The islands' colonial history dates back to the arrival of the Portuguese who realised that the happy confluence of rich volcanic soil and equatorial weather patterns were perfect for cultivating crops. Foremost was sugar, but by the 19th century the world's taste buds had two new favourites - cocoa and coffee, and even today coffee connoisseurs believe the islands produce the finest beans in the world.
Along with its coffee credentials, there is real cause for optimism that the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe could become a model for responsible tourism in the West African region. Part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves, the islands are working towards achieving environmental, economic and social sustainability - proof that the first green shoots of eco-tourism are sprouting encouragingly.
The wildlife too, is worth shouting about in Sao Tome and Principe. Nicknamed the 'Galapagos of Africa', the islands boast a wealth of endemic species from its bounty of birdlife (143 species at last count) to its impressive indigenous plants and orchids. Offshore, the islands feature on the migratory routes of many marine species - including giant leatherback turtles and humpback whales - and for the real wildlife lovers out there, you can plan your trip around seeing turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs between September and April.
When you're not wildlife watching, there is a wealth of other activities to dive into. On foot, explore the many walking trails around the island and challenge yourself to the lung-busting walk to Pico Papagaio - a 2,200ft mountain surrounded by rainforests teeming with monkeys, native birds, orchids and medicinal plants. If hiking in the heat isn't your idea of a good time, bump across the island on 4x4 tours to local farms, restaurants and plantations, or hit the water on boat trips to the beautiful Bay of Needles as well as kayaking, snorkelling and diving excursions. And when you're pleasantly exhausted from all the activities? Find yourself a sunny spot on the beach and spend a few days swimming in the warm waters and exploring hidden-away coves.