Preparations: São Tomé & Príncipe
I’m really excited! But also slightly nervous. I grew up in South Africa, so I’m no stranger to Africa, but São Tomé & Príncipe is off the beaten track, in the middle of an ocean, really small and remote islands! I know nothing about this place on our earth, apart from the tales Paul told me after his first visit and the pictures he brought back. It was never on my bucket list before he found an interest in the islands. But I put my trust in my guide, who also happens to be my partner (in life and business). He’s been to many West African countries and always comes back with positive feedback, so I can’t wait.
Short History of São Tomé & Príncipe
A very short history of São Tomé & Príncipe: an island nation that lies nestled in the crook of West Africa in the Atlantic Ocean, Bay of Guinea to be exact, right on the Equator. Just short of 200 miles west of Libreville, the capital of Gabon. It’s a Portuguese speaking nation which gained independence from Portugal in 1975. São Tomé & Príncipe are also known as the chocolate islands (my kinda place!), as it used to be the biggest producers of cacao before gaining independence.
There are a lot more interesting facts about São Tomé & Príncipe, but I’ll forego these for the minute to get to the point! I am going there!!
Boosters usually advised by the travel clinic in England are: Hepatitis A; Tetanus; Typhoid; Yellow Fever. Other vaccines to consider: Cholera; Diphtheria; Hepatitis B; Meningococcal Meningitis; Rabies. (Yellow fever vaccination certificate required from travellers over 9 months of age.) I got the first 3 and also the Hep B vac, in 4 jabs; 2 at a time, 1 in each arm, 2 weeks apart. (I plan on avoiding the other mentioned diseases by using common sense.) The jabs all caused stiffness and swelling in my arms for a couple of days, but nothing too bad. The Yellow Fever vaccine is a live one and can cause flu-like symptoms, but fortunately I didn’t suffer any. It costs £65, and you won’t be allowed into Gabon or São Tomé & Príncipe without the certificate. You should seek medical advice from your travel clinic a few months in advance to travelling, don’t leave this until the last minute.
You can get a prescription from the travel clinic for malaria tablets as well: you need to start 2 days before you travel, enough for during your trip, and an extra 7 for after your trip. I got Malerone, but there are other options available. Although there is air-con in most hotels these days (the cool air keeps mosquitoes at bay), we’re also bringing our own mosquito net (bell shaped, which only has one fastening; box shaped nets have 4 fixtures) and insect repellant with 50% DEET (as suggested by travel clinic). These are simple and cheap precautions to take to keep the mozzies away.
Since we’re arriving in Gabon and spending the night, before heading out to the islands, we need to apply for a visa. You can apply in person on a Tuesday or Thursday, or by post, and there’s also an e-visa option to apply online. We chose the e-visa option, which involves an online form and uploading an image of a passport picture and passport. You will have to bring your payment and supporting documents (ID, proof of address, hotel booking/invitation letter) with you, to be shown when you arrive at Libreville. (Shortly before publishing this post we received notice that our e-visa applications were cancelled, so we’ll be travelling to the Gabonese embassy in London after all, to apply in person.) Single entry visas valid for 90 days cost £60. Passports must have a validity of 6 months. Easy peasy!
EU citizens visiting for 15 days or less can travel to São Tomé & Príncipe visa-free. If you’re planning on staying longer, then you’ll need to apply for a visa. Again, this can be done online. Passports must have 3 month validity. This information is valid at the time of publishing, please be sure to check with your embassy before you go.
How to get there
We’re taking the longer route with Air France, from London to Paris, to Libreville, Gabon. From there we’ll catch another hour-long flight to São Tomé. Air TAP flies straight to São Tomé from Lisbon. The last leg to Príncipe will be 45 minutes with Air Sao Tome’s single prop-driven Twin Otter plane (eek!). An adventure to be sure!
Where to stay
There are a few options to stay during a visit to São Tomé & Príncipe, but we’ve gone for Omali Lodge on São Tomé and Bom Bom on Príncipe. Both look amazing, but I’ll give first-hand feedback on the accommodation on our return!
Hopefully I haven’t drivelled on too much here and that you find it a bit useful. Ultimately this will be a working trip for the Salty Dog team. We will be offering regular fishing holidays to this beautiful destination off the coast of West Africa, that will include: fishing, bird-watching, and wild-life. To that end we’ll look at everything critically so that we can come back and give an honest review. And yes, it will also involve fishing!! Of course! Watch this space to see our travel report at the end of August.
Salty Dog Crew