Pitstop in Sao Tome

Sao Tome and Principe Travel Blog

 › entry 6 of 11 › view all entries

Feb 7, 2012
Flight: Lagos (LOS) to Douala (DLA), Air Nigeria 737, econ
Flight: Douala (DLA) to Sao Tome (TMS), Air Nigeria 737, econ
Flight: Sao Tome (TMS) to Libreville (LBV), Air Nigeria 737, econ
Hotel: Le Patio, Libreville, Gabon, 35000 XAF ($70)

Today the only plan was to fly from Lagos to Libreville, Gabon on Air Nigeria. The flight also made stops in Douala and Sao Tome. The flight wasn't until 11:30 but left the airport at 9:15. The hotel charges N2500 which cleared out the rest of my Naira. It would be cheaper to walk out and across the road and try to catch a taxi there... for one the Ibis is on the wrong side of the expressway if heading to the airport and you have to make a huge detour just to turn around and get back on the other side of the road.

I had checked in online on Air Nigeria's site but hadn't been able to print out my boarding pass. Arriving at the airport was somewhat chaotic.. very busy around the checkin desks but luckily not for Air Nigeria. Got a bit of a scare when the guy checking my passport asked if I had an invitation letter for Gabon. No I didn't, i'm a tourist and already had a visa so why need an invitation letter? I convinced him i didn't need one and so got my boarding pass quickly.

Next was through immigration. The guy checking the documents before the counters asked me for my first direct bribe 'I saw you put your hand in your pocket, do you have something for me?' I said my pocket is full of unhappiness just as I walked past. No problems actually getting stamped out, or going through immigration.
I noticed they have the nude-o-scopes here at Lagos already as well, but they were not using them.

I had about 45 minutes to kill before boarding. I noticed a Diners Club lounge but had forgotten to bring my card, rats. There are also lounges for Egypt Air and common one for other airlines. I hung around in the (hot and humid) gate area for awhile before they started boarding, from the next gate down. It was a bit chaotic boarding.. first they herded us into the area between the gate and the jetbridge, then down the jetbridge, which wasn't attached to the plane. Had to go down the stairs, over to the plane, then up the stairs to board.

The plane was a 737, a bit older but still clean. Seats were blue fabric. I had 8F which was right in front of the exit row.
The flight was maybe 75% full, and i had the seat next to me free. Pretty tight on the legspace though. We took off a few minutes late for the 1:20 flight to Douala.

The flight passed uneventfully. They served a sandwich and a juice box on this leg. Soon we were landing in Douala... the airport seemed big and empty with two wings of jetbridge gates. The only other plane there at the time was a Camair Co 737. A few people got off but many more boarded here, the flight now was full for the next legs. As we were pushing back from the gate, a TAAG (Angolan Airlines) 737 was pulling into the gate next to us.

The next leg was just a bit over an hour to Sao Tome. Sao Tome & Principe is one of the former Portuguese colonies in Africa. I'd hoped to visit there and spend a few days, but flight schedules there are tricky.
There is a once-a-week flight on TAP from Lisbon, or connections to Angola or Cape Verde on TAAG. I'd hoped to see the island of Bioko (Equatorial Guinea) as we flew over, but the sky was very grey/hazy at this point.

We come in for a landing at Sao Tome which looked very lush and green from the air. The airport is tiny, not even a jetbridge and just a small building there. Unfortunately transit passengers could not disembark the plane here even for a minute. Which was too bad as we sat, and sat and sat... it was only supposed to be a 40-minute turnaround yet we sat on the tarmac for almost 2 hrs (a 'problem' with paperwork) with the plane door open and humid/hot air streaming in.

Finally we take off for the 30-minute hop over to Libreville.
They served sandwiches and soda on this leg. Everything was uneventful until we come in for a very hard landing, BANG, the plane bounces a few times and everyone on the plane starts talking, heh.

No problems at immigration, but luckily there is a policeman there that speaks English and helped me with the official (I can speak French a bit, but understanding is still hard for me). I found an ATM and caught a cab (5000 CFA, I'm sure I overpaid) into town to the Le Patio Hotel. The main road from the airport was first-world standard. There are many ex-pat French that live in Gabon. Gabon was one of the oil countries in this part of Africa, although now it will be gone soon there had been significant investment at least in the capital.

I had problems finding a hotel in Libreville; the Africas Cup of Nations was going on and many of the bigger hotels were booked out. I had found Le Patio hotel in the Lonely Planet and made a reservation via email. They had wanted pre-payment but I'd had trouble wiring the money, so hoped they hadn't given my reservation away... but no worries. I was able to checkin and pay for the hotel right away.

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Sao Tome airport
Sao Tome airport