Its always a challenge for me to explain where I was born. Normally people don’t know it because it’s such a small island that it’s hard to find it on the map. Sometimes it does not even appear.
São Tomé and Príncipe, is a Portuguese speaking island nation in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa.
Is the second-smallest islands in the African continent with a population of 192,993, as well as the smallest Portuguese-speaking country.
It consists of two archipelagos around the two main islands: São Tomé and Príncipe, located about 87 miles apart and about 155 and 140 miles respectively, off the northwestern coast of Gabon.
The islands colonial history dates back to the arrival of Portuguese explorers in the 15th century. Its was uninhabited when they descovered and gradually colonized and settled by them throughout the 16th century.
Since independence in 1975, with Manuel Pinto Da Costa as President the economy has struggled, and there’s remains of poverty in São Tomé and Príncipe, but the first green shoots of sustainable tourism are sprouting encouragingly, and there is real cause for optimism that the islands could become a model for responsible tourism in the West African region.
The ecologically fascinating destination of São Tomé and Príncipe is being developed with such sensitivity towards the natural order of things that it has picked up the sobriquet ‘the Galapagos of Africa’.
The islands are one of West Africa’s most important nesting sites for turtles. The birdlife (143 species at last count) flit between the leaves and 900 species of indigenous plant and orchid species are certainly impressive. The islands feature on the migratory routes of many marine species including giant leatherback turtles and humpback whales.
There are extraordinary opportunities for hikers. The underwater world offers snorkelling and scuba diving, bird-watching, whale watching, boat trips, trekking or mountain biking and big game fishing that attracts anglers from all over the world.
All possible from one or other of the excellent eco-lodges that are dotted around the islands. It is also a source of world class coffee and chocolate.
São Tomé is endowed with excellent conditions for tropical agriculture. The growing season is long, there is no lack of water and the rich volcanic soils and close proximity to the equator made São Tomé and Príncipe ideal for sugar cultivation, followed later by cash crops such as coffee and cocoa.
Its paradise of unexplored jungles, crystal clear waters and palm-fringed beaches. Thanks to rich biodiversity, Principe is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Tropical fruits such as pineapple, mango, safu, cajamanga, fruta pao, papaia and bananas are a significant component of the cuisine. The use of hot spices is prominent in São Tomése cuisine and coffee is utilized in various dishes as a spice or seasoning.
Traditional dishes like “Barriga de peixe” that is a grilled fish served with rice, breadfruit or manioc.
Cachupa is a dish prepared with green beans, broad beans and corn.
Calulu is a traditional dish prepared withgrouper or smoked fish, prawns, tomato, okra,aubergines, onion, and spices, including grains of paradise.
Some versions of the dish may include or use smoked chicken, breadfruit, óssame (a red, bulbous fruit) or bananas.It takes around five hours for traditional calulu to be prepared.
Arroz doce is a traditional breakfast food prepared with sweet corn and coconut.
São Tomé and Príncipe holiday offers an exceptional combination of nature, beach and delicious food. Its described by many as a “dream destination for any fan of Africa’s undiscovered corners”.
If that all sounds a touch, well, strenuous, you could just soak up the intoxicatingly laidback atmosphere, with its strong influences from South America, not only in the language but also in the music and food; and all the while enjoying possibly the best coffee and chocolate on the planet.