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Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The Enthralling Southern Trail of Sao Tome

The Southern part of Sao Tome is home to some of the iconic tourist landmarks in the whole island archipelago

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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: From exotic beaches to exquisite chocolate, the remote African island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe has attractions to rival the world’s best. The Southern part of Sao Tome is perhaps the most attractive and most visited part. The place is home to some of the iconic tourist landmarks in the whole island archipelago. 

Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

Roughly 75 kms from Sao Tome city and boasting of some of the best quality roads in all of this island, the Southern most town of Porto Alegre can be reached in less than 2 hours. 

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But one would need a whole day to visit all the important tourist sites on the route. Driving on the smooth and well laid out motorway, one will pass through countless plantations of cocoa and plantains and thick bush country.

The drive on the Southern route is so relaxing that a bill board actually welcomes the tourist with the statement that one has entered a stress free zone. 

Billboard at the southern route. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj
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The first point of touristic interest is an old abandoned hospital of Roca Agua Ize. The area was once the site of the biggest cocoa plantations of Sao Tome & Principe. 

A supposedly large well equipped hospital built here 100 years ago for the plantation workers and officials, sadly stands in ruins today, but converted into a museum. 

Roca Agua Ize. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj
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Driving a few kilometers further south, there is the “Boca do Inferno” or the Hell’s Mouth, which is a beautiful natural cliff overlooking a rough and noisy ocean. The epithet is derived from the eerie howling sounds made by the strong waves incessantly pounding the rocks.

Boca Do Inferno. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

The largest coastal town in the vicinity is São João dos Angolares. It is quite nondescript, but has a good restaurant and an eco-friendly lodge and a guesthouse right at the top of the hill overlooking the sea. 

Perhaps the most iconic landmark that has made Saotome famous is located 15 kms from the town of São João dos Angolares. The volcanic hill known as the Pico Cao Grande presents itself majestically across a 3 km stretch of thick bush country from the main road. 

The Great Dog Peak. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

Also known as the Great Dog Peak, this volcanic natural structure, rises 2200 feet, challenging the hardiest of trekkers and adventurers. This unique natural skyscraper could be viewed from several vantage points. But in order to get closer and trek up to this structure, it would be better to hire the services of a professional guide (20 to 30 Euros). The trek up the peak may take an entire day through 3 kms of thick jungle from the motorway. 

Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

After the special experience with the Pico Cao Grande, one cannot miss the cute and clean Cascata De Praia Pesqueria, a waterfall located a few kilometres further on the same road. This is also the place where the river meets the sea. This area is flanked by quaint fishing villages populated by few families.

Cascata De Praia Pesqueria. Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj
Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

The town of Port Alegro is the last town on the southern coast. Praia Inhame Eco Lodge is an impressive place to spend the night or even for a snack and drink. It is here that  hundreds of turtles lay their eggs on this beach here during the season, which is a sight to behold. 

The final and important dot on this Southern touristic trail is the ride to Rolas Island, where one can cross the line of equator. Saotome is one of the few places on earth located on the line of equator. The ride from the beach on the mainland to Rolas Islet can be made through the daily ferry (twice a day at 15 euros) organized by Pestana Resort or opt for small open fishing barges, which also return the same day.

The ride on the fishing barges can be rough and uncomfortable at times, depending on the currents or the weather. After reaching the Rolas Island, one needs to take a 20 minute trek to the Equator Mark. It is interesting that Point 0 zero degrees latitude is measured down in a nearby fishermen’s village on the same islet. 

Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

The entire trip from Saotome city to its Southern point is a fascinating and engrossing ride, with a lot to savour.

Also Read: The Astounding Beauty of Sao Tome

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