Príncipe

Travel Guide Africa Sao Tome and Principe Príncipe

edit

Introduction

Príncipe is the smaller, northern major island of the country of Sao Tomé and Príncipe lying off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea. It has an area of 136 square kilometres and a population of approximately 7,500. The island is a heavily eroded volcano speculated to be over three million years old, surrounded by smaller islands including Ilheu Bom Bom, Ilhéu Caroço, Tinhosa Grande and Tinhosa Pequena. Part of the Cameroon Line archipelago, Príncipe rises in the south to 948 metres at Pico de Príncipe, in a thickly forested area forming part of the Obo National Park.

Top

edit

History

The island was uninhabited when discovered by the Portuguese on 17 January 1471 and was first named after Saint Anthony ("Ilha de Santo Antão"). Later the island was renamed Príncipe by King John II of Portugal in honour of his son Afonso, Prince of Portugal. The first settlement, the town Santo António, was founded in 1502. Subsequently, the north and centre of the island were made into plantations by Portuguese colonists using slave labor. These concentrated initially on producing sugar and after 1822 on cocoa, becoming the world's greatest cocoa producer. Since independence, these plantations have largely reverted to forest.

The island's fortress named Fortaleza de Santo António da Ponta da Mina on a point inside Baía de Santo António (Santo António Bay) was built in 1695. In 1706, the city and the fortress were destroyed by the French. From 1753 until 1852, Santo António was the colonial capital of Portuguese São Tomé and Príncipe.

Príncipe was the site where Einstein's theory of relativity was experimentally corroborated by Arthur Stanley Eddington and his team during the total solar eclipse of May 29, 1919; photographs of the eclipse revealed evidence of the 'bending' of starlight, in accordance with Einstein's predictions.

On April 29, 1995, the Autonomous Region of Príncipe was established, corresponding with the existing Pagué District.

Top

edit

Geography

In 2006, the Parque Natural Obô do Príncipe was established, covering the mountainous, densely forested and uninhabited southern part of the island of Príncipe. There are numerous endemic species of fauna on Príncipe, including birds such as the Príncipe kingfisher, Principe seedeater, Principe starling, Príncipe sunbird, black-capped speirops (Zosterops lugubris), Dohrn's thrush-babbler, the Príncipe weaver and the Príncipe white-eye, geckos include the Príncipe gecko (Hemidactylus principensis), frogs include the palm forest tree frog and the Phrynobatrachus dispar. Marine fauna includes Muricopsis principensis, a mollusc and the West African mud turtle.

Top

edit

Settlements

Príncipe has one town, Santo António, as well as some villages including Bela Vista, Bombom, Futuro, Neves Ferreira, Paciencia, Ponta Fonte, Ribeira Ize, Santo António de Ureca and Vila Rosa.

Top

edit

Sights and Activities

São Tomé and Príncipe were uninhabited prior to colonization by the Portuguese in the 1490s. Since then, much of the landscape has remained unchanged or, where former plantations once stood, reclaimed by the rainforests. The islands are covered by lush rainforests and with a small population and very few tourists, and remain for visitors a veritable tropical paradise.

Just offshore are coral reefs with a large diversity of sea life - including a few endemics as the waters between other islands and the mainland reach 2,000 meters! Diving and snorkeling are the ideal ways to explore the underwater side of this paradise, during which you can come face-to-face with dolphins, large green turtles, and a wide array of colorful fish. Experienced and daring divers can explore underwater caves.

Obo National Park is a protected nature park on both Sao Tomé and Príncipe, part of it being the remains of what used to be plantations. The park consists of tropical forests on higher land. There are many walking trails bringing you to waterfalls, lakes and animals like treefrogs and special snakes. For more details, check the Obo National Park website.

Eddington's Plaque, Sundy Plantation, Príncipe Island. In 1919, Arthur Stanley Eddington and his team visited Príncipe to test Einstein's Theory of Relativity. During a solar eclipse, they could see stars behind the sun, which helped to prove it true. There is now an informational plaque on the site.

Top

edit

Events and Festivals

International Workers’ Day

International Workers’ Day, or Labor Day as it is locally known, takes place on May 1 every year. This public holiday is marked by events celebrating the historic International Labor Movement, the development of trade unions in the country (which fight to protect workers’ rights), and the contribution of every worker to the nation that São Tomé has become today.

