3 day itinerary in Príncipe Island, São Tomé and Príncipe

3 day itinerary in Príncipe Island, São Tomé and Príncipe

Arriving on Príncipe Island in São Tomé and Príncipe felt like paradise redefined. Suddenly I needed new words to describe the views. You are about to find out what to do if you have 3 days in Príncipe.

Príncipe is the second of the islands comprising the country of Sao Tomé and Príncipe and the smallest of them. The population is around 7000 inhabitants and the whole island is a dense, lush and green forest topped up with remote, sandy beaches. As we visited São Tomé during rainy season the roads were moody and it was raining, which made the drive more unique.

Incredible deserted turquoise water beach in Príncipe island

How to get to Príncipe

Príncipe is the smallest island of São Tomé and Príncipe and can be reached by plane from the main island. There are two companies flying this route. There are daily flights connecting the islands. It takes only about 30 minutes of flying to get there.

Where to sleep in Príncipe island

Príncipe is a very unique and mostly unexploited tourist destination. In October 2018 there was 1 airbnb available in the capital, some 4 star hotels and a couple of local guesthouses. Most of the industry is controlled by a couple of hotel portfolios owning different 4* luxurious hotels. Some of the options are:

What to do for a 3 day itinerary in Príncipe Island

3 day itinerary in Príncipe Island

Day 1 in Príncipe

Arrive at your accommodation and spend the day by the beach. I recommend choosing a lodge that is directly by the beach. Spend the afternoon and evening sipping cocktails, kayaking, swimming or snorkelling. All the resorts are relatively small so you are in for an unbelievably relaxing experience.

Another amazing beach in Príncipe island

Day 2 of the Príncipe Itinerary

The great thing about visiting Príncipe is that “day usage” of the resorts is an acceptable and often used modality of travel. If you are not staying at one of the fancy resorts, you can go spend the day there.

Kayak, walk or get a transfer to Bom Bom Island Resort. This resort holds a special place in my heart, as I had to find new vocabulary for the landscapes I was seeing. The scenery from the lodge is magical.

The resort is located at one of the tips of the island, in land. There is a wooden bridge connecting the hotel with a little island. On the island you can find a bar/restaurant and a 1h hiking trail that takes you on a circular loop around the island. The bridge gives much more character to the resort. Here are some pictures for proof:

Bom Bom Island Resort in Príncipe Island Bom Bom Island Resort in Príncipe Island

If you love diving (or are getting started like me!) I encourage you to give it a try. Diving can be organised from a variety of resorts on the island but as far as we noticed there were a couple of hotels that just took you to the Padi centre in the Bom Bom Resort, so might as well organise with them directly. They have some interesting dives with different depths to choose from and so many different banks of colourful fish. It was a superb experience.

Diving in Bom Bom Island Resort, PríncipeDiving in Bom Bom Island Resort, Príncipe

The prices in the restaurant and bar are equivalent to those in Europe. It is an important piece of information to consider when you budget for your daily spend. The diving was 130€ per person for 2 dives. 165€ if booked online.

More about scuba diving: getting PADI certified in Cape Town

Day 3 of the Príncipe itinerary

Hire a driver to take you around the island. The island is not developed so some roads are not paved and the most important part, we didn’t find anyone who was renting a car to tourists. If you ask around town they will direct you to someone who speaks some English (a rare quality there) and can tour you around the island.

As our main interest on the island was diving and the second day the weather wasn’t great we did not tour the island. More reasons to come back soon!

Beautiful Príncipe Island beach

This 3 day itinerary in Príncipe Island will give you a good understanding of what there is to see and how beautiful the natural paradise is.

If you have more days (and I hope you can spare a couple more after reading this post) you should try and have one more day to just relax by the hotel/beach and another one to also explore the island. It is a small island and untouched, but if I had 3 days on my Príncipe itinerary I certainly would try to explore more of the areas.

Check out this cinematic travel video about my trip to São Tomé and Príncipe!

