is a trip report from our family
vacation to the small African country of São Tomé &
Princípe – situated
right on the Equator in the
The inspiration started with a short article from my travel club: (Translated with Google here): http://www.berejst.dk/027/Saotome.htm – so I got curious - where was São Tomé? And later this article in Wanderlust: http://www.wanderlust.co.uk/article.php?page_id=847
here we had to go at some
Highlights: Pristine beaches, beautiful country, leve-leve (easy, easy) atmosphere.
Lowlights: Communicating with the locals was difficult; Portuguese only with a few exceptions that could speak French. We cannot speak French, so when addressed in French we asked them to speak Portuguese, so at least we could understand a little (somewhat similar to Spanish/Italian which we speak).
of the transportation and
pre-arranged through Navetur
a week before arriving. The flight tickets
We all had Yellow
took Malaria tablets – also the children – Malarone for the Children
for us adults.
Visa: Is required - in Europe you e-mail the embassy in Brussels for an application sheet, which you send with your passport. The money for the visa is transferred to a bank-account. When they sent me the account-number, it wasn't correct, so the can't get an too many applications each week.
We used the new Bradt guidebook - first edition was recently released,
and it was extremely useful - clik the link below to buy it.
extremely useful - clik the link below to buy it.
Friday 23.1 – São Tomé
A quick stop with a street money changer near the Navetur office (22.000 Dobra/ €). Changing money this way seemed to be the standard and the rates seemed fair. Then on to Recidencial Avenida. We walked to the Parliament and the Pestana hotel nearby and had breakfast (3 x 10€). This is a new hotel but we saw just 3-4 tourists there. The children had their first (but not last) swim at a small beach just south of this hotel. Back at Avenida for a afternoon nap and then shopping at the main square, the cathedral, buying postcards and stamps at the post office (25.000 Dobras /each postcard!). Dinner at Café & Companhia at the Praça de Amizade.
This weeks visitor list, which will be referred to in this travelogue:
& Marek –
A French couple
& Annelies –
(+ 10 Portuguese tourists, visiting Pestana only)
at 4:00, and pickup by the
Navetur bus at
4:30. The idea was that today was Erik’s day off – for trekking, and
would have the next day to trek. We could not all fit in the van, so
and the children went back to the hotel room to be picked up later.
Marek were already in the van, and after picking up Nick, we went on to
– a ‘botanical garden’ and the start of today's trek most of the way up
São Tomé. After morning coffee and marking the start
point on the GPS at Bom
Successo we were on our way at 6:00. First through some farmed land,
The clouds lifted and from the ridge we could see the whole island. The path was slippery and full of mud and it was hard going down. Several from the group were quite tired and we slowed down. José was getting annoyed and nervous about the time. It started getting dark, and we were happy that most had brought torches. At 18:15 it was pitch dark. I could see on my GPS that we were still a couple of kilometres from Bom Successo – and there was a hill between us and home. There was no wind and you could hear all the noises from the jungle. Good thing that there not really is many dangerous animals here. We returned at 20:00 – after 14 hours of trekking. I felt good that I was not totally exhausted, and my gym training had born fruit. Birgitte and the children had been a bit bored since there was not that much to do in the 'botanical gardens'.
Birgitte hiked this route today and it was a super, she said. She was a bit afraid it would be as challenging as the one yesterday, but Etienne assured her that it would be a nice and quiet walk. From 8:00 to 13:30. Nick also walked today. Erik and the children where put up in Navetur's apartment for 2½ hours (together with Marek and Ania). The apartment is 3 rooms that Navetur rents out for 20€/night. Did a small walk with the children and watched a Pentecost church having service. We bought a grilled corncob and dried our wet clothes on the balcony – the climate is typical for a mountain island with clouds on the mountains and sunshine along the coasts.
The manager of Roça Bombaim was a little grumpy looking, but we had a nice lunch. We spent the afternoon walking around the plantation. Behind the roça, there were some old buildings where we met a beggar and talked a bit with a young boy who had caught a small bird for dinner together with snails from the forest. The guidebook says that since most people can get fruit to eat, they often cannot afford meat or fish to get proteins so they collect these snails.
Good food and good coffee. Red wine on the terrace – and it was quite cosy when the generator was turned off at 21:40.
