Lighthouses of São Tomé and Príncipe
São Tomé and Príncipe are small
volcanic islands off the west coast of equatorial Africa, part of
a chain of volcanos that begins on the mainland in Cameroon and also
includes the island of Bioko in Equatorial Guinea. The islands were
uninhabited until they were discovered by Portuguese navigators in
the late 1400s. They continued to be Portuguese colonies until 1975,
when they became an independent nation.
The population of the islands is about 185,000. Most live on São Tomé, the larger
of the islands.
In the 1990s the navigational service of the Portuguese Navy helped
São Tomé and Príncipe create a system of modern
navigational aids to guard the rocky coasts of the islands. Most
of the aids are concrete post lights. Listed here are those aids
that qualify as lighthouses, plus those that replaced traditional
lighthouses. The photos at right and most of the information on the
page comes from a former Portuguese Navy web page. Special thanks
to Michel Forand for finding this resource, and to Walt Hempel for
rediscovering it after the Navy moved it to different server. Unfortunately,
the page has now disappeared.
Aids to navigation in the islands are probably the responsibility of the port authority, the Empresa Nacional de Administração dos Portos (ENAPORT). The Portuguese word for a lighthouse is farol, plural faróis.
ARLHS numbers are from the ARLHS
World List of Lights. Admiralty numbers are from volume
D of the Admiralty List of Lights & Fog Signals. U.S.
NGA List numbers are from Publication 113.
- General Sources
- Faróis de São Tomé e Principe
- Historical information posted by the Portuguese national monuments agency SIPA.
- Lighthouses in São Tomé e Principe
- Photos by various photographers available from Wikimedia.
- World of Lighthouses - São Tomé and Principe
- Photos by various photographers available from Lightphotos.net.
Leuchttürme auf historischen Postkarten
- Postcards from the collection of Klaus Huelse.
São Sebastião Light, São
Tomé, June 2007
Flickr Creative Commons photo
by Inna Moody
- Príncipe Lighthouses
- [Ilhéu Bom Bom (2)]
- 1997 (station established 1928). Active; focal plane 64 m (210 ft); two
flashes every 10 s, white or red depending on direction. 3.5 m (12 ft) cross-shaped
concrete post, painted with red and white horizontal bands. No photo available,
but Google has a satellite
view of the site. The original lighthouse was
a square cast iron tower. Located atop a small islet off the northern tip
Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAO-005; Admiralty D4158; NGA 25180.
- * [Pónta
da Mina (2)]
- 1996 (station established 1897). Active; focal plane 54 m (177
ft); two white flashes every 6 s. 5 m (16 ft) cross-shaped concrete
post, painted with red and white horizontal bands. No photo available,
and the small light is not seen in Google's satellite view of this area. The
original lighthouse was a cast iron tower mounted on a wall of the
ruined Santa Ana Fortaleza de Pónta
Mina, built in 1695 to protect the Portuguese settlement on the island.
Located on a headland on the south side of the entrance to the harbor
of Santo António,
the largest town of Príncipe. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAO-013; Admiralty
D4154; NGA 25172.
- * Santo
António do Príncipe
- 1964. Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); three white flashes every
10 s, white, red, or green depending on direction. 12 m (39 ft)
square masonry tower, rising from the harbormaster's office. Tower
painted with red and white vertical stripes; the rest of the building
is painted light blue. The light is at the right in Chris Kean's photo of the waterfront seen at right, Brian Simison has a 2012 photo, Lightphotos.net has a small photo, and Google has a satellite view. Located at the west end of the
waterfront in Santo António, the principal settlement on the island. Site open, tower status unknown.
ARLHS SAO-015; Admiralty D4155; NGA 25176.
Santo António do Príncipe Light, August 2007
photo copyright Chris Kean; used by permission
São Tomé Lighthouses
- * [Lagoa
- 1997. Active; focal plane 34 m (112 ft); two white flashes every
15 s. 7 m (23 ft) cast iron tower with lantern and gallery. 5 m
(16 ft) cross-shaped concrete post, painted with red and white horizontal
bands. Inna Moody has a 2007 photo,
Pascal Aubort has a closeup of the top of the tower, Anthony Asael has a distant view, and Google has a satellite
Lagoa Azul (blue lagoon) is a small cove sheltered by the cape on which the light stands. Located on on a promontory at the northwestern tip of the island of
Tomé. Accessible by road. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAO-010; Admiralty
D4243; NGA 25183.
- 1890. Active; focal plane 97 m (318 ft); three white flashes in
a 2+1 pattern every 15 s. 7 m (23 ft) cast iron tower with lantern
and gallery. Tower painted white, lantern red. A small Portuguese Navy photo appears
at right, a very distant view is available, the light is visible in André Pipa's aerial view, there's a photo (2/3 the way down the page) of the steep stone stairway leading to the lighthouse, Huelse has a historic postcard
view, and Google has a satellite
view. This handsome little lighthouse was nicely restored
by the Portuguese navy in 1994. Located on the summit of a small
island just off the northern tip of the island of São
only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAO-007; Admiralty D4230; NGA 25184.
Ilhéu das Cabras Light
- * [Ana
Chaves Posterior (2)]
- 1994 (station established 1952). Active; focal plane 37 m (121 ft); green
light, 2 s on, 2 s off. 5 m (16 ft) cross-shaped concrete post, painted
with red and white horizontal bands. No photo available, but Google has a distant satellite view. The front light
is a similar, even smaller tower about 80 m (90 yd) down the hillside. Located
on the west side of the entrance to the Baia de Ana Chaves, the harbor of
the national capital São Tomé. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAO-003; Admiralty
D4234.1; NGA 25200.
- *** São
- 1928 (station established 1866). Active; focal plane 13 m (43 ft); four
flashes every 12 s, white or red depending on direction. 6 m (20 ft) tower
with lantern and gallery mounted atop the Fortaleza de São Sebastião.
Tower and fort painted white, lantern red. Access to the gallery is by
an external ladder. Inna Moody's closeup photo
is at the top of this page, she also has a 2006 photo of the fort and lighthouse, Bruce Potter has a 2007 closeup,
a 2008 photo and another photo are available, Lightphotos.net has a photo, Michel Forand has a historic postcard
view, Huelse has a different postcard
view, and Google has a satellite view. The historic fortress is now the national museum of history
and art. The lighthouse was restored in 1994. Located on a point of
land on the east side of the Baia de Ana Chaves in São Tomé.
Site open, and visitors can easily climb to the gallery. Site manager:
Museu Nacional de São Tomé e Príncipe. ARLHS SAO-002;
Admiralty D4237; NGA 25192.
Gago Coutinho (Ilhéu das Rolas)
- 1929. Active; focal plane 106 m (348 ft); two white flashes every
10 s. 9 m (30 ft) square cylindrical masonry tower with lantern
and gallery, rising from a 1-story keeper's house. Building painted
white, lantern red. A photo is at right, and Google has a satellite view. The lighthouse was
restored in 1994. Located on heights on the south side of the Ilhéu das Rolas, a small island off
the southern tip of the island of São Tomé. (Gago Coutinho was a Portuguese geologist who proved that the Equator bisects the island.) Accessible
only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAO-009; Admiralty D4241; NGA 25204.
Information available on lost lighthouses:
Notable faux lighthouses:
Ilhéu Gago Coutinho (Ilhéu das Rolas) Light, June 2014
Panoramio photo copyright MarcoTC; used by permission
Adjoining pages: North: Equatorial Guinea | East: Gabon
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Posted September 16, 2005. Checked and revised October 15, 2015.
Lighthouses: 4. Site copyright 2015 Russ Rowlett and the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill.