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São Tomé & Príncipe

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© Lonely Planet Publications
598

São Tomé & Príncipe
It won’t be too long before you come on and feel the leve-leve in these two tiny islands
that comprise Africa’s second smallest nation. As soon as you touch down amid the palmfringed beaches, crystal-clear water and barely explored jungles, you’ll become infected
with the pervasive national mood that translates to ‘slowly, slowly’ and loosely means ‘it’s
all good, take it easy’.
And because you’ll have this Portuguese-Creole flavoured tropical paradise almost to
yourself (only about 20 tourists per week venture here), you can sip some of the world’s
best coffee, eat fresh fruits and seafood, delight on gourmet chocolate, stay in the crumbling roças (houses) of the old colonial plantations, dive and snorkel in uncharted waters,
trek the endlessly biodiverse jungles and explore sleepy fishermen’s villages at your own,
leisurely pace, away from anything that resembles hustle and bustle. And in Príncipe, with
one town and a total population of under 5000, you might be tempted to check your own
pulse every few hours.
On these shores, the only way to raise your heart rate is to participate in the astoundingly
sensual pelvis-mashing moves danced nightly in bars across the islands. São Tomé is the kind
of place you may never have heard about, but once you visit, you just might never leave.

lonelyplanet.com

HIGHLIGHTS

São Tomé town (p601) Wander amid the
faded colonial buildings of this charming, sleepy capital town.
Roça São João (p605) Dine on gourmet
feasts and stay the night in this ethereal,
rejuvenated plantation estate.
Banana Beach (p606) Dive into the warm,
crystal-clear waters of this deserted
beach, one of many ringing the island of
Príncipe.
Praia Jalé (p605) Witness nesting sea
turtles in this ecotourist haven at the
southern-most point of São Tomé.
Ilhéu das Rolas (p605) Straddle the equator
and sun yourself on the divine whitesand beaches of this tiny islet off the
south of São Tomé.

CLIMATE & WHEN TO GO

São Tomé is an island of microclimates; at
any time of year you’re likely to find areas of
cloudy and rainy skies and areas of sun. From
March to May, though, the daily rains generally yield to blue skies and hot temperatures
for beach goers, while trekkers might prefer
the cool, dry air and cloudy skies from June
to September.

