Trekking in São Tomé + Príncipe
With otherworldly scenery, ranging from empty, white-sand beaches to jungle-covered extinct volcanoes, the two-island nation is an incredible hiking destination. All our clients who make the journey here stay at the glorious Sundy Praia, a fantastic lodge on Príncipe with a small team of extremely enthusiastic guides. Each one of them was born on the isle and have immense pride and passion for their country. This, for me, made the treks I completed all the richer. They all varied in difficulty and distance, so there is something for everyone. While there are still numerous trails to be discovered here, those I experienced really gave me a feel for this wild, remote and hauntingly beautiful place.
Here are three of our favourite hikes on Príncipe + why:
1 For a challenge: Pico do Papagaio
I highly recommend this trek, which climbs Pico do Papagaio (‘Parrot Peak’), a vast, rocky beacon situated on the edge of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This is arguably one of Príncipe’s most famous mountains. It is the island’s answer to Machu Picchu, and is visible from many points as you explore. Here, we passed through primary and secondary rainforest, reaching ever higher until we reached the summit. Having climbed some 700m over six hours, we were rewarded with the most jaw-dropping vistas, offering a bird’s-eye view in all directions. On our way down, we were lucky enough to spot endemic monkeys, some native birds as well as a great variety of orchids – all quite spectacular.
2 To swim beneath a waterfall: Pipi Falls
This beautiful cascade is well worth the steep, 45-minute hike to reach it. At the foot of this rarely visited waterfall is a lagoon with crystal-clear waters, where you can swim, which was wonderfully refreshing after the deep humidity of the jungle. Afterwards, as we walked back through the dense rainforest, we were lucky enough to hear a troop of elusive monkeys swinging through the canopy above us. They were too quick for us to get a clear view of them, but the sounds echoing around us were as atmospheric as they were enthralling.
3 For the diverse landscapes: Ribeira Izé
This is one of the best routes to do if you have time for only one trek during your stay at Sundy Praia because it offers a little insight into all the unique features that make this island what it is. From enormous swathes of rainforest, where cacao grows naturally alongside coffee plants and banana trees, to desolate blonde beaches and historic ruins, this was a remarkably varied two-hour walk, made all the easier as the path begins direct from the lodge.
Ribeira Izé was Príncipe’s first capital, abandoned after a time because it was too easy for pirates to raid its beaches. There is virtually nothing left to even suggest that the city once lay here, aside from a crumbling church and the remains of a plantation house belonging to Maria Correia, the daughter of a Brazilian immigrant and a mulatta who is remembered for the dynamic way she led her slaves. As we walked through the decaying remains, the stories that emerged were fascinating.
If you have the energy, continue from Ribeira Izé to Bom Bom, one of the island’s best-known lodges. The trail takes you along stretches of stunning beaches with several lovely swimming spots to enjoy. On arrival, we can arrange for you to be welcomed with some well-deserved refreshments, before being collected by boat to explore some of the east coast’s most breathtaking beaches, where we can set up a sumptuous, freshly prepared picnic.
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