Working for birds in Africa


Fri, 25/01/2013 - 12:04 -- abc_admin

one of many muddy trails on São Tomé

Image Credit: 
John Caddick

Birding tours

Birding AfricaBirding Ecotours, Birdquest, and Rockjumper operate tours to São Tomé and Príncipe.


We know of no birding guides in São Tomé and Príncipe.

Trip reports

A Birders Guide to São Tomé and Príncipe by SARGEANT, D. (1992) Complete checklist for both islands, detailed site guides, where & how to find all endemics, and rediscovery of the São Tomé Grosbeak. 22 pages, 3 maps. Paperback.

The trip report of the ABC Conservation Tour for 2006 can be downloaded here


General: a few operators run birding tours to São Tomé and Príncipe and you may wish to use one of these and travel in an organised tour. However, you may wish to organise your own trip but if so, a working knowledge of Portuguese would be useful and you will not find your way in the forested areas without the help of local guides (you should note that there are no trails in the São Tomé south-western forests). You should also be aware that this is a very wet and muddy country in the wet season and that it still rains most days in the south-western forests even in the dry season so come prepared.

Flights: São Tomé has good connections from Libreville and if you have time, it makes sense to combine a visit to these islands with a trip to Gabon. Libreville is connected to many African cities and to Europe via Paris. São Tomé can also be reached by air directly from Lisbon, Portugal. Access to the island of Príncipe is by air from São Tomé. You should leave sufficient time to see the endemics if that is your major objective and 7 days on the islands should be sufficient to find all but the rarely seen shrike and grosbeak. As with many African countries, there is a strong possibility of cancelled or delayed flights so it is worth giving yourself extra time between connections.

Visas: visas are necessary for nearly all visitors but can be obtained upon arrival at the customs desk at São Tomé. You will need to pay the fee of 55 euros or $US60 in cash (this was the fee at the time of writing). You may need to forward your details to a local operator in advance and our advice is to check with your local embassy and / or its website.

Vaccinations: your local doctor should obviously be consulted about health matters and the range of inoculations which is advised. A Yellow Fever certificate is essential as proof of vaccination.

Driving: it is possible to hire vehicles on São Tomé and there are a number of paved roads. We do not believe that vehicles can be hired on Príncipe where you will require the services of a local person to drive you from the airport to Santo Antonio and to the forested areas.

Currency: The local unit of currency is the São Tomé dobra and it will be useful to carry some as well as euros and US dollars. There are few if any cash machines and credit cards are not accepted in the hotels where we stayed. It is necessary therefore to carry significant cash resources.

Timing: Based on our experience in 2006, October is a good time to visit São Tomé and Príncipe for general birding and to find the endemic species, although travel and forest trekking will be easier during the dry season.

Travel Guide: the Bradt Travel Guide to Gabon, São Tomé and Príncipe by Sophie Warne contains considerable detailed information on the above and many other topics. This is published by Bradt Travel Guides Ltd, UK and The Globe Pequot Press Inc, USA.


Safety and health issues are no different from those in many African countries. Guidebooks, travel companies and websites provide much of the advice one needs, but key points warrant repetition here. (1) be aware of the risk of malaria and seek current advice, sleep in a sealed tent or under a net and take prophylaxis as recommended. (2) always ensure you have sufficient water and some method of purification (even if this comprises a pot and a campfire for boiling). (3) do not underestimate the danger of being in the sun for too long. Ensure you use sun-block, drink plenty of water and wear a hat. (4) Be aware of the risk of AIDS. (5) Ensure that you take a reasonably-equipped first-aid pack with you including supplies of hypodermic and suturing needles. See the following 2 websites or your own local embassy website for the latest safety and travel information: US Travel and UK FCO.

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