São Tomé & Príncipe

Discover these hotspots of endemism off the west coast of Africa with more than two dozen exciting endemics. We have natural selection to thank for conjuring everything from Giant Sunbird down to Dwarf Ibis in “the Galápagos of Africa”. This itinerary is designed to target every specialty, and aside from the two nights of camping we will be based at two exceptional resorts for the duration of our stay.

Next dates

9-17 March 2024

Tour length: 9 days

Group size limit: 6


Julien Mazenauer and local guides

Tour full

14-22 June 2026

Tour length: 9 days

Group size limit: 6


Chris Venetz and local guides

Spaces available

We will spend two nights camping in primary forest on São Tomé to maximise our chances for all the endemics. While it is possible to run this tour without camping like some other tour companies, we believe our method gives the best chance of seeing every species at the most reliable site. Camping is no longer required on Príncipe, but we have two full days on the island to make sure backup attempts at the thrush and owl are possible in the event of bad weather.

Day 1: Arrivals into São Tomé Airport (the easiest flight route is from Lisbon with TAP). We will spend five nights here and then three nights on Príncipe in search of all 28+ endemics.

Day 2: Today we take a short flight over the Gulf of Guinea to neighbouring Príncipe, hopefully arriving in time for some initial birding. We will definitely have our first attempt tonight for Príncipe Scops Owl.

Day 3-4:Most of the endemic species and subspecies on Príncipe are easily seen. Príncipe Glossy Starling, Príncipe Sunbird, Príncipe Speirops, Príncipe Weaver, Príncipe Kingfisher, Príncipe Drongo, and the strange Dohrn’s Warbler (now thought to be an aberrant Sylvia!) are our key targets near the hotel. Offshore, White-tailed Tropicbirds and Brown Boobies are quite common. We will have to hike for a few hours to search out three more difficult endemics – the recently-discovered and still undescribed Príncipe Scops Owl, the beautiful and often confiding Príncipe Thrush, plus the rare but unassuming Príncipe White-eye. Note that it is very unlikely the ocean will be calm enough to visit an offshore island hosting the very range-restricted endemic subspecies of Principé Seedeater (this taxon is unlikely to be split, but has novelty as probably the most range-restricted bird in the entire world!).

Day 5: Flight back to São Tomé, where we will spend the afternoon in some coastal grassland. While searching for the endemic Harlequin Quail subspecies, we will surely enjoy the spectacle of introduced Angolan endemic Golden-backed Bishops in full breeding plumage.

Day 6-7-8: Leaving early on Day 6, we will make our way to Monte Carmo in the south for our two-night expedition. Here we will walk up to a remote campsite which is the best place to see the four most difficult endemics. The São Tomé Ibis (Critically Endangered and still declining, more commonly referred to as the Dwarf Ibis), São Tomé Shorttail (actually a rainforest-dwelling pipit), São Tomé Fiscal (a black-and-yellow rainforest-dwelling shrike) and the elusive São Tomé Grosbeak (rediscovered in 1991 after a century of absence). All unique and evocative species, these two nights will be basic, but a really worthwhile adventure!

During our exploration, we will have many sightings of other specialties like the beautiful São Tomé Paradise Flycatcher, São Tomé Scops Owl, São Tomé Olive Pigeon, São Tomé Green Pigeon, “São Tomé” Lemon Dove, Island Bronze-naped Pigeon, São Tomé Thrush, São Tomé Oriole, Black-capped Speirops, São Tomé Weaver, Príncipe Seedeater (found on both islands) and, of course, the extraordinary Giant Sunbird. We will be returning to our comfortable lodgings on the afternoon of Day 8 for a much needed hot shower, likely stopping off at a bridge where “São Tomé” Malachite Kingfisher can be easily seen. Spotlighting tonight will give us our best chance for “Sao Tome” Western Barn Owl.

Day 9: Our final morning will be spent in some higher altitude forest behind the main town. We will prioritise any species which may have been missed while camping (São Tomé White-eye in particular is much easier in this area), but hopefully we will have plenty of time to relax and photograph open country species such as São Tomé Spinetail, São Tomé Prinia, Newton’s Sunbird, and the astonishing Giant Weaver which will be adorned in lovely breeding plumage at this time of year. We will return to the hotel for a late lunch and transfer to the ariport for evening flights off the island.

Tour details

Cost: $ 3,900
Deposit: $ 750
Single room supplement: $ 520

Accommodation: Luxurious hotels, with two nights camping on São Tomé.

Walking difficulty: Several consecutive days of fairly strenuous and steep hikes on slippery / rocky / muddy trails to reach the upper forests, but we will take them slow. Moderate for the remainder.

Tour cost includes: All accommodation, main meals, drinking water, internal flights (as stated in itinerary), overland transport, tips to local drivers and guides, travel permits, entrance fees, and guide fees.

Tour cost excludes: Flights before and after the tour start/end, visa, travel insurance, tips to tour leaders, laundry, drinks and other items of a personal nature.