Nick, Ania & Marek had another day of hiking – after a good lunch, we drove to Roça São Joao, on the south east coast. The road along the coast was not good so it took some time to drive. The roça was super nice with views over the coast, town, beach and to the interior on the other side. São Joao de los Angolares is a small local society with own language. We walked to the south end of the beach (at least a couple of kilometres) – relaxing and swimming. The beach had black sand. Many children passed by. It took an hour to walk back – the children were not in a hurry. We bought shampoo on the market, creating much fun and interest for the locals. Anders and Johanne were starving, but the staff at the roça came up with bread and fruit in a second after a couple of hints in Portuguese – they only spoke Portuguese and French here (as most places). The dinner was a culinary fusion of all kinds of things. Dinner starts at 19:30 here, so our children are always starving and sleepy at this time – they are used to eating around 18:00. We both fell asleep with the children afterwards, by accident.
said good bye to Nick; he
was going back
to São Tomé city where he had half a day at the beach and
a visit to Monte Café
– then two dreaded days in
were going to the next
Again gourmet dinner; we brought our own red wine, which seemed to be ok.
was a little clouded and
Poles were on the mangrove tour and the Dutch (Ad and Annelies) were
with us in
the small Jalé Ecolodge
on the southwest coast. The road was bad
the first leg
from São Joao, though with good views of the pinnacle Cão
was clouded today, but a
comfortable temperature. There is quite stable temperature of 28
of the year. A great breakfast: Avocado, home made doughnuts, coffee,
10:00 the clouds disappeared
walked the short way to Praia Piscina. What a beach! We both agreed
should be no.1 on our all time favourite beach. Quite small, but with
basalt rocks at both ends, white crescent beach, small alcove where the
The afternoon we stayed at Jalé. My mask and snorkel was missing; I could see from two photos that it was there yesterday evening, but was missing this morning. So there probably was a reason why they kept armed guards. The children's mask was quite big, so luckily I could use it – and my fins were still here. I even had time to read a book since we took some time each to look for the children.
sunset was beautiful and we
on the table. The villagers had made S.Tomé bean stew for dinner.
the sleep was not too
good. The Dutch
had not slept at all because of the noise from the waves. I think we
did not sleep
too well was because the beds were not too good and a bit narrow for
the 4 of
us to sleep in only two beds and mosquito nets taking up space. But
great breakfast. Did a little more snorkelling on the 'house reef' – it
actually quite good. Jalé was fine and the local did a lot for
the security and
cooking – the two women from the village were at the lodges almost
But it is basic – you should be aware of that. On the other hand some
best beaches in the world are here. When the driver came to pick us up
there was a little confusion. We had said no to the transfer from
Jalé to Ponta
Bailero from where the boat is to Rolas and it is only
The rooms (all are small houses divided in two) was luxurious and Birgitte and Johanne hurried for a hot shower. Pizza and sandwich in the café. There were 12 couples at the resort. Among these the Dutch and the French couple. The rest are Portuguese tourist visiting only this resort. A couple of honeymooners. The pool was great – the biggest in west-Africa it says. A children's pool where Johanne and Anders spend all afternoon. Super views towards the São Tomé island – all the south of the island can be seen – the different weather systems and the beaches. Dinner was a bit late (19:30) but many different courses so the children were satisfied. 10 minutes of internet at the front desk before dinner, so had the chance to mark São Tomé on my WhereIveBeen.com and status update on facebook. Red wine on the terrace. 'President Obama' on CNN – I still have to get used to saying that.
to find equator – walked a
to the eastern point on the equator (00°00.000' E006°31.601') –
close to the
viewpoint. Good breakfast and we went to today's beach, Praia
Café which should
be the best on the island. It is on the west side and right on the
took some nice pictures of the children's first steps on the southern
hemisphere (00°00.000' E006°31.144'). We swam, played and
relaxed until 13:30.
A small boy played with the children. Two São Toméan
families had arrived for
the weekend so it took some time to get our lunch. Afternoon at the
'Caipirinha' competition for the guests – very funny to watch. First it
hour with announcements that it was going to start, and then a lot of
while they took turns creating and tasting the creation. Umm, delicious
barbeque for dinner with lots of meat, marisco and red wine. This place
of the few places in the country which works well – probably because it
Portuguese owned – AND supervised by a Portuguese. The manager was
around, and directing the work – even for dinner and breakfast.
