MNN Galleries

7 amazing islands for eco-tourists

Sao Tome and Principe beach

Photo: Maria Cartas/Flickr

3 of 9

Sao Tome and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe, often referred to simply as Sao Tome, is a tiny nation that consists of an archipelago surrounding the country's two namesake islands off the coast of Gabon. In the past, this nation of 200,000 people relied heavily on cocoa exports. However, tourism (among other industries) plays an important part in the country's economy. Infrastructure is basic and tourism numbers still quite modest. Lush landscapes and a complete lack of crowds mean that this lusophone country is a nearly perfect African destination for eco-tourists. While few native mammals have crossed from the African mainland, both Sao Tome and Principe are havens for birds and rare plant life. Trails crisscross both these islands. Sao Tome's mountains rise sharply to over 6,000 feet above sea level and provide some stunning inland scenery. Beaches are another trait of this little known archipelago. Idyllic, palm-fringed sands are often deserted, except for those that are crowded by local fishermen (but not tourists).