[kad_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQWusDP10I0″ ]

Logistics on the island

We found transfers between lodges or Town to lodge for 20€ for 2 pax. The distances are short and from reception they will happily organise this for you.

If you are on a budget I recommend staying one night at one of the resorts as it gives you more of that secluded island experience and then move to town. There was only 1 guesthouse/airbnb and the rooms where small and basic, but clean.

There are a couple of bars and a supermarket where you can get food for your stay and the town Santo Antonio can be visited in merely 20 minutes.

Santo Antonio, Príncipe Island Santo Antonio, Príncipe Island Santo Antonio, Príncipe Island Santo Antonio, Príncipe Island

If you have some budget then of course stay more than one night at the resorts. There are different prices for the resorts so you can always find the cheapest option within the luxury range.

If you are organising a tour around São Tomé and Príncipe I would recommend starting with Sao Tome because it is not as impressive or as well taken care of, and end the trip with the best part which is Príncipe Island.

I for one cannot wait to come back! Have you found my 3 day itinerary in Príncipe useful?

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Príncipe island - 3 day itinerary: where to sleep, eat and what to do

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Príncipe island - the perfect 3 day itinerary:

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Rock pools of Rialb river: the complete guide

Rock pools of Rialb river: the complete guide

In the middle of La Noguera area in Catalonia, Spain you can find the rock pools of Rialb river. Between the mountains lie pools of turquoise, clear and freezing water. It is an ideal place to go spend some time with family, friends or your partner. Do not forget to pack water in a reusable water bottle as well as some snacks for a picnic. Do you want to know how to get to these rock pools? Continue reading.

Rock pools of Rialb river

The common name locals of the area have given these rock pools is ‘Rock pools of Rialb river’ or ‘Rock Pools of La Baronia de Rialb’. The rock pools are in a thin part of the river Rialb on its way through the Baronia de Rialb municipality. The area is also known for canyoning and the “Forat del Bulli”.

Rock pools of Rialb River: the complete guide

What to do

Along the river there are different spots where one can park and enjoy the water. The special rock formations create a beige “floor” with turquoise and crystal clear water.

There are areas to park and some to camp. It is a great place to chill during hot summer days and they are a big attraction of the area.

There is an option to not only swim but to walk up to El Forat del Bulli, although you need the necessary equipment.

Rock pools of Rialb River: the complete guide

How to get to the rock pools of Rialb River

There are two big towns next to the river that are Artesa de Segre and Ponts. I will explain the route from both. The estimated driving time from Barcelona to either of those towns is 1h40min.

From Artesa de Segre to intersection for St. Cristòfol de la Donzell

Leave Artesa de Segre towards Tremp. When you arrive to Folquer (village) turn right to road c-1412b. Drive along this road until you see a sign saying “St. Cristòfol de la Donzell”. The turn is almost invisible and a sharp left, so pay attention after the sign.

From Ponts to intersection for St. Cristòfol de la Donzell

Drive along the c-1412b road until the intersection on your right signalling St. Cristòfol de la Donzell.

From intersection to rock pools of Rialb river

When you turn you will see a sign that reads “Riu Rialb 4,8km” (Rialb River). Keep driving until you pass a big rural house on your left on a bend sloping downwards called Masia Perdigués. You will arrive at another intersection where you can take either a left or a right.

The left side has another sign that reads “Riu Rialb 1,8km). Drive until you see a house on your left called “la casa dels peixos” this is a fish factory – you have to keep going down that same tar road.

After a while you will get to a T-junction and take a left.

After few meters you will arrive at another intersection where you will follow the sign for “Forat del Bulli”. The road is tarred but from time to time becomes gravel. You will see a gravel road intersection but must remain on the tar road.

You will soon see signs for “Punt d’aigua” where you can already stop to swim. If you want to reach the most spectacular area (in my opinion) continue driving for a bit longer. There is a moment where you’ll drive over a little, tarred bridge and after the bridge there is a steep road to the left. You will see the road is “wide” for the area and there are a couple spots for cars. You can park here.

