On Principe’s little sister

This is a tiny speck of volcanic rock rising more than 300 meter high with sheer cliffs on all sides except areas on the north-western side where huge boulders have come off the mountain to form a fertile slope with dense forest and a rocky and dangerous shore with no beach. The islet is in effect a fortress.

The large rock seen against the horizon is one of the many rocks that have come down from this mountain, and the one right in front is just a smaller version of the one I am sitting on. Despite taking considerable care to stay high above the incoming waves, one tidal wave completely drenched me, yet I had not much room to go further up as there the dense and unique forest reigned supreme. Principe is the island seen on the right.

Caroco is indeed an island for the birds as most of it is only accessible by air, and I enjoyed watching the boobies and tropic birds gliding to and fro. It was very noticeable that the birds had not had negative encounters with humans as the plentiful local population of Principe seed eaters (Crithagra rufobrunnea) were lining up on branches and rocks to study me and what I was about. They were foraging amongst the rocks and in the trees, and gathering in groups on a branch or on one of the boulders on the shore. Due to my arriving almost 2 hours late and thus with very limited time I decided not to bring my telephoto, so it was one of those moments to simply enjoy as is and keep in the heart for life!

I might have preferred to have a shot of the sun in the frame, but the side facing it is so dangerous that even I would not try it if my life depended on it! The waves are absolutely relentless and the cliffs so steep, sharp and slippery that the only place I could have a go at capturing this amazing place was from this very rock. Furthermore there is another tiny islet with a lighthouse right in front of the sunset, so even if I got here a couple of hours earlier, and walked on land to reach the sunset side, it would not have provided the view I’d wanted. That was a bit of a relief, because I got here 1.5 hours later than I anticipated as I had to change to a slower boat that could handle me going on shore.

I would very much have liked to stay a few hours here, but the brief encounter was a memorable one, but it would later appear it was the way back that would become a trip in so many ways!

I left as dusk was working its way to darkness, and had a 1.5 hour boat ride to enjoy before I got back to the hotel. Rain was approaching the islet, but did not follow us as we left. Instead the sky cleared more and more and with it more and more of the Milky Way and the stars appeared.

As it got darker and darker I noticed it was taking so long to get real dark (this image was shot at 17:09 and sunset was 17:17), as at the equator it is a very quick affair from dusk to pitch black. Then I realized the glow in the sky was no longer the afterglow of the sun but the zodiacal light – sunlight scattered by the interplanetary dust in the solar system.

Then I noticed all the stars in the waves around the boat – brilliant bioluminescence flashing! With no human light source anywhere to be seen, this was such a magical experience, and I felt I was traveling on a different world entirely! Wherever I laid my eyes there were stars! What a trip!!!

As we approached the end of the journey I noticed an unusually large number of lighthouses far out to sea, each flashing with white light of different interval than the next – resembling that of the stars in the sky and the bioluminescence in the ocean. It was so magical, yet the sheer number of lighthouses provided an idea of how treacherous the seas around Principe really is.

As I finally reached the hotel, the general manager and experience manager waited anxiously as they were unable to contact the crew on the boat due to no battery on their phone apparently, and some misunderstandings as to which boat I was supposed to use. They had expected me back before dark, and my ending up on the slow boat did perhaps make me miss some time on the islet, but it made certain I had one on my most memorable boat trips at night in my life! I let the general manager and experience manager know how much this trip meant to me and how amazing the crew were and that they should be praised for providing such a magical and safe trip.

  • Aperture: ƒ/18
  • Camera: NIKON D4
  • Focal length: 29mm
  • ISO: 640
  • Shutter speed: 25 s

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