Few places are magical enough to endure any type of logistics and costs to visit. They must be remote but still within reach of commercial airports, and the fishing has to be world-class. Boats, captains, crew and equipment must be the best available, and shots at game fish are plentiful. When traveling, I want to stay in comfort, eat the seafood I catch and have an overall experience I consider to be worthy enough to share my experiences. Bom Bom is just that.
Bert Bouchard, an IGFA-certified captain, commissioned G&S to completely rebuild his 41-foot Deceiver sport-fisher from the tower to the keel before being shipped overseas. He also refurbished a classic 31-foot Bertram, Blue Beard, to complement his fleet. Bouchard could fish his boats anywhere in the world, but they are moored at Bouchard’s Makaira Lodge, 100 miles off the shore of west Africa, on the island of Bom Bom. Just a nickname, “Bom Bom” is technically a rock that is part of Principe.
Instead of describing this beautiful island paradise to you myself as a visitor, Marnie Saidi describes her home by saying, “Principe Island, belonging to the Republic of São Tomé and Principe, juts out of the Atlantic in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa, and it is home to a population of around 7,500 people. An ex-Portuguese colony, Principe is geographically Africa, but is in essence a world unto itself, bringing together ancient traditions from the coastland and centuries-old Portuguese culture into a melting pot that makes it unique.”
Surprises Worth Waiting For
The airport’s 800-meter runway is serviced by STP Airways, and it is currently under rehabilitation to transform it into an airport meeting international standards. Currently, travelers on international flights head to São Tomé, the larger sister island, and then connect onto Principe. The easiest route to arrive in São Tomé is through Lisbon, Portugal, but connections can also be made through Angola. Flying to the island on a clear, sunny day is like arriving at the opening scene of Jurassic Park: The greens of the tropical jungle, transparent blues and greens of the sea, and the yellow beaches are dramatically interspersed by the mountain peaks in the center of the island spanning 53 square miles.
A visitor to the island could be fooled by the leve leve (calmly calmly) attitude of the local population. While appearing on the outside to be taking life easy, the reality is a hive of activity just below the surface. People grab an early start and rise at 5 a.m. as the light is breaking to prepare the fires for breakfast and fetch water for their daily use in their wooden-stilt houses. Community living is still very important, and a visitor gets the feel for the morning bustle during this time of day. The market on the island’s capital, Santo Antonio, offers fish, plantains, bananas and a few imported vegetables. Several interesting spices foraged from the lush forests are also available and used in local dishes like kalulu, molho no fogo and iza quente, served in several small wooden bars around the town.
Having been left mostly to its own devices since independence from Portugal, Principe became of-interest in recent years to foreign investors developing tourism. In addition to constructing beach resorts, they rehabilitated old colonial homes found on cocoa and coffee plantations, called roças. The island was granted UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserve status, and the regional government plans to grow through sustainable tourism. There is one luxury beach resort, Bom Bom Island Resort, and one plantation hotel, Roça Belo Monte, in addition to a few lower-quality hotels in the town.
Pull the Dredges
The peak season for blue marlin is June through August, and a dozen shots pulling lures is just a ho-hum day. If you want to see something really crazy, set out the dredges and you’ll be bait-and-switching till your arms come off. When Bom Bom really goes off, it rivals anywhere else found on the planet! The buildup to the full moons in peak season is nothing short of magic. You had better be well-rested and in good shape, or Bouchard and his crew will wear you out. If for some silly reason you want to take a break from releasing blues, the wahoo and sailfish on the edge or the massive yellowfin schools can offer a change-up.
Bouchard sums up fishing on Bom Bom as a “year-round fishery,” and the billfishing offshore can be as hot as any marlin fishing found anywhere. I guess you’ll know where to find me this summer when the bite heats up. The sign over the bar at the new lodge pretty much sums it up: “If it doesn’t have a bill, it is just bait.”