FAST FACTS
Area 1000 sq km
ATMs There are no ATMS; come with cash
Borders Gabon lies 300km to the east
Budget US$85 per day
Capital São Tomé
Language Portuguese
Money...
SÃO TOMÉ & PRÍNCIPE
SÃO TOMÉ & PRÍNCIPE
lonelyplanet.com SÃO TOMÉ & PRÍNCIPE •• Highlights
It won’t be too long before you come on and feel the leve-leve in these two tiny islands
that comprise Africa’s second smallest nation. As soon as you touch down amid the palm-
fringed beaches, crystal-clear water and barely explored jungles, you’ll become infected
with the pervasive national mood that translates to ‘slowly, slowly’ and loosely means ‘it’s
all good, take it easy’.
And because you’ll have this Portuguese-Creole flavoured tropical paradise almost to
yourself (only about 20 tourists per week venture here), you can sip some of the world’s
best coffee, eat fresh fruits and seafood, delight on gourmet chocolate, stay in the crum-
bling roças (houses) of the old colonial plantations, dive and snorkel in uncharted waters,
trek the endlessly biodiverse jungles and explore sleepy fishermen’s villages at your own,
leisurely pace, away from anything that resembles hustle and bustle. And in Príncipe, with
one town and a total population of under 5000, you might be tempted to check your own
pulse every few hours.
On these shores, the only way to raise your heart rate is to participate in the astoundingly
sensual pelvis-mashing moves danced nightly in bars across the islands. São Tomé is the kind
of place you may never have heard about, but once you visit, you just might never leave.
o Tomé & Pncipe
HIGHLIGHTS
São Tomé town ( p601 ) Wander amid the
faded colonial buildings of this charm-
ing, sleepy capital town.
Roça São João ( p605 ) Dine on gourmet
feasts and stay the night in this ethereal,
rejuvenated plantation estate.
Banana Beach ( p606 ) Dive into the warm,
crystal-clear waters of this deserted
beach, one of many ringing the island of
P ríncipe.
Praia Jalé ( p605 ) Witness nesting sea
turtles in this ecotourist haven at the
souther n-most point of São Tomé.
Ilhéu das Rolas ( p605 ) Straddle the equator
and sun yourself on the divine white-
sand beaches of this tiny islet off the
south of São Tomé.
CLIMATE & WHEN TO GO
São Tomé is an island of microclimates; at
any time of year you’re likely to find areas of
cloudy and rainy skies and areas of sun. From
March to May, though, the daily rains gener-
ally yield to blue skies and hot temperatures
for beach goers, while trekkers might prefer
the cool, dry air and cloudy skies from June
to September.
ITINERARIES
One Week You can explore much of São
Tomé in one week. Heading south, eat
well and spend the night at Roça São
João ( p605 ), camp for a night at Praia
Jalé ( p605 ), take in a mangrove tour and
then jump on the boat to Ilhéu das Rolas
( p605 ) for a night or two. Head back to
São Tomé town ( p601 ) and day trek in
the forest, stay the night at Bombaim
( p606 ), and then head north to hit Neves
( p605 ) for crabs and a night at Monte-
forte ( p605 ).
Two Weeks Follow the above itinerary and
then fly on to Príncipe ( p606 ) and chill
out for at least a week in a deserted island
paradise.
HISTORY
Before being ‘ discovered’ and colonised by the
Portuguese in the late 15th century, the islands
of São Tomé and Príncipe were comprised of
rainforests dense with vegetation and birdlife,
but, most likely, no people (though there is a
legend that present-day Angolares were really
the first inhabitants of the land). The islands’
volcanic soil proved good for cultivation, and,
under Portuguese rule, by the mid-16th cen-
tury the islands were the foremost exporter
of sugar, though the labour-intensive process
required increasing amounts of slaves from
Africa. When the price of sugar fell and slave
labour proved difficult to control, the islands
increasingly looked towards the slave trade to
bolster the economy, becoming an important
weigh station for slave ships heading from
Africa to Brazil. In the 19th century two new
cash crops, coffee and cocoa, overtook the old
sugar plantations. By the early 20th century
São Tomé was one of the world’s largest pro-
ducers of cocoa.
In 1876 slavery was outlawed, but was sim-
ply replaced with a similar system of forced
labour for low wages. Contract workers came
in from Mozambique, Cape Verde and other
parts of the Portuguese empire. During these
times there were frequent uprisings and re-
volts, often brutally put down by the Por-
tuguese. In 1953 the Massacre of Batepá, in
which many Africans were killed by Portu-
guese troops, sparked a full-fledged independ-
ence movement. Portugal held on, however,
until the fall of the fascist government in 1974,
after which it got out of its colonies in a hurry.
São Tomé & Príncipe achieved independence
on 12 July 1975.
The Portuguese exodus left the country
with virtually no skilled labour, an illiteracy
rate of 90%, only one doctor and many aban-
doned cocoa plantations. An economic crisis
was inevitable. Manual Pinto da Costa, who
FAST FACTS
Area 1000 sq km
AT Ms There are no ATMS; come with cash
Borders Gabon lies 300km to the east
Budget US$85 per day
Capital São Tomé
Language Portuguese
Money Dobra; US$1 = 6740Db
Population 193,000
Seasons Dry (June to September), wet (October to May)
Telephone Country code
%
239; international access code
%
00
Time GMT/UTC
Visas Required by all; costs around US$50
HOW MUCH?
A day’s jungle trek US$50
Cup of good coffee US$0.80
Seed necklace US$1
Mangrove tour US$7
Fresh grilled con-con fish US$3
LP INDEX
1L petrol US$1.20
1L bottled water US$1.20
Bottle of Creoula beer US$0.80
Souvenir T-shirt US$15
Grilled corn US$1
© Lonely Planet Publications
598 599
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