“A 12 day holiday split between the Central African island gems of Equatorial Guinea’s Bioko and the island nation of Sao Tomé. Travelling in a small group, with an expert guide.”
Bioko Island, Equatorial Guinea | Malabo | Moko | Iladyi waterfalls | Loba | Ureka | Turtle watching | Moraka and Moaba beaches | Pico Basile | São Tomé and Principe | São João dos Angolares | Bird watching
Description of Sao Tome & Equatorial Guinea small group holiday
This holiday is spent on two islands, both in the Gulf of Guinea. Starting on Bioko, this volcanic island is part of Equatorial Guinea and also home to its capital, Malabo, which is the starting point for this guided holiday. Under Spanish colonial rule it was known Fernando Pó and, indeed, architectural glories from these times can still be seen in the capital, including the Presidential Palace, Palace of Justice of Malabo and the Cathedral of Santa Isabel. Much of the island is covered in tropical rainforest which covers the volcanic massif where we are able to explore myriad waterfalls, a crater lake, remote villages and tranquil beaches where turtles nest in peace.
On the island nation of São Tomé and Principe, one of the smallest of its kind in the world, this is another land of dramatic, volcanic terrain, with rich rainforest and both black and white sandy beaches. All creating the perfect outdoor adventure paradise. Once you have explored the former Portuguese colony’s capital city of the same name, which thrived under plantation wealth, evidence of which can still be seen in its palace and cathedral, as well as its former rural plantation mansions (roca) one of which we stay at during our visit. Covering all aspects of the island, we also spend time in the São João dos Angolares region of the south where the hiking and bird watching is the icing on the cake of a trip that takes you into a part of Africa few people get to see.
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Responsible tourism: Sao Tome & Equatorial Guinea small group holiday
Much of the time on this tour is spent in towns and cities (especially in Equatorial Guinea), but we do spend a significant proportion of the trip exploring the countryside and wilder areas of both countries. When exploring these areas on foot we take care to stick to the trails and not to damage any of the flora, as some parts of the region are quite a fragile environment. We operate a strict no litter policy on our tours, and work to educate our drivers and other service providers so as to avoid contributing to this problem.
Similarly, in conjunction with our local team we work with hotels and guesthouses to implement best practices when it comes to environmental matters – in some places this is far behind what we might be used to in other parts of the world. This includes basic things like not replacing towels each day, as well as saving electricity and turning lights off.
Both countries are in the nascent stages of tourism development and we recognise that we have an important responsibility to lead by example and set the right tone when operating trips here.
We include a visit to the Moka Wildlife centre, which plays an important role in the conservation of local species - our visit, albeit in a small way, helps to fund their efforts. We also spend a night at Ureka, where a community based project has been established to help protect the turtles which come on shore to nest. The presence of tourism brings income to this community and reinforces the idea that the turtles and their habitat are worth protecting.
On all of tours we strive to include a strong focus on local communities and we are firm believers that tourism should have a positive impact on the places visited. On this tour we include a number of stays in smaller communities that are outside the mainstream tourist industry - not that much of a mainstream industry exists here. Our stay at Ureka not only benefits the wildlife but helps to ensure that local people outside of the capital benefit from visitors.
Elsewhere we stay at locally owned guesthouses and hotels and where appropriate employ the services of local people in order not only to gain a greater insight into the complex traditions here but to ensure that they gain financial benefit from our visit, rather than just being ‘exhibits’. In Sao Joao dos Angolares we stay in a converted 'roca' - an old plantation house - which provides important employment opportunities for local people in a remote part of the island, and we encourage our groups to take part in activities guided by the residents of this small community. The fact that tourists visit here provides an important incentive to maintain the delicate heritage of this part of Sao Tome.
When visiting the smaller communities, we encourage our travellers to spend money locally and perhaps purchase some of the fine handicrafts on sale here.
We visit a number of sites on this tour that do not necessarily receive much funding from other sources – particularly the case in Equatorial Guinea, which despite being an oil rich nation has great divides between rich and poor. We use locally owned suppliers and our partners here are deeply involved with the preservation of the culture and heritage of the countries we travel through.