São Tomé e Príncipe
Not just any venue...
Oh, you’ll have plenty to do while N’GOLÁ is on, but in the interval, you should find ample opportunity for exploration and entertainment.
For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure to visit before, São Tomé e Príncipe is a two-island nation in the Gulf of Guinea off the western coast of Africa. The country boasts two archipelagos around the main islands called (no surprise here) ‘São Tomé’ and ‘Príncipe’. They are now among Africa’s most amazingly stable, safe and eco-friendly countries, as well as one of the continent’s best-kept, idyllic secrets.
Idyllic? Well, of course the palm beaches and vibrant sea life speak for themselves, but there is so much more. Here are a few tips and tidbits to help you immortalize the memory of your stay:
THE WAY OF ‘LÉVE’
Before absorbing the sights, you’ll be taken in by the people and their remarkable way of life. Adhering to the tenets of ‘Léve Léve’, or ‘Easy Easy’, they never seem to be in any rush except to smother you in hospitality and engaging conversation. You will find yourself inexorably drawn to their soothing rhythm and carefree attitude, an astounding contrast to the historical hardships that forged their present culture. If this piques your interest, scroll down for a brief insight into the São Toméans’ past.
THE LOST WORLD
The particularity of an island long shut off from the mainland is the proliferation of endemic species. São Tomé e Príncipe is no exception. Quite the opposite, don’t forget your snorkel or binoculars because the sea and land life here is fantastically diverse and shouldn’t be missed. After long soak in the sun, we recommend you go fishing or brave the deep waters to experience what goes on below the surface of the sea. You already have beaches where you’re from? Say no more, just venture inland and gaze out onto the green canopies of the tropical rainforest, interrupted only by giant rock spires pointing at the sky. As mainstream tourism hasn’t hit the country yet, you’ll find a rare tranquility and unspoiled nature you wouldn’t elsewhere.
THE GASTRONOMIC GOODIES
After all that hard work, it’s time to sit down and eat. Have some Calulu, the national fish plate made with an extra dose of Léve Léve, and don’t skip the poultry and seafood dishes either. Tropical fruits abound, and coffee is used in many of their dishes for spice. After you’ve had your fill, or at any time your sweet tooth calls out, it’s time for chocolate... São Tomé e Príncipe used to be the world’s leading producer of cacao, and their black gold is still among the finest, giving Switzerland a run for its money. You can find São Toméan chocolate in luxury department stores across the globe, but isn’t it always better at the source?
More on the island
Don’t believe us? Lonely Planet will change your mind. Read up on São Tomé e Príncipe and its extraordinary traits in this riveting article by Jo Tinsley. Exotic fruits, chocolate, wildlife and activities, she’s experienced them all.
The web is teeming with stories of people traveling all around the world. Gain some insight in what they have to say about São Tomé e Príncipe, and what the majority recommends you have a look at while you’re here.
Leonara Dowley, writer for SUITCASE Magazine, has some extra tips for you. Where to go, what to see and who and what to bring, she expounds on the must-see and the must-taste essentials when traveling São Tomé e Príncipe.
PACK YOUR SUITCASE
A history of
strength and freedom
It is said that the volcanic island of São Tomé was uninhabited when the Portuguese seized it in 1470. It is believed that a Portuguese slave ship on its way to the Americas got shipwrecked due to a battle on board between the ship’s crew and the African slaves. Although the ship sank, most of the African slaves survived and swam ashore at a place they would call Angolares. The slaves became the first inhabitants of these islands. They formed their own community, settled in the high mountains of São Tomé and elected their own leader.
The islands were of crucial importance to the Portuguese in terms of their economy. In 1573, Portugal even named them ‘Crown Territories’. They also became one of the main ‘slave stations’ between Africa and the Americas. In 1595, a slave revolt severely threatened the Portuguese economy and brought a shock among the Europeans who did not believe that slaves were capable of rebelling, much less winning their freedom.