Rock pools of Rialb River: the complete guideThere are two options to find the water:

  • Follow the gravel road turning right from the bridge. Walk along the right-hand side of said road and look out for a little hikers trail departing from it. You can follow this steep path until you get to the water
  • Right below the small bridge where you parked there’s a dry river bed. Follow it all the way down to get to the water.

With both options the walking time from the car to the rock pools is about 10 to 15 minutes.

Rock pools of Rialb River: the complete guide

Once that you have arrived at the “rock pools of Rialb river” you don’t need to do anything but enjoy yourself and spend some hours tanning and swimming.

What is the price to the rock pools of Rialb river?

The price at the moment of writing this article (December 2018) is free, as you are only using a river access.

Have you found the directions useful? Let me know in the comments!

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Rock pools of Rialb: how to get there

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Rock pools of Rialb river complete guide

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Open water certification in Cape Town: what you need to know

Open water certification in Cape Town: what you need to know

Learning to breathe underwater will immerse you in a new world (see what I did there?)

Scuba diving it’s an exhilarating activity and totally worth it but when you are in your pool session, about to go down, you might think “this is a bad idea” – it isn’t.

I’ll make your life easier by detailing everything you need to know if you want to do the Open Water Certification in Cape Town.

What is PADI?

PADI is the recognised brand for scuba diving certifications around the world. Their certificate is the most famous and can be done anywhere from Cape Town, to a resort in the Maldives, to an island in Malaysia: the scuba diving certifications are always PADI.

They also have different types of certification, from first timer’s scuba diving adventure to scuba diving open water certification to a range of more advanced courses. Wherever you are in the world, whatever your previous certification experience is, you can always keep getting better and exploring more.

My first adventure as a scuba diver took place in Cape Town, wanting to get certified before my upcoming trip to São Tomé and Príncipe so that I would be able to dive in warm water.

Open Water Certification in Cape Town: everything you need to know

What’s the Open Water PADI & Where to do it in Cape Town

The open water certification is the first certification in the scuba diving world you can get. It allows you to scuba dive to 18m under water, without an instructor.

We used Into The Blue, a dive shop in Sea Point, Cape Town. With a couple of friends, we completed the Open Water PADI certification. It takes 3 to 4 days depending on how long you have.  In our case, we used a weekend plus a Saturday.

On the first Saturday you’ll have the pool session. There you learn how to set up your equipment and all the necessary skills. Skills include hand signals, filling the mask with water or taking your bcd (bouyancy control device- your backpack with the tank) off and put it back on in the water.

During day 2 you will have 2 different dives. You will do some of the skills you learned in the pool, in the ocean and the rest will be exploring. On Day 3, there are again some more skills in both of the 2 dives and some more exploring.

About the school and instructors: they are amazing individuals, who became friends very quickly and made our three days not only entertaining but fun! I totally recommend Into The Blue if you are looking for a good open water certification school in Cape Town.

Open Water certificate in Cape Town new friends

Necessary gear for the course:

You don’t need any specific gear, as it will all be provided by the school/resort. You need a swimsuit to wear underneath the wetsuit, and a towel to dry up after your dives. Specialised gear that the school will provide:

  • Finns
  • Mask
  • Regulator
  • Bcd – this is the backpack that has the oxygen tank attached to it – simply put. It is also used to inflate and deflate and therefore controls your bouyancy under water
  • Weight bell
  • Gloves
  • Wetsuit
  • Boots
  • Oxygen tank

If you are doing your open water at a destination with warmer water, you might have different suits (short sleeved) or even no boots or gloves. This depends on the water temperature in your area. Cape Town dive sites are in the Atlantic and they are quite cold to dive in.

Open Water Certification in Cape Town: everything you need to know

Things to do before your Scuba diving sessions

You will have to read the theory and do some quizzes. It takes some time as there is a lot of theory to go through.

