São Tomé / Príncipe: wildlife

The geographic isolation from Africa has resulted in high levels of endemism. Overall, Sao Tome and Principe has 143 birds, 15 mammals, 14 reptiles, and 9 amphibians.

Special wilflife months on Sao Tomé & Príncipe

Period What to expect
May – mid October Atlantic Blue Marlin fishing season (July – September = peak)
Yellow Fin Tuna fishing season
Dorado fishing season
Mid-July – mid September Whale-watching season
September – March Turtle-nesting season
September – December Sailfish fishing season
Wahoo fishing season
December – March Best visibility for divers
All year Bird watching

Fish Fauna

The waters of Sao Tome and Principe are still largely unexplored. So far, 230 fish species have been distinguished of which many are endemic. At Bom Bom Island Resort on Principe, you can target the elusive large Blue Marlin and world record size sailfish that have rightfully made the area so famous, as well has its vast variety of game fish such as yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dorado, snapper, barracuda amongst many others.

Whales

From July to October humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) visit the waters around the Bom Bom Island Resort on Principe as they migrate from their low-latitude summer feeding grounds to more tropical mating and calving areas. From the Resort, trips are organised aboard one of our motorised pirogues. Boat charters (on a 28-ft speedboat) are also available. We only recommend this trip during the whale season and although sighting rates are close to 100%, still, sightings cannot be guaranteed.

Turtles

Sea turtles have been coming to the beaches of São Tomé & Príncipe for millions of years, and the islands have the most diverse range of sea turtles in central africa. Between October and April, four of the five turtle species are known to lay their eggs on the beaches of Sao Tome & Principe, including the great leatherback.

Sea turtle that nest on the beaches

Sea turtle Characteristics
Green turtle Weight: up to 230 kg
Colour: green-grey, with occasional olive brown, yellow or dark streaks and spots
Diet: seagrass and algae
Interesting detail: a great sense of orientation, as a green turtle can find its way back after 20 years to the beach where he or she was born
Olive ridley Weight: up to 50 kg
Colour: olive-green to brown
Diet: shellfish, mollusk, jellyfish, algae
Interesting detail: only nests on Sao Tome, not on Principe
Hawksbill
critically endangered
Weight: average of 80 kg
Colour: amber with dark and light spots and streaks
Diet: sponges
Interesting detail: some of the sponges eaten by the hawksbill are known to be highly toxic and lethal when eaten by other organisms
Leatherback
critically endangered
Weight: average of 500 kg
Colour: bluish-black skin with white spots
Diet: shellfish, jellyfish
Interesting detail: they can dive as deep as 1,000 m
Loggerhead turtle Has been seen in the waters around Sao Tome, but has not been observed nesting

Source: Bradt Travel Guide, 2008

Birds

Kathleen Becker, Bradt Travel Guide 2008: “The birdlife of the islands is exceptionally unique. Of the over 120 species recorded on São Tomé and Príncipe, some 28 are endemics.”

In the nineties, Birdlife International included Príncipe and São Tomé in the top 25% of 218 EBAs worldwide for their species richness. More recently, the forests of both islands have been included among the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of Africa.

Birdlife International 2000: “Each island has its endemic species and subspecies and, as such, the Gulf of Guinea islands are of global importance for their biodiversity. Part of the diversity in the Gulf of Guinea may be attributed to the range of habitats and niches that are found on the islands.”

According to Birdlife International 2000, several highly threatened birds can be found in tiny populations in the pristine forests of São Tomé, for example:

  • Dwarf Olive Ibis – Bostychia (olivacea) bocagei
  • São Tomé Fiscal – Lanius newtoni
  • São Tomé Grosbeak – Neospiza concolor

Sources:
The Birds of São Tomé & Príncipe with Annobón, islands of the Gulf of Guinea, by Jones & Tye
Birds of Western Africa, by Borrow & Demey
Website of Birdlife International – São Tomé & Príncipe

fish

Leatherback baby

Principe Weaver

Nature

São Tomé and Príncipe is the second smallest African country – larger only than the Seychelles in terms of population. São Tomé is 50 kilometers (31 miles) long and 32 kilometers (20 miles) wide and the more mountainous of the two islands. Its highest peak reaches 2,024 meters (6,640 feet).

Wildlife

The geographic isolation from Africa has resulted in high levels of endemism. Overall, Sao Tome and Principe has 143 birds, 15 mammals, 14 reptiles, and 9 amphibians. The waters of Sao Tome and Principe are still largely unexplored. So far, 230 fish species have been distinguished of which many are endemic.

Climate

You can visit the islands of Sao Tome and Principe all year around. The climate is tropical with average yearly temperatures of about 27°C (80°F) and little daily variation. At the interior’s higher altitudes, the average yearly temperature is 20°C (68°F), and nights are generally cool.

People

São Tomé and Príncipe is a place with a rich cultural heritage where people are happy to meet you. The lack of tribal, ethnic or religious conflict adds to the friendly “leve leve” (as the locals say, “easy-easy”) atmosphere. The human history on São Tomé & Príncipe begins in 1470, when the Portuguese settlers came to the islands.