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Monday, October 3, 2022

The Quaint Fishing Villages of Sao Tome

Sao Tome and Principe's lush waters with exotic marine life, makes it one of the world's top fishing grounds

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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 and Principe are two beautiful islands in West Africa, located about 200 kilometres off the coast of the Gulf of Guinea and surrounded by warm Atlantic waters.

Sao Tome and Principe’s lush waters with exotic marine life, makes it one of the world’s top fishing grounds. Between July and October, when the waters are slightly warm, is the best fishing season.

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Despite overfishing, giant sailfish, dolphinfish, wahoo, barracuda, bluefin tuna, and blue marlin are still plentiful. Blue marlin seen here can weigh up to 700 pounds and reach lengths of more than 10 feet.

These islands have almost 200 kilometres of beautiful coastlines, the majority of which are white sand beaches.

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Quaint fishing villages dot the coastlines, giving the fishermen communities succor and stable livelihoods. Besides being a hub of activity, these villages are also targets of tourist interest.

Most fishing villages are tucked away from the main road through thick foliage and fruit and coconut trees. Ram shackled wooden houses, stone beaches, wooden canoes, and simple community living are common features of such villages across Sao Tome.

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Life here appears to be simple and lovely, but it is not.
However, people’s grins, particularly those of youngsters, are genuine and contagious.

Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

I’ve lost track of how many children have waved at me without prompting. Children frolicking in the warm waters of neighbouring cliffs are a regular sight.

It is also not an unusual sight to see womenfolk washing clothes on the black pebble stones of the many lagoons skirting the ocean coastlines.

On a typical early morning at Pantufo village in the South, one can witness the compelling spectacle of fishermen pushing their sturdy wooden canoes and hopping onto them, expertly navigating into the ocean. The families of the fishermen are early risers too, as they eagerly watch their breadwinners ride away into the pre-dawn darkness.

The fishermen return to the shore with the catch just around sunrise. I was fortunate to see some of the fishermen drag out huge tunas, each easily weighing over five kilos. The catch usually comprises 200 to 300 pounds of tuna and wahoo.

Photo Credit: Raghu Gururaj

A good portion of the daily catch ends up at the seaside restaurants of Pantufo fishing village, which have become famous for their smoked fish and fruit pies.

Porto Alegre is the last village on the east coast. The fishing community is better organized here and is visited by groups of foreign tourists. The fishing community of Neves on the West coast of Sao Tome is another favorite haunt of foreign tourists.

The fishing communities in Sao Tome constitute an important part of the country’s maritime economy and heritage. Almost entirely dependent on fishing and ecological wealth and with virtually no governmental support, sustainable fishing has become a necessity for the fishing communities of Sao Tome.

Also Read: Whale Watching in Sao Tome

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