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Tuesday, March 21, 2023

The Astounding Beauty of Sao Tome

Sao Tome's lushly forested volcanic peaks bustling with biodiversity is a home to around 30 endemic birds and dozens of other species

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Raghu Gururaj
Raghu Gururaj
Ambassador of India to the Republic of Sao Tome and Principe

SAO TOME And PRINCIPE. Sao Tome: Sao Tome is one of the most enchanting places in the world. This remote twin-island nation lies adrift in the Gulf of Guinea, off Africa’s west coast. Its lushly forested volcanic peaks bustling with biodiversity is a home to around 30 endemic birds and dozens of other species. Due to this, it is known as the “African Galápagos”.

Around three to four kms drive away in any direction from buzzing downtown Sao Tome, one is suddenly closeted by thick green plantations of banana, coffee, cocoa and variety of fruits. The breathtaking city of Sao Tome is surrounded by dense jungles.

The innumerable water falls, bluish green hued beaches, clear streams, medicinal gardens, fruit farms, plantation museums, picturesque fishing villages and vantage viewpoints overlooking dense jungles are a sight for sore eyes.

The first point in the Central Highlands of the North is the enthralling and popular waterfalls, the Cascata de São Nicolau, which is accessible from the main road. The water falls from a height of 50 meters fed by perennial down streams.

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The approach to the waterfalls can be a bit winding and bumpy, but the overlooking forests and the natural pool at the base of the falls, makes the visit extremely worthwhile.

Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

On the way, one can visit the ‘Coffee Museum’ and cocoa processing units that was established 100 years ago.

Cocoa seeds and farms. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj
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Cascata de Praia Pesqueria, is where the river meets the sea. The beautiful and serene place is located in middle of a small fishermen village.

Cascata de Praia Pesqueria. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

First discovered around 1470, Sao Tome was not officially settled until the 1490s by Portuguese explorer Alvaro Caminha, who received the island as a land grant from the Portuguese Crown. Ananbo is where the first Portuguese explorer landed in Sao Tome and therefore holds historical significance. Approximately 30 km further on the northern tip, this beach is pretty and pristine.

Serene Blue Lagoon

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The usually desolated Blue Lagoon or the Lago Azul, boasts of blue, clear and temperature perfect waters, making it an ideal spot for swimming. The beach throws up beautiful odd shaped and multi hued shiny pebbles.

Blue Lagoon. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj
Blue Lagoon. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

Praia dos Tamarindos or Tamarind beach, on the Northern tip is probably among the top three beaches in Sao Tome.  The beach is usually frequented more by locals than foreign tourists. It is also a popular place where locals picnic, frolic and play soccer.

Praia dos Tamarindos or Tamarind beach. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

The beach got its name due to the presence of large number of tamarind trees around the beach. 

The Obo Natural Park in the south of the Island, is an attractive natural, national park. Spread across some 235 square km, this wild park is covered with lush green cover, mangroves, swamps and Savannah grasslands. 

2 Obo
Tamarind trees. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

It is also adorned with  plenty of alluring waterfalls that cascade down the slopes of mountains and all the way to the black and white beaches.

7 Obo
Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

But the most gorgeous feature of Obo National Park is the landmark needle shaped volcanic mountain, the Pico Cao Grande. It is a steep volcanic mountain rising dramatically from the Park and amidst some really lush jungle greenery. Measured at about 370 metres, it looks like a head turning urban skyscraper.

Pico Cao Grande. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

Another distinctive feature of the park is the diverse nature of flora with more 700 species. Comprising evergreen coniferous, pines, ferns and about 100 unique orchid species, the Natural Park is a virtual paradise for the fauna that thrives among this thickset green cover. Also the perfect habitat for more 234 bird species, making it the perfect spot for ornithologists. In fact this park has been designated as the second most important forest of biological interest in entire Africa.

5 Obo
Enthralling nature. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

There are several more hidden natural gems in Sao Tome that can bewitch even the most avid of travelers and adventurers. All one needs is stamina, zest and determination to enjoy the raw beauty of this island.

Also Read: Travel Trends – Travelers Love Long Weekends


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