São Tomé / Príncipe: wildlife

The geographic isolation from Africa has resulted in high levels of endemism. Overall, São Tomé and Príncipe has 143 birds, 15 mammals, 14 reptiles, and 9 amphibians. From July to October humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) visit the waters around Roça Belo Monte on Principe as they migrate from their low-latitude summer feeding grounds to more tropical mating and calving areas. Sea turtles also have been coming to the beaches of São Tomé & Príncipe for millions of years, and the islands have the most diverse range of sea turtles in central africa. Between October and April, four of the five turtle species are known to lay their eggs on the beaches of São Tomé and Príncipe, including the great leatherback.

Special wilflife months on Sao Tomé & Príncipe

Period What to expect
May – mid October Atlantic Blue Marlin fishing season (July – September = peak)
Yellow Fin Tuna fishing season
Dorado fishing season
Mid-July – mid September Whale-watching season
September – March Turtle-nesting season
September – December Sailfish fishing season
Wahoo fishing season
December – March Best visibility for divers
All year Bird watching

Fish Fauna

The waters of Sao Tome and Principe are still largely unexplored. So far, 230 fish species have been distinguished of which many are endemic. You can target the large Blue Marlin and world record size sailfish that have rightfully made the area so famous, as well has its vast variety of game fish such as yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dorado, snapper, barracuda amongst many others.


From July to October humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) visit the waters around Príncipe as they migrate from their low-latitude summer feeding grounds to more tropical mating and calving areas. The hotel organises whale watching tours.


Between October and February the females of 3 species of sea turtles come to the sandy beaches at night to lay their eggs. After an incubation period of 2-3 months the hatchlings come out of the nests and crawl to the sea.

Sea turtles that nest on the beaches

Green turtle Weight: up to 230 kg
Colour: green-grey, with occasional olive brown, yellow or dark streaks and spots
Diet: seagrass and algae
Interesting detail: a great sense of orientation, as a green turtle can find its way back after 20 years to the beach where he or she was born
Hawskbill turtle Weight: average of 80 kg
Colour: amber with dark and light spots and streaks
Diet: sponges
Interesting detail: some of the sponges eaten by the hawksbill are known to be highly toxic and lethal when eaten by other organisms
critically endangered
Weight: average of 500 kg
Colour: bluish-black skin with white spots
Diet: shellfish, jellyfish
Interesting detail: they can dive as deep as 1,000 m

Source: Bradt Travel Guide, 2008


Kathleen Becker, Bradt Travel Guide 2008: “The birdlife of the islands is exceptionally unique. Of the over 120 species recorded on São Tomé and Príncipe, some 28 are endemics.”

In the nineties, Birdlife International included Príncipe and São Tomé in the top 25% of 218 EBAs worldwide for their species richness. More recently, the forests of both islands have been included among the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) of Africa.

Birdlife International 2000: “Each island has its endemic species and subspecies and, as such, the Gulf of Guinea islands are of global importance for their biodiversity. Part of the diversity in the Gulf of Guinea may be attributed to the range of habitats and niches that are found on the islands.”

According to Birdlife International 2000, several highly threatened birds can be found in tiny populations in the pristine forests of São Tomé, for example:

  • Dwarf Olive Ibis – Bostychia (olivacea) bocagei
  • São Tomé Fiscal – Lanius newtoni
  • São Tomé Grosbeak – Neospiza concolor

The Birds of São Tomé & Príncipe with Annobón, islands of the Gulf of Guinea, by Jones & Tye
Birds of Western Africa, by Borrow & Demey
Website of Birdlife International – São Tomé & Príncipe


Leatherback baby

Principe Weaver


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Roça Belo Monte

Luxurious resort on the tropical island of Principe Belo Monte Plantation Hotel, offering luxurious accommodation in staggeringly beautiful natural surroundings. While Belo Monte Plantation Hotel is a wonderful place to relax and recharge your spirit, there is also plenty here to explore and discover. Read more


Want to explore the island? There are many possibilities: marine excursions like snorkelling, kayaking, scuba diving, whale watching and terrestrial excursions like hiking and biking. Read more

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