Be patient because the scrolling on the Desktop website is THE most horrible experience ever. The app is better though, so I totally recommend that. Even though the app is better it is still slow and annoying to use so just be patient – paying for the printed version is just more money and you will be throwing the book away/not ever looking at it again – be environmentally conscious!

Make sure you don’t have a cold or sinusitis – it is important to get checked by a general doctor in case you do – you shouldn’t have congestion for this because you won’t be able to equalize and not doing so is very dangerous.

What to expect from your open water certification

Before your session it feels like you are back in school. If you are anything like me, you’ll be going through the theory the night before and feeling like a naughty teenager.

The first day is the least exciting of the three as you are in a pool being taught skills – some will be very easy, and some will be harder, be patient. It is also the first time you will learn how to equalize under water (in case you have never done that before) and for some of us it takes some time.

Once you are out in the sea you will enjoy a new perspective and discover a new world.

Open Water Certification in Cape Town: everything you need to know

Padi Open Water price at Into The Blue, Cape Town

There are two options that have different prices.

  • Open Water Digital Option: 5995 ZAR per person. The prince includes the log in to your PADI online system so you can read and download the theory manual.
  • Open Water Deluxe Option: R6495 ZAR per person. Includes a crewpack with DVD’s and the theory manual (book).

Mistakes newbies make – and how to avoid them!

Before I get started, I did all of these. It is the human instinct kicking in. Hopefully reading about them will make you better than I was.

  • Move your hands a lot. Don’t, try to have them in front of you and balance yourself with your feet and bcd.
  • Stop breathing when you have a skill that requires you to not see. You can breathe with your eyes closed (e.g. take your mask off and put it back under water).
  • Breathe normally. A big part of scuba diving is having a relaxed breathing rhythm. If you are stressed and hyperventilating, you will run out of air sooner.
  • Saying everything is ok with the wrong sign. Underwater the thumbs up means ascending to the surface. We have all done it and will continue to do it, it takes practice.

And that’s about it. Get your Open Water certification in Cape Town, enjoy, and travel to your next scuba diving destination!

Have you ever breathed under water? Tell me about your experience in the comments below!

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Open Water Certification in Cape Town: everything you need to know

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Open Water Certification in Cape Town: everything you need to know

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Big thanks to Into The Blue for letting me use their pictures in this post!

Victoria Falls in 48h: top things to do 

Victoria Falls in 48h: top things to do 

Victoria Falls is one of the seven natural wonders of the world and is part of the UNESCO natural list. The falls (and river) serve as the border between the countries Zambia and Zimbabwe.

The locals call it Mosi-oa-Tunya which means “The smoke that thunders”. The name comes from the mist from the water falling which goes high up into the sky, particularly during wet season. It is also considered the capital of adventure in Southern Africa for the wide adrenaline offers in the area.

After living in Cape Town for a year I had to make my way to the falls and experience the majesty of it. I travelled with friends and found out what do in Victoria Falls in 48h, so let’s dive in!

Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do

How to get to Victoria Falls

Victoria Falls has two main towns near it. One is the town of Victoria Falls, in Zimbabwe, the closest town to the falls. The other one is Livingstone, in Zambia, about 18 minutes’ drive from the falls.

Both have an international airport and you can fly to either airport and because the transfer between them is a short one, you should look for the best price. Check if you need visas for both countries first!

You can fly directly from Cape Town but most flights from Southern Africa arrive via Johannesburg.

Best area to stay during your trip to Victoria Falls

There are several areas and vibes for you to choose depending on what you want. Victoria Falls town is the hub of a small town, walking distance from the falls. You can find anything from hostels to high-end hotels around the city. There are restaurants, nightclubs and a small town offering in terms of variety. There are resorts outside of town offering a more tranquil setting.

Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do

Livingstone town is mainly left as a tourist spot unless you know someone or you have a specific reason to want to stay there. It is too far away to just go to the falls, you’d need to drive. Instead, Zambia has a different type of offer with hotels located next to the falls, without being in a town/village. They offer different levels of hospitality and can go as far away as more than an hour from the falls.

