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SÃO TOMÉ & PRÍNCIPE

African Bird Club Conservation Fund Benefit Tour

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' 30 endemic birds and you can enjoy all this while staying in comfortable resorts, apart from  two nights of camping.

Saturday 13th January — Saturday 20th January 2018
(8 days)


Leader: Mark Van Beirs

Group Size Limit: 9

Tour Category: Easy walking for the most part and mostly good accommodations

Endemic to São Tomé, we now regularly see the critically endangered Dwarf Olive Ibis on our tours (Nik Borrow)

Endemic to São Tomé, we now regularly see the critically endangered Dwarf Olive Ibis on our tours (Nik Borrow)

THIS SPECIAL TOUR IS RUN IN ASSOCIATION WITH THE AFRICAN BIRD CLUB WITH A VIEW TO RAISING FUNDS FOR THEIR CONSERVATION FUND. BIRDQUEST WILL MAKE A DONATION OF £200 TO AFRICAN BIRD CLUB FOR EVERY PARTICIPANT BOOKED ON THIS TOUR.

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 over 15 years and the jungle has reclaimed them, creating secondary growth which harbours a wealth of birds. (Although the recent rapid growth of oil palm plantations may well reverse this trend.) 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 at the end of their short ‘dry season’ when climatic conditions are at their best. We will be endeavouring to find all the 28 (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 high chance that we will succeed in seeing almost all 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 but introduced 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 the São Tomé form of the Lemon Dove, São Tomé Olive Pigeon, Island Bronze-naped Pigeon and São Tomé Green Pigeon, São Tomé Scops Owl, the distinctive São Tomé form of the Malachite Kingfisher, São Tomé Thrush, São Tomé Oriole, São Tomé Paradise Flycatcher, São Tomé White-eye, São Tomé Speirops, São Tomé Weaver, the São Tomé form of the 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 Olive Ibis, the strange São Tomé Short-tail (now reclassified as an aberrant wagtail!) 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 two of the endemic birds are all readily accessible, including the Príncipe form of the Malachite 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, Príncipe White-eye, the newly-discovered Príncipe Scops Owl and such seabirds as White-tailed Tropicbird, Sooty Tern and Brown and Black Noddies.

Birdquest has operated tours to São Tomé & Príncipe since 1995.

Accommodation & Road Transport: The hotels are of good quality and very comfortable. For one night on São Tomé and one night on Príncipe 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 moderate to fairly demanding walks up to the campsites.

Climate: Hot and humid, with dry and sunny weather interspersed with overcast and rainy spells (often heavy).

Bird Photography: Opportunities are worthwhile.

Tour Price: £2780, €3170, $3650 São Tomé/São Tomé. Single Room Supplement: £285, €325, $374. Deposit: £350, €420, $460.

Includes surface transportation, accommodations, meals, water, entrance fees and tips/gratuities.

Also includes these flights: São Tomé-Príncipe-São Tomé.

The single room supplement excludes the two camping nights, where it may or may not be necessary for two people to share a tent.

Base prices for this tour are in Euros. The exchange rates applied at the time of costing were: £1 = €1.140 and €1 = $1.150.

Air Travel To & From The Tour: Our in-house IATA ticket agency will be pleased to arrange your air travel on request, or you may arrange this yourself if you prefer.

The charming São Tomé Speirops is especially numerous on the islands and we should have no trouble at all seeing this little beauty (Nik Borrow)

The charming São Tomé Speirops is especially numerous on the islands and we should have no trouble at all seeing this little beauty (Nik Borrow)

The strange Príncipe Speirops is another island endemic that appears to have lost pigmentation. It can be elusive but is normally found in small groups in the treetops (Nik Borrow)

The strange Príncipe Speirops is another island endemic that appears to have lost pigmentation. It can be elusive but is normally found in small groups in the treetops (Nik Borrow)

Much debate has centred on the taxonomy of the island kingfishers and the Príncipe Kingfisher has historically been treated as a race of White-bellied and also Malachite Kingfishers (Nik Borrow)

