Overview

Guided birdwatching tour to São Tomè and Principe 2020- Endemic Birds and Unique wildlife 

This once-in-a-lifetime exploratory group trip, led by Dominic Mitchell, one of the world’s leading birding experts, will discover the unique birdlife and natural wonders of São Tomé and Príncipe. These beautiful Gulf of Guinea islands, sometimes termed the Galápagos of Africa, are for their size home to more endemic bird species than anywhere else on Earth. 

You’ll be in expert hands as Dominic is the founder of Birdwatch, the UK’s leading magazine for keen birders. He is also a published author on all things ornithological, an experienced nature photographer, has watched birds on all seven continents and has travelled extensively around Macaronesia, as well as the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe.

Confirmed Tour dates: Friday 28th August to Sunday 06th September 2020

Itinerary

Fly to Lisbon. On arrival we’ll spend the afternoon doing a little bird watching along the Tagus estuary on the outskirts of Lisbon. Overnight: Tryp airport hotel.
Walk to the airport and fly to São Tomé via Accra in Ghana. Arrive late afternoon and transfer to your accommodation at Omali Lodge, for the next 2 nights.
This morning we should see our first endemic birds in the hotel grounds before breakfast, with Sao Tome Prinia most likely and Newton’s Sunbird and Sao Tome Thrush also possible. Then we’ll head into the primary rainforest to visit the botanical gardens of Bom Successo and the picturesque forested volcanic crater of Lagoa Amélia. Endemic birds abound here and Sao Tome Green Pigeon, Sao Tome Oriole, Sao Tome Paradise-Flycatcher, Black-capped Speirops, Sao Tome Weaver and the extraordinary Giant Weaver are all present. We’ll take our time to walk the trail up to the crater and back searching for these special birds and other species typical of the island, including African Emerald Cuckoo, African Palm Swift, Yellow-billed Kite and Southern Masked-Weaver. Night: Omali Lodge
Today we transfer to the airport and fly to São Tomé’s smaller neighbour, Príncipe. This magical island is an incredibly special place to visit and has been classified as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve because of its pristine and impenetrable jungle, steep-sided mountains and beautiful beaches. Having never been connected to São Tomé or the African mainland, Príncipe has its own special selection of endemic birds. On arrival we’ll head to Bom-Bom Eco Resort for lunch and some initial birding, which may include our first local endemics such as Principe Speirops, Principe Sunbird and Principe Golden-Weaver. After lunch we’ll travel by boat initially to Maria Correia, on the west side of the island, for the possibility of finding Principe White-eye, one of the toughest endemics to locate here. We’ll then continue onwards to the south of the island for a night of camping in the rainforest. This remote and undisturbed area is home to a newly discovered but little-known nightbird, Principe Scops Owl – very few people have ever encountered this elusive, cryptic species, and we will need plenty of good fortune to do so, but using local guides we have the best possibility of an encounter. Night: wild camping, southern Príncipe.
We start the day with a further exploration of the primary rainforest and hope to catch sight of some additional Príncipe endemics, including the enigmatic and inexplicably rare Principe Thrush, before being collected for our return to the comforts of the Bom-Bom Eco Resort. On the boat journey back to the north we will look out for seabirds such as White-tailed Tropicbird and Brown Booby, and time and sea conditions permitting we may see the curious oceanic outcrop known as Jockey’s Cap (Ilhèu Caroꞔo), to the south of the capital, Santo Antonio. This offshore rock has its own endemic subspecies of Principe Seedeater, making this one of the most range-restricted birds on the entire planet! Once we hit dry land there should also be time to look for any remaining endemic birds not already encountered. Night: Bom-Bom resort.
After breakfast we transfer to the airport and fly back to São Tomé, arriving mid-morning. On arrival we’ll head to the north of the island, visiting Lagoa Azul, the northern savannah and the rainforests of the north-western side of the island, which together offer a diverse and exciting range of species. Among them are Harlequin Quail, Red-necked Francolin, Black-winged Bishop, White-winged Widowbird, Golden-backed Bishop and the extraordinary Pin-tailed Whydah. The possibility of rare birds from mainland Africa should also be on our radar: during his previous visit to this area, Dominic Mitchell discovered African Pygmy-Goose and Lesser Moorhen, both exceptional in these islands. Night Omali Lodge.
This morning we drive south via Santana to São João dos Angolares, before eventually heading on foot to our second campsite in the mountainous region of Monte Carmo. The walk to the camp is short, and soon we will be marvelling at the pristine rainforest. The diminutive Sao Tome Ibis, thought extinct until rediscovered in this area as recently as 1991, survives in this important wilderness. We will search for this curious, tree-dwelling speciality as well as other endemics such as Sao Tome Paradise-Flycatcher and Giant Sunbird, and as day turns to night there is also a chance of Sao Tome Scops Owl, which occurs close to our camp. Night: wild camping, Monte Carmo.
Spending time around Monte Carmo allows us to explore the higher elevations of the mountain. To get the most out of the day, we’ll have a pre-dawn breakfast before trekking to the upper mountain areas to find the most difficult of our target endemics, Sao Tome Fiscal, Sao Tome Grosbeak and Sao Tome Short-tail. There are no guarantees but by spending time patiently searching the right habitat, we will maximise our chances. We will also keep an eye out for the island’s only endemic snake, Sao Tome Black Cobra, or Cobra-preta to the locals. In the afternoon we’ll bird our way back down to camp and then drive to São João dos Angolares, for some close-of-day birding in the beautiful environs of Roça São João. Night: Roça São João.
Roça São João is in a wonderful setting where you can relax on your last day, or spend a little time exploring the plantations and forest edge around the estate for any last target birds we may have missed – Sao Tome Pigeon, Sao Tome Spinetail, Sao Tome White-eye and Principe Seedeater are among those that occur here. We then return north to the capital in the afternoon and transfer to the airport for the overnight flight home. EXTEND YOUR STAY: As you've come this far why not stay a little longer on Sao Tome or Visit either Gabon or Ghana. We can add tailor-made extensions to any of our holidays.
Early arrival in Lisbon, with onward flight to the UK (or else where in the world).

From £3998 per person

We can create a tailor-made holiday to suit your budget.

INCLUDED: International flights from UK (guide price). Accommodation in São Tomé in twin share, en-suite rooms on a full board basis (Roca Sao Joao has shared bathrooms) and 2 nights camping (with all equipment). Only Lisbon Tryp hotel is on B&B basis. Half day bird watching in Lisbon. Return airport transfers on São Tomé. Fully guided throughout with local guide on bird watching excursions. Support from our local team when on the island. EXCLUDED: Meals not specified above and insurance. Additional excursions on free days.

Accommodation

The accommodation on this trip varies from small comfortable hotels to Eco Lodges to former plantation houses (Rocas) that have been tastefully renovated.

Activities

The main focus of this trip will be endemic birds of São Tomé and Principe. We'll have early starts on most days as the islands are on the equator and the sun sets just after 6pm.

Location

This bird watching trip visits more or less the whole island, from the east coast all the way down to the southern tip to the interior and west of the island.