Bom Bom means ‘Good Good’ in Portuguese, and this four-star resort in the north of the island, run by HBD – owners of the Omali Lodge hotel in São Tomé and other ventures on Príncipe, such as Roça Sundy and Sundy Praia – is truly a slice of paradise.
It also boasts the distinction of being the first hotel in Africa with the Biosphere Responsible Tourism certification – their ‘Water & Recycle’ project collected 100,000 used plastic bottles in four days, exchanging them for 2,000 aluminium ones. A very photogenic wooden walkway connects Ilhéu Bom Bom, where the restaurant, bar and marina are found, with the bungalows and pool area on mainland Príncipe.
Around the island there are beautiful rock pools with different ecosystems hosting coral and an array of small tropical fish. Around the pier, yellowtail sardinella/goatfish (grey with yellow) can frequently be seen. At night-time, watch you don’t step on the large land crabs, with a span of up to 20cm.
Maybe understandably, some tourists never make it out of Bom Bom, but considering how far out you’ve come, it would be a shame not to spend a leisurely half-day at least looking around Santo António or the plantations, organised through the resort or by yourselves.
If you’re staying at budget accommodation in Santo António, you can still treat yourself to a day or just dinner at the Bom Bom Island resort. Entry to the resort is subject to the right of admission. The day use fee (€85) buys you entrance and access to a bungalow for the day. Budget travellers wanting to get to the resort for some early-morning birdwatching or to spend the day there can only visit at management’s discretion; costs for a car service from Santo António or other plantations range between €10 and €20.
What to see and do in Bom Bom Island Resort
There are a wealth of activities that can be organised through the resort. You can go snorkelling and dolphin watching, take a workshop in nature photography, kayak to a fishing village, go gorge swimming, take a (seasonal) turtle trip, or enjoy rainforest and coastal walks. Take note that the trail around Ilhéu Bom Bom, while short, is overgrown in parts and has some steep bits – ask for someone to accompany you if you’re not fully surefooted.
It’s also possible to join an excursion to some of the island’s plantations, such as Ribeira Izé with its ruins of a 400-year old church, or a working roça tucked-away among huge oká trees.
The resort is a great birdwatching base. Both blue-breasted and white-bellied kingfisher can often be seen flitting around the compound. An early morning walk before breakfast is the easiest way to encounter many of the island’s endemics.
Species that you may see include: golden weavers, Príncipe starlings, bronze mannikins, Príncipe drongos, and Dohrn’s thrush-babblers (some of the most vocal birds on the island). Don’t forget to look down, too, for the fascinating Príncipe blue-speckled mudskipper (‘walking fish’) that might be stretched out on the ground eyeing you up.
All year round the resort has boats available to visit beaches (the most popular being Banana Beach, 25 minutes away) or for whale or dolphin watching – though sightings are not guaranteed. Depending on the weather, the experience can be very different.
Flying fish will be your constant companions, propelling themselves out of the boat’s path to whir across the waves for up to 300m. Ruffled brown boobies sit on the Pedra da Galé offshore rocks, and you might see storm petrels on the way to the Ilhéu dos Mosteiros – the islet has a navigational light and sits just next to a small group of rocks popular with nesting noddies and tropicbirds. For a fun photo, strap yourself into the marlin-fighting chair. If you’re not staying at the resort but would like to take a trip, consider asking around to find other travellers to share with to bring the price down.
An average water temperature of 26°C, average visibility of 20–30m (clearest December to March) and excellent dive sites only a 20-minute boat ride away make the Bom Bom Dive Center a great diving base. While beginners can take advantage of calm waters, experienced divers can go down to a depth of 30m. Single dives go for €75 each, with discounts for two or more. PADI certification courses are now available for €450.
Hiring a mask, snorkel and fins is free for guests and included in the day visitor’s rate for non-residents. On the Praia de Santa Rita beach, check out the reef to the left, where you can see West African butterfly fish and parrotfish.
On an ambitious 2-hour snorkelling trip around Bom Bom (don’t go alone and watch out for currents!) you have a good chance of seeing barracuda, sharks, turtles, golden African snapper, the largest of the snapper family the cubera snapper, and the yellow jack, all year round. You will find shoals of small yellowtail sardinella swarming around the pier.