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  • Writer's pictureShaun Yeo

Diving off the Chocolate Island of São Tomé

I have travelled and dived off the Atlantic Ocean Islands of Azores, Canary Islands & Cape Verde, so I was looking for another Island to travel to this summer, when I came upon São Tomé. I had never heard of these Islands before in my life till I opened up google maps and started having a look around for Islands in the South Atlantic Ocean!

The Islands are famous for its large plantations of Cocoa Plants. The country consists of two main Islands; São Tomé and the other Príncipe. They are located 250km off the coast of Gabon in Western Africa. One of the Islets pass through the Equator. The Islands used to be a Portuguese Colony until they received independence 44 years ago in 1975.

After much research, before I knew it I had booked my birthday summer week away to the Island of São Tomé. My journey started with another road trip to Lisbon, where my plane departed from. The plane stopped at Ghana for re-fuelling, after a 5 hours 30 minute flight, followed by another 2 hours to reach São Tomé from Ghana. After a long journey, I sorted out my entry formalities, picked up my diving and camera equipment and was then met by one of the owners of the hotel I was staying at, in the capital of São Tomé.

Scuba Diving off the Island of São Tomé is amazing. I spent four mornings exploring the underwater world there. I was taken to a volcanic Islet called Santana. Here there were beautiful rock formations caused by the volcanic lava, forming underwater tunnels, caves and even canyons.

Further north is the Islet of Goats, this area is littered with wrecks, mainly Spanish Fishing Trawlers! The Spanish came to fish illegally off São Tomé and the local Government stopped them and asked for a fee to be paid. The company went bankrupt and all their vessels were abandoned and left to sink around the Islet of Goats about 10 years ago. There are a total of 8 fishing trawlers in the area. Some are beached in the shores, others just off the beach in a metre or so of water and a few are in shallow water.

There is also a small cargo vessel, off the Islet of Goats, which I was taken to dive on too. She is in deeper waters. The vessel was carrying fuel bound for Príncipe, when the captain overloaded her with other cargo, making her too heavy and subsequently resulting in the sinking of the boat very close to the port. She was later lifted by commercial divers from Portugal and scuttled further out, at the Islet of Goats, where she lies now for divers to explore.

I was also taken to the Blue Lagoon, a dive site off the north coast of the Island. Its white sands reflecting with the sunlight in this “lagoon” making the crystal clear turquoise water an amazing sight to see from far away. This lagoon is famous for the large amounts of seahorse sightings, but unfortunately our dive boat had to moor a bit further away and I did not get to see any seahorses. I was also told the Chinese have been taking away the seahorses from this dive site with them!

It was an enjoyable week, balanced out with diving and sightseeing. I hope to one day return and dive off the Island of Príncipe and the Equatorial Islet of Rolas.

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