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Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Great Dog Peak of Sao Tome

Ambassador of India, Sao Tome and Principe

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

AFRICA: Sao Tome and Principe is a tiny island country situated in the Gulf of Guinea, Africa. Although the whole country is environmentally rich the Southern part of the country is the most charming region of these two islands. As one travels south, the forests get denser and the weather more humid.

The 40 km land route from the city centre to the famous Obo National Park, is dotted with innumerable pristine beaches, alluring waterfalls, lush green fields, thick plantations and quaint fishing villages. There are numerous vantage points from where one can witness the meeting of rivers with the Atlantic Ocean. Due to such natural attractions, the Southern trail has become a popular tourist circuit.

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The town of Port Alegro is the last town on the southern coast, where its secure and clean beaches provide sublime nesting grounds for the olive ridley turtles. Between November and February, hundreds of turtles lay their eggs on this beach, which is a sight to behold.
The final stop on this trail is the ride to Rolas Island, where one can cross the line of equator. Sao tome is one of the few places on earth located on the line of the equator.

The Obo National Park on this route is not just a major tourist draw, but also a UNESCO biodiversity reserve that contains rare endemic plant species. Therefore, it draws not just tourists, but also researchers and environmentalists.

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But the most iconic landmark that has made Sao tome famous is the Pico Cao Grande, a natural volcanic peak, which is located right inside the national park.

Although I have made several road trips on this route, I have never been able to cover the entire circuit in one trip as there are so many things to see on the way. On this particular trip, I drove directly to the Obo Natural Park to see the grand spectacle of Pico Cao Grande.
Also known as the Great Dog Peak, this towering tooth-shaped gigantic monolith, which is close to the Caue river, rises 2175 feet (about 660 meters) majestically from the ground.

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This unique natural skyscraper was visible from several vantage points on the motorway. I was forewarned by the guide that thick fog usually surrounds the peak and that I may be lucky to get a close glimpse of the peak. It turned out to be true as I looked at the thick blanket of fog enveloping the peak for a while. I stopped and waited at various spots to view the peak from different angles as the weather and visibility improved.

The area surrounding the peak is dense blankets of moist forests, which is home to exotic creatures and plants, but most notably, there is an excess of snakes throughout the range. An impenetrable forest of giant ferns and lianas also makes it difficult to approach this peak.

The trek to the foothills of the peak may take an entire day through 4-5 km of drive through the thick jungle from the motorway. Due to the thick jungle, heavy moistness and frequent rains, locals opine that the peak is almost unclimbable as the upward terrain can get very slippery. The local guide said that when it rains heavily, the peak resembles a massive glass bottle from a distance.

Despite the obvious risks, some intrepid and adventurous climbers have taken up the challenge and succeeded. Not far away is the Cao Pequeno (small dog), which is another natural hilltop about 300 metres tall. The island is also home to many other smaller phonolite peaks and rocks, which should be admired from across the water.

The rocks are best seen from the water, where it is possible to admire these wonderful peaks named the father, the son and the grandson, all lined up in a neat formation. A day’s trip is well worth the time and money.

Also Read: The Island of Principe is Africa’s Eden


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