Sao Tome Endemic Birds: Jul 14—24, 2006
Island Endemics Made Easy
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Departs: Lisbon, Portugal
Tour Limit: 12
Download Itinerary: PDF (161.7 KB)
Discover these two hidden tropical gems on the Equator off West Africa. A short, gently paced tour easily finding 20+ endemics on the two islands.
Sao Tome and Principe are two small islands in the Gulf of Guinea far off the West African coast. It is amazing that these friendly, fascinating, and civilized islands, with as many endemics as Hawaii or Galapagos, still remain so poorly-known and rarely visited by birders. These islands are some of the easiest endemic birding found anywhere in the world.
The two compact islands of Sao Tome and Principe are lush, with ancient volcanoes covered in forest, lowland cocoa plantations, and open savanna. They have 25 endemic bird species between them, 22 of which can be quite easily found in fairly short, relaxed excursions. These little tropical gems compete very favorably with the better-known island-endemic hot spots, and the birds are mostly easily found on a simple two-island, land-based tour with a lot less travel and hassle. Included are some special, distinctive, and unusual birds. Dohrn's Flycatcher is in a genus of its own, its former name of Dohrn's Thrush-babbler suggesting still unclear taxonomic relationships. Black-capped and Principe speirops are two of a group of four Speirops confined to offshore islands of West Africa and Cameroon—they are distinctive, cute, and precocious! The Giant Weaver (one of three endemic weavers here) really lives up to its name; it is a huge beast! The Sao Tome Weaver behaves like a nuthatch/treecreeper—quite unlike a typical weaver. Of three endemic sunbirds, the Sao Tome Sunbird is a real treat. Its former name of Giant Sunbird is much more apt; like the Giant Weaver, it is humongous.
In addition, there is a fascinating and varied range of other endemics: Paradise-Flycatcher, Scops-Owl, Prinia, Swift, White-eye, Seedeater, Oriole, Thrush, Starling, and 4 attractive pigeons. Like any oceanic island birding, the list is limited; you'll return with a bird list of just 65 to 80 species, but with a central core of world-class quality! A "supporting cast" includes interesting West African species: seabirds and waterbirds including such treats as White-tailed Tropicbird, Brown Booby, Bridled Tern, Brown Noddy, Long-tailed Cormorant, and Western Reef-Egret; Olive Ibis; Harlequin Quail; Gray Parrot; White-bellied and Blue-breasted kingfishers; Velvet-mantled Drongo; Chestnut-winged and Splendid glossy-starlings; Chestnut-breasted Negrofinch; and Blue-breasted Cordonbleu.
There is adequate time in our week on the islands to find all likely endemics at a leisurely pace. Sao Tome is easily reached on a direct flight from Portugal on their national carrier, and Principe is accessed by a short flight from Sao Tome. We stay a few nights on both islands in very good accommodations with excellent food. There is a fascinating and vibrant history and native population. Former dubious claims to fame were as a "holding center" for slaves taken from West Africa en route to the Americas, and as the largest world producer of cocoa.
Good/very good food and accommodations; easy birding and short walks with perhaps one strenuous uphill hike; hot, slightly humid climate.