If you are looking for a small town vibe close to the falls, Victoria Falls town should be your first choice. If you are looking for more of a ‘resort in Africa’ experience and just want to check the falls once, then the resorts in Zambia will be to your liking.

Where to stay in Victoria Falls

There are several good accommodations on both sides of the falls, here are just some options to get you started.

Zambia side:
  • Avani Victoria Falls: the only hotel with a private entrance to the falls on the Zambian side. That means that you can save up to about 30EUR in costs. It is a big hotel and great for families and couples alike.
  • Chundukwa: looking for something a little more secluded? This hotel has great value for price and offers a luxury experience a little higher up the falls.
Zimbabwean side:
  • Shoestrings backpackers: The backpackers where I stayed during my trip. It has a great vibe with simple and clean rooms, food is delicious and locals and tourists seem to get together for a beer in the evening!
  • Batonka hotel: It is an entry-level hotel style, this lodge offers a relaxing atmosphere and great service.

Victoria Falls in 48h: best things to do

First day in Victoria Falls

Arrive and check in at your accommodation. Start your Victoria Falls in 48h trip by walking to Lookout Café for lunch/snacks/drinks. If you are into adrenaline adventures, the gorge swing is a must do from this place.

Head back to town and stop at the falls. The falls can be visited from the Zambian side as well as the Zimbabwean side. They both have lookouts in front of the falls with views. About the 75% of the fall’s lookouts are in the Zimbabwean side.

During low water season (between the end of August and January) the Zambian side doesn’t have much water running down, due to turbines being used up the river (they are in the process of changing this!)

Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do

I recommend starting with the Zimbabwean side’s falls. The lookouts start off to the side of the falls and take you closer and closer to Zambia. I visited during low water season and the last 4 lookouts left us drenched in water, so during high water season ‘The smoke that thunders’ (Mosi-oa-tunya, the original name) will leave you very wet! From the last lookout you can see the amount of water on the Zambian side and make your decision whether to go there or not.

Go for dinner and a great hostel atmosphere at Shoestrings backpackers.

Second day in Victoria Falls

Go on a Chobe full day tour. The tour involves crossing the border to Botswana and spending the day discovering the landscape.
You will have included a boat safari and a 4×4 safari, as well as lunch and transfers from Victoria Falls.

If you are curious about the fauna and landscape of Chobe, read this detailed post about it here.

Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do

Third day in Victoria Falls

Start the day early and go to the Zambian side for the Livingstone tour. This tour needs to be booked in advance. The tour takes you to an island on the Zambezi, Livingstone Island, where David Livingstone first saw the Victoria Falls.

Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do

During low water season you can do the thrilling activity of swimming in the Devil’s pool. It looks way scarier than it was! You get to visit the island (arriving by boat), cross the Zambezi river to get to the pool and swim there for a short time. All tours include either breakfast or lunch on the island.

Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do
Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do
Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do

If you want the warmest water go for the 7am tour. If you want the warmest sun go for the 9am tour.

You have more days in Victoria Falls?

Not a problem! You will see the town is full of energy for such a small and remote place. You can choose from a variety of safaris to nearby parks or focus on adrenaline activities.

There are day tours departing daily to the national parks and you can also choose to go on a sunset cruise along the Zambezi.
Some of the available ones are white river rafting, microlight flight over the falls, helicopter ride over the falls, bungee jumping or zip lining. It is called the Adventure capital of southern Africa for a reason!

If you’re interested in a group of activities make sure you try to find an activity package to bring the cost down a little bit, your pocket will be happier for it.

Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do

Have you already decided what you’ll do in Victoria Falls with 48h? Pin it for later!

Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do
Victoria Falls in 48h: things to do
Chobe Day Trip from Victoria Falls: is it worth it?

Chobe Day Trip from Victoria Falls: is it worth it?

Staying in Victoria Falls is a must in Africa. From there, you might be thinking about going on a Chobe Day trip. Spend the day exploring the Botswana’s National Park next door without overnighting there.

