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Sao Tome Islands


1. Sao Tome Island

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Sao Tome Island, at 854 km2 (330 sq mi), is the largest island of São Tomé and Príncipe and is home to about 157,000 or 96% of the nation’s population. This island and smaller nearby islets make up São Tomé Province, which is divided into six districts. The main island is located 2 km (1¼ miles) north of the equator. It is about 48 kilometres (30 miles) long (North-South) by 32 kilometres (20 miles) wide (east-west). It rises to 2,024 metres (6,640 ft) at Pico de São Tomé and includes the capital city, São Tomé, on the northeast coast. The nearest city on mainland Africa is the port city of Port Gentil in Gabon located 240 kilometres (150 miles) to the east.


The main language is Portuguese, but there are many speakers of Forro and Angolar (Ngola), two Portuguese-based creole languages.


The entire island of São Tomé is a massive shield volcano that rises from the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, over 3,000 m (10,000 ft) below sea level. It formed along the Cameroon line, a line of volcanoes extending from Cameroon southwest into the Atlantic Ocean. Most of the lava erupted on Sao Tome over the last million years has been basalt. The youngest dated rock on the island is about 100,000 years old, but numerous more recent cinder cones are found on the southeast side of the island.

Environment and economy

The higher slopes of the island are forested and form part of the Obo National Park, but agriculture is important near the north and east coasts. The chief exports are cocoa, coffee, copra, and palm products, while there is also a fishing industry.

Large reserves of oil are in the ocean between Nigeria and Sao Tome. The discovery has been lamented by some as endangering the nation’s political stability and natural environment. In response to these concerns the government of São Tomé and Príncipe has drawn up legislation in an attempt to ensure the efficient and equitable use of oil revenues over time.

Natural history


The island has a total of 63 regular bird species, plus an additional 36 vagrant and unconfirmed species. Of these, 19 are endemic and 3 near endemic; in addition, the local subspecies of olive ibis (Bostrychia olivacea bocagei) is endemic and considered critically endangered. Six species are considered vulnerable, and two critically endangered (São Tomé fiscal and São Tomé grosbeak).


2. Ilhéu das Cabras

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The Cabras Islet (Portuguese: Ilhéus das Cabras) is a dual islet, along the southern coast of the island of Terceira in the Portuguese archipelago of the Azores. The group, with a total area of 29 hectares (72 acres) and perimeter of 3,239 metres (10,627 ft), is the largest islet in the Azores, normally referred to as a single islet (Portuguese: O Ilhéu das Cabras) by locals, but comprising two landforms: the Ilhéu Pequeno (Small Islet) and the Ilhéu Grande (Large Islet).


3. Bom Bom Island

Bom Bom Island, also written as Ilhéu Bombom, is an island in the Gulf of Guinea. The islet is located north of the coast of the island of Príncipe, one of the main islands of São Tomé and Príncipe and is almost completely forested. The islet has the northernmost point in São Tomé and Príncipe. Its population is 15 (2008 est.). The island includes a couple of tourist resorts in São Tomé and Príncipe. The isla  Since 2012, it forms a part of the UNESCO’s Island of Príncipe Biosphere Reserve (also known as Príncipe Biosphere Reserve as it encompass its surrounding islands).


4. Rolas Island (Ilhéu das Rolas)

Ilhéu das Rolas is an islet in São Tomé and Príncipe, in Africa. The island lies on the equator, off the southern tip of São Tomé Island. It is in the Caué District of São Tomé Province. The island is home to a small resort, the Pestana Equador.  The main and dominant economic activity is tourism, related mainly to the resort. A permanent population of approximately 200 people works in the island’s tourism sector. The island can only be accessed by boat departing from São Tomé Island. Much of the southern part is in the Southern Hemisphere, its total area of that portion covering over 80% of the island covers 5 km2 of the islet and only less than 1% of the nation. The island has a small geyser named Furnas. Numerous beaches dominates including one by the resort, Santo António and Café. 

Visit Pestana Equador Resort


5. Principe Island

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Príncipe is the smaller, northern major island of the country of São Tomé and Príncipe lying off the west coast of Africa in the Gulf of Guinea. It has an area of 136 square kilometres (53 sq mi) and a population of approximately 5,000. The island is a heavily eroded volcano speculated to be over three million years old, surrounded by smaller islands including Ilheu Bom Bom, Ilhéu Caroço, Tinhosa Grande and Tinhosa Pequena. Part of the Cameroon Line archipelago, Príncipe rises in the south to 948 metres at Pico de Príncipe, in a thickly forested area forming part of the Obo National Park.

The island was uninhabited when discovered by the Portuguese and named “Príncipe” (Prince’s island) in honor of Afonso, Prince of Portugal, his father’s favorite. Subsequently, the north and centre of the island were made into plantations, most of them formed by Portuguese colonialists using slave labor. These concentrated initially on producing sugar and later on cocoa, becoming the world’s greatest cocoa producer. Since independence, these plantations have largely reverted to forest.

Príncipe was the site where Einstein’s Theory of Relativity was experimentally corroborated by Arthur Stanley Eddington and his team during the total solar eclipse of May 29, 1919.

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