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Ilhéu das Cabras - A view from our expert author


Príncipe has less human intervention and even fewer fishermen, trawlers and dragnets disturbing the marine fauna and flora of the shallow littoral than ST.

An aerial view of Cabras island, São Tomé and Príncipe by Marco Muscarà, www.marcomuscara.comAn aerial view of Cabras island, São Tomé and Príncipe © Marco Muscarà, www.marcomuscara.com

The oldest part of the archipelago is Príncipe, which has been reliably dated to 31 million years. Volcanic activity stopped earlier here than on São Tomé, some 15.7 million years ago; the island is much more deeply eroded, resulting in spectacular phonolitic rockscapes on a small surface area, seen particularly well along the southern coast. The oldest exposed rock on São Tomé is the Ilhéu das Cabras (Goat Island) off the northern coast of São Tomé, at some 13 million years of age.

The most recent dated volcanic rock, the basaltic cinder cones, mainly in the southeast of São Tomé, only formed around 100,000 years ago. The fact to remember to impress your friends is that São Tomé and Príncipe are respectively three and six times older than the oldest Hawaiian and Galapagos islands. Boat, snorkelling and diving trips, and possibly kayak excursions, go out to ‘Goat Island’, so don’t miss a chance to explore the oldest exposed rock on the island.

There are plenty of good dive sites dotted around the coast of São Tomé as well as near Club Santana and Ilhéu das Rolas, just off the southern tip of the island. Príncipe has less human intervention and even fewer fishermen, trawlers and dragnets disturbing the marine fauna and flora of the shallow littoral than ST.

At night, with the coral flowering, it turns into a garden. However, there is no dedicated diving infrastructure here yet, as the big player, the HBD company, are taking the cautious approach and will not offer diving without the presence of a decompression chamber.

Dive sites

Kia 2 levels, 2km off Ilhéu das Cabras: 12m & 22m, with red carp, a nursery of moray eels and red snappers, manta rays, rock fish, yellow, green and orange tubular coral, and sometimes a nurse shark. Even sand sharks of up to 6m in length have been seen here, and this is a good place for night diving.

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