Deciding whether the day trip is worth the money and time spent and especially knowing whether the wildlife sightings are worth it (after most likely visiting another safari destination in Southern Africa) is something most of us ask ourselves.

Luckily for you I went on a Chobe Day trip and can share all of these insights with you. After this post you can decide if going there is worth it for you or not.

Chobe Day trip

What and Where is the Chobe National Park?

Chobe National Park is in the North of Botswana, and it is known for having the largest population of elephants in Africa. Its varied ecosystems, landscapes and variety of animals (especially mammals and birds) make this area a prime destination for safari lovers. The Chobe river runs through the park and creates flood lands and woodlands.

The closest town to the Park is Kasane, with a domestic airport. It can also be reached by road transfer from Victoria Falls, hence why the Chobe Day Trip appeals to some budget-aware travellers.

Chobe Day trip

How far away it is from Victoria Falls (Zimbabwe) and Livingstone (Zambia)

When we speak about “staying in Victoria Falls” one can either stay in Victoria Falls town or Livingstone – the closest towns to the falls. Victoria Falls is walking distance from them while Livingstone is about 18 minutes away by car. The distance from Victoria Falls to Chobe is around 1h30 while from Livingstone we should add another 30 minutes.

To go to Chobe National Park you will be going through borders in order to either:
  1. Leave Zimbabwe and enter Botswana; leave Botswana enter Zimbabwe
  2. Leave Zambia and enter Botswana; leave Botswana and enter Zambia

Keep this in mind when you check your visa requirements – you will need a multiple entry visa!

Chobe Day trip

What do you do during the Chobe Day Trip

The bus will pick you up from your accommodation around 7h00 and start the drive to the border. During the drive the road is tarred but you drive inside the National Park so you should look for for animals!

On arrival to the border you will queue to go through customs and then walk to the other side, where another bus will be waiting for you. The guides will direct you during the process, so you don’t get onto the wrong bus – don’t worry!

Chobe Day trip

From the border you have a short drive to the hotel that you are going to use as a base. The hotels that the different suppliers use for this all have entrances to the river. You will then embark on your river cruise safari. Here you’ll have the opportunity to see elephants crossing the river or large herds of buffalo. The chances of seeing hippos and crocodiles are also super high!

Chobe Day trip

On arrival back at the hotel lunch is included. You will have some lunch time and after that depart on your 4×4 safari through another part of the park. You will then have the opportunity to check out the area from a different perspective.

Chobe Day trip

When the safari is finished you’ll go back to the hotel to get back on the bus. The estimated arrival time back at your accommodation, where they will drop you off, is about 17h30.

What is the price of the Chobe Day trip

There are different suppliers offering this activity around Victoria Falls. The prices per person range between 160 USD – 180 USD in 2018.  (depending on inclusions and exclusions)

Chobe Day trip

Chobe Day trip: is it worth it?

Yes!

The landscapes of Chobe National Park are something else. It is a great way to discover a little piece of Botswana without overnighting and paying the high prices that characterise Botswana’s accommodations.

Chobe Day trip Chobe Day trip

If you are afraid that, after being on safari before, Chobe is going to feel like too much safari, you shouldn’t be. Again, you might have seen the animals before but the difference in landscape is noticeable. The chance to see elephants crossing the river will make the experience very different and worth the time.

The best experience for me was doing the boat safari and seeing the diverse landscape. Found the 4×4 safari to see average compared to other safari experiences in Africa.

If you haven’t been on a safari before and are not sure if it will be to your liking, this day is a great way to discover two different types of activities (the boat safari and the 4×4 safari) in a single day and get a glimpse of how amazing the world of wildlife can be.

If you are a world travelled safari goer but have never been to Botswana the day trip will give you a quick look, so you know what to expect in the country.

The Chobe day trip is totally worth the money during your stay in Victoria Falls. It acts as a great complement for the end of your trip.

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chobe day trip from Victoria Falls

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chobe day trip

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