15.05.2018 - 16.05.2018
Having set the alarm last night for 6 o'clock this morning, I get up in order to do some bird watching before breakfast.
The first thing I notice, however, is what looks like a rat's tail under the patio door.
I try poking it with a stick. Nothing. I try again. Still nothing. It is obviously not alive. I shove it along a bit so that I can examine it, and it does indeed look like a tail from a rat. Not sure how I feel about that. Where is the rat? How did it get its tail stuck under the door? Did it chew its own tail off in order to survive (or have I been watching too many horror movies)? Did we do the damage when we closed the door last night? Was the rat in the room?
I open the door and tentatively walk out onto the balcony and look around. At first glance I can't see any evidence of a dead rat or one without a tail but with massive gnashers dripping with blood.
I feel a little foolish when I do spot the owner of the tail: an innocent, harmless lizard. Awww.
Although being without his appendage doesn't seem to impede him, I do hope I wasn't instrumental in him losing his tail, poor thing.
Anyway, back to the bird watching.
Vitelline Masked Weaver
São Tomé Prinia
Village Weaver with its impressive nest
After breakfast we arrange for a late check out and then head for the hills.
Nova Roça Coffee Plantation
We stop to look at the rows and rows of coffee plants. These are the berries of the Robusta coffee, one of two beans grown here – the other is Arabica.
Obo National park
Our destination for today is São Tomé's only national park, Obo.
Covering 290 km² (nearly 30% of the land area), the park is characterised by a wide range of biotypes, from lowland and mountain forests to mangroves and savannah areas. The park spans parts of both islands. This area, the high altitude rainforest, is popular with hikers. There is even a walker's café at the start of the trail.
David and Agostinho are setting off on a serious trek, to Lake Amelia. I stay in the extensive botanical gardens and the shade of an old plantation house, now used as the park headquarters.
David comes back, several hours later, absolutely exhausted. That was some serious hike Agostinho took him on!
The disappointingly dried out Lake Amelie
After a well deserved rest and a packed lunch, we set off again to explore a little more of the national park.
Cascata São Nicolau
With a drop of around 30m, this is São Tomé's highest waterfall.
It's in a lovely setting, a horse-shoe=shaped cove, covered in vegetation, and a set of steps lead down to the wooden bridge crossing the river just below the falls.
The area all around is full of the gorgeous flame trees too.
The beginning of the end
It's back to base for us, have a shower and change, check out of the room and wait in the lobby for Nino to pick us up for the last journey here in São Tomé: to the airport for our flight home.
São Tomé Airport
I am not sure why we are picked up at 16:30 for a 20:35 flight, especially as the airport is a mere 15 minutes or so away from the hotel.
We spend a lot of time sitting on a low wall as there are no seats outside, and the terminal building is not open yet. A self-appointed airport official (methinks there are some mental issues...) takes our passports and tickets and goes in to talk to the staff on the security desk just inside the door. Nothing happens. Some 20 minutes or so later he shouts “Go! Go! Go!”, but we only get as far as the door opening anyway. We chat to a couple from Austria/Germany while we wait, as more and more people arrive and join the queue behind us.
Our 'facilitator' keeps holding his outstretched palm up towards us and saying “wait”. As if we are going to storm the building or something. More and more staff stroll in, and eventually, after about an hour of waiting outside in the heat , we are allowed through. Our passports are checked on the door and the check-in is very smooth and easy. One step nearer.
Security, however, is not ready to accept passengers, so we join another queue and wait for them to open. Immigration on the other hand is manned and ready and they show us straight through.
We are pleasantly surprised to find the lounge complete with comfy seats, efficient A/C, free wifi and a bar selling beer!
The journey home via Accra and Lisbon is uneventful, apart from the fact we are delayed in Ghana as two passengers 'forget' to get off in Accra.
And that brings our São Tomé adventure to an end. We have thoroughly enjoyed this small, laid back country, with a reasonable infrastructure, beautiful scenery and friendly people.
Not so much a 'lost world', São Tomé is just slightly mislaid. Or as someone said: “STP has not been forgotten, it has never actually been discovered by mainstream tourism”.
Thank you so much to Undiscovered Destinations for bringing us here, and looking forward to arranging another adventure through this great little tour operator in the future.