Sao Tome and Príncipe, officially the Democratic Republic of Sao Tome and Príncipe, is an island nation in the Gulf of Guinea. It is situated off the western coast of Central Africa and the north-western coast of Gabon. The nation comprises of two archipelagos around its two main islands, namely Sao Tome and Príncipe, which are approximately 140km apart. The islands are part of an extinct volcanic mountain range, and were discovered and claimed in the late 15th century by Portugal. Sao Tome and Príncipe achieved independence in 1975. Today it is the smallest Portuguese-speaking country in the world and the second smallest country in Africa.
Ôbo Natural Park - The natural park takes up 235km2 of the south of Sao Tome Island, roughly 30 percent of the island, and 65km2 of Principe Island. Ôbo Natural Park is internationally known for the biologically rich and dense virgin rainforests. It also has a unique ecosystem containing a wide range of biotopes. In 1988, the forests of the island were declared as the second most important, out of 75 forests all over Africa, in terms of biological interest. Within the rainforests are about 100 orchids and more than 700 species of flora. Among the most notable fauna found in the forests are the African manatee, Sao Tome Giant Treefrog, and Newton's Grassland Frog.
Ilhéu das Rolas - The small island can be found off the southern tip of Sao Tome Island, lying on the equator. In it is a small resort that is a popular venue for underwater diving and snorkelling in the crystal clear waters. Other popular dive sites in the country are Bom Bom Resort (for beginners), Maria Coreo (for experienced divers), and the Blue Lagoon.
Sao Tome - The capital city itself is a sight to behold, with picturesque views and stunning colonial Portuguese architecture with fading pastel-coloured buildings and elaborately-designed balconies. Since everything can be reached by foot, you can easily tour the Sao Tome National Museum for insight on the life on the plantations and the country's pre-independence history, a 16th century cathedral, the Presidential Palace, the Independence Square, the Municipal Market, and the lively Mercado Central.
How to get around within Sao Tome and Principe
Most of the buses in Sao Tome are hand-me-downs from Portugal, but are effective in connecting population centres. The buses do not pass many tourist destinations, so visitors are advised to rent a car instead for more independence in terms of travelling. Book a rented vehicle in advance so the car will be there to pick you up from the airport as soon as you land. You may hire a guide with the car, but it is not particularly necessary; the island is small and there are maps available, so driving around shouldn't be that hard even for foreigners.
How to get there
The main airport serving the islands of Sao Tome and Príncipe is Sao Tome International Airport, located in Sao Tome, 5km from the city centre. The airport is served by the airlines African Aviation, Africa's Connection STP, CEIBA Intercontinental, Punto Azul, STP Airways (operated by EuroAtlantic Airways), TAAG Angola Airlines, and TAP Portugal. Together, they link the islands to destinations such as Equatorial Guinea, Portugal, Angola, and the Republic of Ghana.
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