Introducing São Tomé & Príncipe
If you adore quietude, take a trip to São Tomé & Príncipe, Africa's second-smallest country. These two tiny volcanic bumps anchored off the Gabonese coast easily win the hearts of foreigners with their Portuguese-Creole flavour and relaxed vibes, and it won't take too long before you're infected with the pervasive leve leve (which loosely means 'take it easy') mood.
The sublime laid-back tempo is enhanced by a wealth of natural attractions: miles of perfect palm-fringed beaches, huge swathes of emerald rainforest, soaring volcanic peaks and mellow fishing villages. The birdlife is excellent, and endemic plants (especially orchids) are plentiful. In season, turtle- and whale-watching opportunities abound.
This two-island nation has its cultural gems as well, with a surprising number of heritage buildings dating back to the colonial era, including impressive roças (plantation estates). Tourism is still low-key and is being developed in a carefully controlled, ecologically minded way. There are no tacky resorts, just a number of locally run, enticing, nature-oriented lodges and hotels.