However, at the very end of the 16th century, in 1595, Amador, a slave who worked on a sugar plantation, revolted against the Portuguese slavery system. He is considered to be the man who led São Tomé to decolonization from Portugal. King Amador became a São Toméan and an African hero. In 2004, Kofi Annan, general secretary of the United Nations, inaugurated his statue in São Tomé.
This is one of the first of these important events ever undertaken in Africa against the transatlantic slave economy. It would not be the last.
The country became independent in 1975. During colonial times, economic development was closely linked to sugar, slavery, coffee and cacao. As early as the beginning of the sixteenth century, the plantation economy was introduced in São Tomé e Príncipe and for three centuries, the country was one of the most important producers of sugar. This coincided with the import of slaves from the African mainland and the country became a main transition port for slave trade from Africa to South-America.
In the early 1800’s, coffee and cacao were introduced to the islands, and by the end of the century, São Tomé e Príncipe had become the world’s largest producer of cacao. These economic activities had an impact on the landscape and the cultural mix of the island’s population. Today, the country has a little over 200.000 inhabitants of African, European and Asian descent. São Tomé e Príncipe is a democratic country with free press. It has one of the highest literacy rates in Africa. Now, as we said before, it is safe, easy to visit and offers an abundance of nature and a friendly and welcoming population.
The level of biodiversity on São Tomé e Príncipe is one of the highest in the world, with many species occurring nowhere else.
Find out more about all the ways you can explore the islands during your stay.
The culture of slow and easygoing, simple pleasures filter into the nation’s cuisine. Local food is characterized by time-consuming specialties. ‘On São Tomé, happiness transforms everything we do, even the flavor of our food,’ chef João Carlos Silva states
São Tomé & Príncipe is a travel adventure that's great, green and diverse. Plan your eco-friendly trip, in the meantime we will highlight the captivating wildlife of the island.
São Tomé International Airport is a minor international airport located on São Tomé Island, 5 kilometres from the city of São Tomé. It is the main airport serving São Tomé e Príncipe. Depending on where you are beginning your journey, you may be able to fly directly to São Tomé e Principe's main airport. If not, São Tomé e Principe enjoys regular links with Europe and the African mainland, which provide a plentiful supply of onward connections.
Travel from Europe
Direct flights from Europe are available from Lisbon through TAP Air Portugal and STP Airways. TAP Air Portugal have a weekly flight that departs from Lisbon - Portugal on Fridays at 00:15am that arrives at São Tomé International Airport at 05:15am (Local Time). STP Airways also have one weekly flight that departs Lisbon – Portugal on Saturdays at 00:30am and arrives at São Tomé International Airport at 05:30am (Local time). Both airlines have a one hour stop in São Tomé before they return to Lisbon - Portugal.
Sao Tome and Principe lies in the same time zone as Europe and only 6 flying hours directly from Lisbon. There is no jet lag involved flying this route.
Travel from Africa
CEIBA operate 2 weekly flights that departs from Libreville - Gabon on: Fridays and Mondays.
TAAG - Angola Airlines also operates two weekly flights that departs on Fridays and Mondays from Praia - Cape Verde; and Thursdays and Sundays from Luanda - Angola.
Travel from North America, Central & South America, Asia, Australia, Middle East
Unfortunately, at the moment there are no direct flights from these parts of the world with Sao Tome and Principe. However, Sao Tome enjoys good air links with south of Europe (Lisbon) and African mainland (Sal, Libreville, Luanda and Lagos), making onward travel easy.
Direct flights into Sao Tome and Principe are operated from Lisbon, Praia, Luanda, Malabo and Libreville.
All international flights arrive at Sao Tome and Principe International Airport, Sao Tome.
From the airport to the city
Location: 5 km/3 miles NNW of São Tomé.
By taxi: to the city centre and hotels ± US $5.
By bus: an airport bus is reported to run to the city.
Airport tax: an international departure tax of US $20 for adults and US $10 for children under 12.
Please bear in mind that all persons entering São Tomé must have a one year valid passport and visa. Visas are issued at São Tomé's overseas missions.