into its turbulent history and the only thing left to do will be to get into the laid-back Santomean way of life and enjoy this paradise island.

You will also have a local guide accompanying you.

Day 1 – Arrive São Tomé 

Arrive in São Tomé and transfer to your hotel with the rest of the evening free to relax after your flight. Overnight Emoyeni Gardens Hotel (D)

Please note that a compulsory hotel tax of 3 Euros per person per night is levied by all hotels and must be paid in person when checking out.

Day 2 – São Tomé 

Today after a welcome briefing we explore São Tomé town on foot. We visit the Post Office and the Tourist Office to pick up postcards and beautiful stamps, and a map. We also visit Independence Square, the National Museum and the bustling market. Lunch is a light bite at the surprisingly urban C.A.C.A.U art & museum space. This afternoon we visit the Corallo Chocolate Factory for a chocolate presentation and tasting. Overnight Emoyeni Gardens Hotel (BLD)

São Tomé Town

Founded in the 15th century by Portuguese slavers, this small town is full of fading colonial buildings, giving it a charming ambience and making it a great place to wander round, especially in the early morning or the late hours of the afternoon. The town has a handful of good restaurants which make for a scenic and relaxing place to grab some food and a beer and watch life go by.

Day 3 – São Tomé – Monte Café Plantation – São Tomé 

This morning we visit the Valúdo coconut factory near Tridade, to try the products and meet with the owner. We continue up to Nova Moka where we meet Luis Mário, the executive director of a coffee cooperative, who will guide us through his yard/orchard and along coffee plantation paths on to Monte Café. We then walk a brief way to Roça Saudade for a gourmet lunch in a rainforest setting before returning to our hotel.  This evening, around 17:00, transfer to a sand cards workshop with local artist and musician Guilherme Carvalho. The rest of the evening is at leisure. The tour leader can point out local restaurants for you to explore. Overnight Emoyeni Gardens Hotel (BL)

Day 4 – São Tomé – Príncipe 

After an early breakfast we transfer to the airport for our short flight to Príncipe. On arrival we explore Santo António, the capital of Príncipe, and meet Henry Cronje, HBD’s recycling manager, a Zimbabwe-born, long-term resident of the island. After lunch we drive to Roça Sundy for a 3-night stay. Later this afternoon before dinner we take a tour of Roça Sundy, where a hundred years ago, Einstein’s theory of gravity was proven by a British scientist, and a new chocolate factory has sprung up. Overnight Roça Sundy (BLD)

Day 5 – Príncipe 

After a leisurely breakfast we explore the island by jeep: visit Roça Paciência to explore the orchard where all fresh produce for the HBD hotels comes from – if possible encounter with the head of product development; tasting, opportunity for shopping for exclusive treats. On to visit another restored plantation Belomonte with a fabulous new museum on STP’s wildlife and opportunity for swimming on famous Banana Beach, a 20-min downhill walk beach picnic. Free time on beach with opportunity for kayaking (Belomonte) or walking along the nearby beaches to the Praia Burra community, the site of a new women-run jewellery project. Overnight Roça Sunday (BLD)

Day 6 – Príncipe 

Before breakfast this morning there is an option for birdwatching on the plantation. After breakfast transfer to Bom Bom resort to enjoy its facilities, with many options for relaxing or exploring. For example, take a 3-hour circular hike to Ribeira Izé, the former capital of Príncipe with a connection to the famous slave trader Maria Correia, kayak around Bom Bom Islet, snorkelling, and others. Return to Roça Sundy for dinner and overnight. (BD)

Day 7 – Príncipe – São Tomé – São Joã

Transfer to the airport for the short flight back to São Tomé and transfer to São João along the east coast, with the opportunity to stop by the post office, pharmacy/supermarket en route. We have a brief stop at Voice of America and visit the dramatic Boca do Inferno (Hells Mouth) rock formation, reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway. There is also the chance for a dip in the ocean at mystical 7 Ondas Beach. Continue on to São João where you can take a walk on the plantation before dinner. Overnight Roça São João (BLD)

São João dos Angolares

The settlement of São João dos Angolares sits on the east coast of the island and represents the heart of Angolar culture, a fishing community made up of descendants of runaway Angolan slaves. The inhabitants speak Angolar, a unique Creole dialect found nowhere else.

Plantations

São Tomé’s initial raison d’etre was effectively as an enormous plantation, populated by an increasingly diverse Creole society. Portuguese traders imported unfortunate souls from the African interior, setting them to work on sugar cane plantations, and the island soon became the most important producer of the commodity in Africa, fuelled by slave labour under brutal conditions. Sugar cultivation declined from the 16th century onwards under competition from better quality cane from the New World, and after a long period of abandonment, serving as a refuelling water stop for transatlantic ships and as a depot for slaves. In the 19th century São Tomé’s plantation owners turned to coffee and cocoa, establishing themselves as a serious presence on the world market. The Portuguese abolition of slavery in the late 19th century did little to improve conditions for workers, but pressure from international buyers eventually meant that minor changes were made to the plantations, which had schools and hospitals built on each property. After independence in 1975 the plantations were nationalised and production declined enormously, and now, although re-privatised, they are a shadow of their former selves. Some of the old plantation guesthouses now allow tourists to stay, giving a unique insight into the history of this tiny country.

Day 8 – São João – Ilhéu das Rolas – Mucumbli

After a relaxing breakfast we drive to the southern tip of São Tomé Island and transfer by boat from Ponta Baleia to Rolas Island, straddling the equator. We take a 1-hour hike via the real equator to the equator mark viewpoint and have a beach lunch at beautiful Praia Café with the opportunity for a dip. Those who don't want to hike can join us at the beach (approx. 20m walk on flat ground) This afternoon we take a boat trip up the west coast (approx. 2.5 hours) to Neves where we transfer to nearby Mucumbli Lodge for a 2-night stay (BLD)

Day 9 – Northern Plantations 

This morning we visit Diogo Vaz cocoa plantation. This can be done by cycling (approx. 8km) or by a short transfer by car. We take a couple of hours exploring the plantation on easy trails before a simple lunch at the plantation’s cabin restaurant. After lunch we visit the fermentation/drying complex, located on the other side of the road before returning to Mucumbli for a relaxing afternoon. You may wish to visit the beach or take a botanical walk around the grounds. Those who chose to cycle can continue along the scenic coast road towards Sta Catarina, with the opportunity for visiting a new women’s embroidery project. Overnight Mucumbli Lodge (BL)

Day 10 – São Tomé Departure 

Spend the morning at leisure. You may wish to visit an interesting social/school project in Neves (30min walk from Mucumbli, your tour leader can accompany you). This afternoon, around 14:00hrs, we leave for the capital (approx. 1-hour drive) with a stop for shopping in town en route, and visit the Diogo Vaz Chocolateria for a chocolate tasting and patisserie stop before being transferred to the airport for your departure flight (B)

Inclusions:
Arrival and departure transfers
All accommodation
Services of English-speaking tour leader – Kathleen Becker, as well as the services of a local guide
Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
All transport on tour
Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary

Excluded:
International flights
Travel Insurance
Visas
Drinks
Tips