Thunder today and an hour of torrential rain. Today's outing was to the Equator mark (N00°00.046' E006°31.326') 46' south of equator :-) It was probably positioned here because of the view over the island and towards São Tomé. Afternoon at the pool and family photo session at sunset at the beach.
little drizzle and cloudy –
temperatures. A trip to find 'middle earth' – the closest point to 0.0
supposed to be around here. The candidates were the rocks on the north
Praia Café (N00°00.070' E006°31.135'), the Equator on
a beer with Ad and
Annelies. He had
dropped his camera in the pool while photographing the infinity pool,
testing his SD card in my camera he was more relaxed. After the
was not many left in Equator village. A long waiting time and the
postponed until 16:30. The boat was filled with staff. Those from the
right on the mainland used pirogues. All in this boat continued with
bus to São Tomé city. Two hours drive (17:00-19:00) –
lousy road, remember.
Thought (wrongly) that the driver knew where we were getting off, so
saw the antennas from Voice of America, I could see we had come too far
– so we
All visitors to this club/resort are French and you are greeted in French by all staff. How difficult it is with language here. French and Portuguese are not our favourite languages.
Club Santana: Lots of ants, no mosquitoes (because they are always cleaning, as the manager says), clean, super expensive.
Embarrassing! Took hold of the manager who walked towards the restaurant to talk about the bill yesterday evening – what that was about since we had half board. He called for our voucher – and it said BB. Embarrassing. I never found out why Navetur did not book half board as we had asked for – but I did not check my itinerary well enough. Shit. Went to the office to have it changed to half board. Saw my first baobab trees ever. They were quite tall those in the area. Clear skies (unusual) and hot. There is a small private beach which is wonderful; we spend all day here building sand castles, swimming and snorkelling (which is great here).
At dinner they again presented the menu, and I asked if there was anybody around who could speak English. There turned out to be one of the waiters who did. So we asked if this was part of the half board – yes it was. And again we were surprised of the huge bill we should sign? No problem, he would check about the half board for us – just sign. Dream on. We are quite displeased about this place; everything we ask for – 'yes of course', but nothing is done.
at the beach. Did some
all the way around the cliffs to below the restaurant. Here there was a
– it was going straight down at least
And as predicted, it went wrong by check-out. Nothing was changed to 'meia pensão' as promised and the bill was very expensive. We have at this time tried 4 times to explain it and have it changed and every time it was 'sim, sim' and nothing was done, hoping the 'problem' (us guests) would go away or passed on to someone else. We cannot recommend Club Santana unless you are French and carefully control everything you sign – and insists to have it changed if it not is correct. And be prepared that it is the most expensive menu in the country. Paying was also a show. The receptionist called to have my Visa card controlled – not valid, she responded. She tried Brigitte's card – not valid, she responded. Then we tried a MasterCard, and after checking two times, it suddenly was ok. Coming home we were surprised that the money had been deducted from our 'invalid' VISA card – and are still expecting the same amount one day to show up on our MasterCard…
One very nice thing is that they have a free shuttle to São Tomé city (3 times a day) and it went swift – to Avenida. Lunch at the cozy Café & Companhia. Phew, it was hot today. Visited the market (interesting, very hectic, small variety of the fruits being sold – could be the season). Passed Navetur to book a trip for tomorrow and they would fix the departure tax in advance. Supermarket. Coffee at the hotel, posting of the last postcards.
Dinner at 'Jasmin'. A nice café-restaurant in Casa del Cultura. The waiter even spoke English. Internet: Found out that I had become uncle to a small girl yesterday.
Today's excursion was to the coffee factories. It was Etienne who was our guide again. His foot was a little better. 3. February was the Heroes day and we drove through Batepá where the massacre took place, which started the independence movement.
Café is not
'working' at the moment.
Typical African where the factories are waiting for new investors. So
drying halls, the new 'Brazilian' machinery (quite dusty). Monte
situated in a low altitude (500m), so they were only growing Robusta
only grows in higher altitudes). Many children begging – especially for
Nice view from the adjoining hospital. We had asked to see Nova Moca,
is a working plantation, quite close by. It did not seem to be on the
schedule, at least not Etienne. Nova Moca is the only one that really
and the only one with low-yield Arabica (800-
Up at 04:00 and went to the airport. Check-in took a long time even though it was a point-to-point flight. The service-desk woman searched my passport for a long time for the visa to Portugal - never heard of EU. The incoming plane was full and several more tourists were coming. The president was arriving with the plane.
flight home went according
to the plan,
except we got in to
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