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.

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
Lighthouses in São Tomé e Principe
Photos available from Wikimedia.
World of Lighthouses - São Tomé and Principe
Photos available from Lightphotos.net.
Afrikanische 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 of Príncipe. 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 Google's distant satellite view has no detail in 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, and Lightphotos.net has a small photo, but the town is hardly visible in Google's very fuzzy satellite view. Located on the waterfront in Santo António. Site open, tower status unknown. ARLHS SAO-015; Admiralty D4155; NGA 25176.

Farolim Santo António do Príncipe
Santo António do Príncipe Light, August 2007
SmugMug photo copyright Chris Kean; used by permission


São Tomé Lighthouses
* [Lagoa Azul]
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 Aubert has a closeup of the top of the tower, and Anthony Asael has a distant view, but the small light is not seen clearly in Google's satellite view. 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 São Tomé. Accessible by road. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAO-010; Admiralty D4243; NGA 25183.
Ilhéu das Cabras
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, 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 Tomé. Accessible only by boat. Site open, tower closed. ARLHS SAO-007; Admiralty D4230; NGA 25184.
* [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 Bing 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.

Ilhéu das Cabras Light
*** São Sebastião (2)
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 Bing 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.
Ilhéu 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 small photo is at right, but Bing has only a fuzzy satellite view of the area. The lighthouse was restored in 1994. Located on the northern tip 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 Light

Adjoining pages: North: Equatorial Guinea | East: Gabon

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Posted September 16, 2005. Checked and revised August 19, 2013. Lighthouses: 4. Site copyright 2013 Russ Rowlett and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.