Independence Day

On July 12, São Tomé e Príncipe celebrates the attainment of full sovereignty from the colonial rule of the Portuguese. This public holiday is filled with displays of tradition and culture in many different cities. Travellers can expect to see musical performances, dance shows, and theatrical interpretations of the centuries during which the region was a colony.

Argel Accord Day

Every year on November 26, São Tomé and Príncipe celebrates the national holiday of Argel Accord Day. Prior to the nation being granted independence, the Argel Accords - which promised to grant sovereignty - were signed in Portugal. These accords came about from the actions of Portuguese civil society against the then dictatorial government. Argel Accords Day then not only commemorates the signing of these historical documents, but the efforts of the Portuguese people who fought for the freedom of Portuguese colonies around the world.

Christmas Day

São Tomé and Príncipe has a large Christian population, accounting for about 80 percent of people in the country. Understandably then, Christian religious holidays like Christmas Day on December 25 are a big deal. Christmas marks the birth of the Christian messiah Jesus. The day is celebrated by going to mass and the enjoyment of feasts with friends and family. The day has taken on a cultural aspect as well as it is considered a non-working day and most people in the country, religious or not, partake in the festivities.

Top

edit

Weather

Located along the equator, Príncipe has a climate typical for this region. The island has high temperatures, high humidity, heavy rainfall, and much cloud around the year. Annual rainfall is around 2,000 mm. June to September is the driest period of the year with only a few days with some showers. During most of the rest of the year, rainfall is high, with two rainy seasons: one from March to May, the other in October and November. December to February is fairly dry as well, but with some more showers compared to June-September. The northern parts of the island is less wet compared to the southern areas, where influence of the southwesterly winds is greater. Temperatures are around 30 °C year round during the day, and around 20 °C at night with extremely little variation.

Top

edit

Getting There

By Plane

STP Airways has several flights a week between Sao Tome (TMS) and Principe (PCP).

By Boat

Ferries ply the waters between Sao Tome and Principe several times a week.

Top

edit

Getting Around

On Príncipe, there are few roads, and many are not paved. It is common to hire a driver (car or motorbike) to explore the island, or to hire a boat.

Top

edit

Language

The official language is Portuguese. It is spoken natively by over half of the population, but basically everyone (95%) can speak it. The other main language is Forro, which is a Portuguese-based creole language spoken natively by 43% of the population and as a second language by just as many (85% in total).

Other languages include Principense Creole and Angolar Creole, but these are only spoken by a small minority.

As a rule, Portuguese is the main language in the northern part of the São Tomé island, whereas Forro is more common in the south. On the Principe island the main language is Portuguese.

When speaking Portuguese, São Toméans generally use a dialect known as São Toméan Portuguese. It is similar to Brazilian Portuguese in terms of grammar and pronunciation, which is very different from European Portuguese. However, most people can switch to European Portuguese and thus neither Portuguese nor Brazilians should have trouble communicating.

English is virtually non-existent in this country, since it is not taught in schools and there are few English-speaking tourists; you will however have better luck with French, which is taught in schools and thus spoken by many.

It is essential to know Portuguese, Forro or French in order to get along.

Top

edit

Eat

Fish is a staple of the São Toméan diet, often served with breadfruit and mashed, cooked bananas. The variety of fish is wide, including flying fish at certain times of year. Inland, many São Toméans get their protein from buzios, large land snails. Sea snails are also quite common along the coast. In spite of the abject poverty, São Toméans can always count on some sustenance from the wide array of tropical fruits.

Sum Secreto - Standard grill fare, but they can handle large groups without a reservation. Service is generally very good, and the meat and fish are excellent. Nothing fancy, but the place is popular because it has that secret something.

Top

edit

Drink

Beer is readily available everywhere, though São Toméans are not known as big drinkers. Local brands include Creolla and Rosema. Inland, palm wine is available very inexpensively from vendors along the road. Wine, especially Portuguese vinho verde, is popular with fish dishes.

Top

edit

Sleep

In Santo António, the main city of Príncipe, several small pousadas (B&Bs) can be found.

Bom Bom Island Resort - In addition to an ensuite bathroom, air-conditioning and other modern amenities, each bungalow has its own veranda with views across the green palm fronds and the bay. Bom Bom’s restaurant, bar and marina are on a tiny islet, which can be reached by crossing the 230-metre wooden walkway.

Top

Príncipe Travel Helpers

We don't currently have any Travel Helpers for Príncipe

This is version 4. Last edited at 15:15 on May 21, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, content of this article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License