Sao Tome & Principe
Middle of the world but not the middle of the street, the equator-hovering outcrops of Sao Tome and Principe form Africa’s smallest and possibly least-known state.
Part of a chain of extinct volcanoes, they hide in the Gulf of Guinea, west of Gabon, which explains why so few tourists manage to find them.
Those who do are richly rewarded though.
There are kilometres of sandy beaches trodden only by sailors, a jungle inside with a 2024m summit to climb, turtles and humpbacks splashing in the waters and hotels set in crumbling colonial plantation houses that offer an atmospheric base.
The dry season is June to September, wet is from October to May; humpbacks visit the waters off São Tomé from July to October.
Trinidad & Tobago
Flocks of birds, steel-pan bands, road food, rainforest, multi-culture and a raucous Carnival – that is what Trinidad’s made of.
The Maracas Bay beach in Trinidad.
This is the Caribbean at its most exhilarating, least contrived and, strangely, most beach-free.
There are sweet strands, but Trinidad is not about lolling in heaven: it is about living it. Besides, sister-isle Tobago meets all of the basic sand-nirvana needs. Its west is edged with unspoilt palm-lined beaches where tourism remains low-key. It’s east, however, is that little wilder.
South American-style flora blooms in abundance, caiman and other creatures lurk in the woods, and the coast is notched with secret coves, ideal for that castaway feel.
The dry season is December to May, wet is June to November. The islands sit just outside the hurricane belt (although hurricanes do hit at times).