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Birdquest's São Tomé & Príncipe birding tour explores two poorly-known yet very endemic-rich islands off the coast of West Africa. Our São Tomé & Príncipe tour has the potential to record all of the islands' 29 endemic birds and you can enjoy all this while staying in very comfortable resorts (one is true luxury) for the entire time, apart from one night of camping.
Sunday 14th January —
Sunday 21st January 2018
Leader: Mark Van Beirs
Group Size Limit: 9
Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and almost entirely good or luxurious accommodations
THIS SPECIAL TOUR IS RUN IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE AFRICAN BIRD CLUB AND INCLUDES A DONATION OF £200 PER PERSON TO THE ABC CONSERVATION FUND
Approximately 250 kilometres off the coast of Gabon lie the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe. These two small, remote and almost forgotten islands in the Gulf of Guinea, the ‘armpit of Africa’, virtually straddling the equator, are the southern extension of a volcanic ridge which runs from Mount Cameroon in the north to Fernando Po (or Bioko as it is now known) and onwards to Príncipe, São Tomé and Annobon. These ex-Portuguese colonies closed their doors to the western world in 1975 and very little has been heard of them since, even though their politics have moved on and they have long since opened up again, particularly as a result of oil being discovered offshore.
The once extensive cocoa and coffee plantations on both islands have been neglected for many years and the jungle has reclaimed them, creating secondary growth which harbours a wealth of birds. In the interior extensive tracts of rainforest, dripping from the constant rain at high altitudes, cover the steep, precipitous, uninhabited slopes of the towering volcanic mountains, which are often obscured from view by the clinging mist and cloud. These two islands are magnets for the moisture-laden monsoon winds and the annual rainfall here is measured not in millimetres but in metres!
Our visit to the islands will be during one of their short ‘dry seasons’ when birding opportunities are at their best. We will be endeavouring to find all the 29 (more or less, depending on which taxonomic decisions one favours) endemic bird species, many of which are listed in the Red Data Book (a few were even considered to be extinct until recently). With the knowledge we have accumulated over many visits, there is a fair chance that we will succeed in seeing every one of these very special birds.
We will begin our explorations on the island of São Tomé. Here we will first traverse the coastal savanna regions looking for such endemics as São Tomé Spinetail, São Tomé Prinia, Newton’s Sunbird and the extraordinary Giant Weaver, as well as the localized Golden-backed Bishop.
The other endemics are to be found in the remaining areas of rainforest and we will travel along jungle paths festooned with vines and creepers in order to look for them. The more accessible areas of forest hold São Tomé Lemon Dove, São Tomé Olive Pigeon, São Tomé Bronze-naped Pigeon and São Tomé Green Pigeon, São Tomé Scops Owl, São Tomé Kingfisher, Gulf of Guinea Thrush, São Tomé Oriole, São Tomé Paradise Flycatcher, Príncipe White-eye, São Tomé Speirops, São Tomé Weaver, Príncipe Seedeater and the incredible Giant Sunbird.
By camping overnight in the forest, we shall have an opportunity to find the most sought-after birds on the island, including Dwarf Ibis, São Tomé Short-tail and the unusual black, white and yellow, rainforest-inhabiting São Tomé Fiscal. We even have a realistic chance of encountering the mysterious São Tomé Grosbeak, which was only rediscovered in 1991 after a gap of about a century.
Next we will take a flight across the Gulf of Guinea to the neighbouring island of Príncipe, which is home to as many as eight endemic bird species. Very similar in appearance to its larger sister, São Tomé, with lofty peaks covered in rainforest, all but one of the endemic birds are all readily accessible around a luxurious beach resort set up for scuba diving and Marlin fishing, including Príncipe Kingfisher, Príncipe Glossy Starling, Príncipe Drongo, Príncipe Sunbird, Príncipe Speirops and Príncipe Golden Weaver and the strange Dohrn’s Thrush-Babbler. Further afield, we will look for the rare Príncipe Thrush and seabirds, including White-tailed Tropicbird, Sooty Tern and Brown and Black Noddies.
Birdquest has operated tours to São Tomé & Príncipe since 1995.
Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotel on São Tomé is of a good quality and very comfortable. On Príncipe the resort is luxurious. For one night on São Tomé we will camp in tents set up in the forest by our local outfitters (with one or two people per tent). Road transport is mostly by small coach. Road conditions vary from good to poor.
Walking: The walking effort is mostly easy, but there will be two fairly demanding walks (one optional hike for Príncipe Thrush and one unavoidable hike up to the campsite area and beyond on São Tomé).
Climate: Hot and humid, with dry and sunny weather interspersed with overcast and rainy spells (often heavy).
Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.
These are provisional prices
Tour Price: £2690, €3170, $3520 São Tomé/São Tomé.
Price includes all transportation (including the São Tomé-Príncipe-São Tomé flights), all accommodations, all meals, bottled water, some drinks, all excursions, all entrance fees, all tips for local drivers/guides and for accommodations/restaurants, leader services.
Single Room Supplement: £324, €382, $424.
Excludes the camping night on São Tomé, where it may or may not be necessary for two people to share a tent.
Deposit: £350, €400, $450.
Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency can arrange your air travel in connection with the tour from a departure point anywhere in the world, or you may arrange your own air travel if you prefer. We can tailor-make your itinerary to your personal requirements, so if you would like to travel in advance of the tour (and spend a night in an hotel so you will feel fresh when the tour starts), or return later than the end of the tour, or make a side trip to some other destination, or travel business class rather than economy, we will be happy to assist. Please contact us about your air travel requirements.
Many of the flights and flight-inclusive holidays on this website are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. But ATOL protection does not apply to all holiday and travel services listed on this website. Please ask us to confirm what protection may apply to your booking. If you do not receive an ATOL Certificate then the booking will not be ATOL protected. If you do receive an ATOL Certificate but all the parts of your trip are not listed on it, those parts will not be ATOL protected. Please see our booking conditions for information, or for more for more information about financial protection and the ATOL Certificate go to: www.atol.org.uk/ATOL Certificate
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