Much debate has centred on the taxonomy of the island kingfishers and the Príncipe Kingfisher has historically been treated as a race of White-bellied and also Malachite Kingfishers (Nik Borrow)

Sunset over Príncipe (Nik Borrow)

Sunset over Príncipe (Nik Borrow)

There are increasingly regular sightings of the rare São Tomé Grosbeak in the deep forests in the south of the island and we will be making a concerted effort to see this elusive species (Nik Borrow)

There are increasingly regular sightings of the rare São Tomé Grosbeak in the deep forests in the south of the island and we will be making a concerted effort to see this elusive species (Nik Borrow)

The São Tomé Oriole has lost much of the yellow colouring from its plumage but otherwise resembles the mainland Western Black-headed Oriole (Nik Borrow)

The São Tomé Oriole has lost much of the yellow colouring from its plumage but otherwise resembles the mainland Western Black-headed Oriole (Nik Borrow)

The male São Tomé Paradise Flycatcher is an incredibly glossy inky blue-black and is a common sight on the island (Nik Borrow)

The male São Tomé Paradise Flycatcher is an incredibly glossy inky blue-black and is a common sight on the island (Nik Borrow)

The São Tomé Scops Owl appears to be very common in the montane forests and can often be searched out during the hours of daylight (Nik Borrow)

The São Tomé Scops Owl appears to be very common in the montane forests and can often be searched out during the hours of daylight (Nik Borrow)

The Giant Weaver endemic to São Tomé builds a nest the size of a football! (Nik Borrow)

The Giant Weaver endemic to São Tomé builds a nest the size of a football! (Nik Borrow)

Newton’s Sunbird is a common and easily seen endemic on São Tomé (Nik Borrow)

Newton’s Sunbird is a common and easily seen endemic on São Tomé (Nik Borrow)

The delightful São Tomé Prinia is abundant on the island and can be frequently seen performing their undulating, wing-snapping display flights (Nik Borrow)

The delightful São Tomé Prinia is abundant on the island and can be frequently seen performing their undulating, wing-snapping display flights (Nik Borrow)

São Tomé Bronze-naped Pigeons are reasonably common on the island and can also be found on Príncipe (Nik Borrow)

São Tomé Bronze-naped Pigeons are reasonably common on the island and can also be found on Príncipe (Nik Borrow)

Also known as Maroon Pigeon, the São Tomé Olive Pigeon large and handsome species is the most elusive of the islands endemic pigeons as it is favoured for hunting and can sit concealed silently in the densely leaved treetops (Nik Borrow)

Also known as Maroon Pigeon, the São Tomé Olive Pigeon large and handsome species is the most elusive of the islands endemic pigeons as it is favoured for hunting and can sit concealed silently in the densely leaved treetops (Nik Borrow)

The Príncipe Glossy Starling shares the island with the more widespread Splendid Glossy Starling. It can be easily told by the coloration of its oily green underparts (Nik Borrow)

The Príncipe Glossy Starling shares the island with the more widespread Splendid Glossy Starling. It can be easily told by the coloration of its oily green underparts (Nik Borrow)

The brightly coloured Príncipe Weaver is a truly abundant species on the island and can be seen building its nests almost everywhere! (Nik Borrow)

The brightly coloured Príncipe Weaver is a truly abundant species on the island and can be seen building its nests almost everywhere! (Nik Borrow)

The bizarre Dohrn's Thrush Babbler is only found on Príncipe where it is a very common bird with a cheerful and explosive song (Nik Borrow)

The bizarre Dohrn's Thrush Babbler is only found on Príncipe where it is a very common bird with a cheerful and explosive song (Nik Borrow)

The Príncipe Sunbird occurs in smaller numbers but is usually easy to see around our hotel (Nik Borrow)

The Príncipe Sunbird occurs in smaller numbers but is usually easy to see around our hotel (Nik Borrow)

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

Birdquest Ltd is Registered in England, Company No. 01568270. The address of our registered office is Two Jays, Kemple End, Stonyhurst, Clitheroe, Lancashire BB7 9QY

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