Cape Verde - A paradise in the Atlantic
The island of Sal
The first thing you notice driving from the airport is the expanse of desolate arid earth. It seems to stretch on mile after mile. Thats when on the horizon you catch up glimpse of a kite, then 2, until all of sudden 100’s of kites stretch across the horizon as far as the eye can see.
Cape Verde is a known in England for package holidays but when you get here you realise the real soul of these remarkable islands belongs to a community of Kite Surfers and the package holiday is easily ignored and a mere after thought.
Santa Maria is the main town, and pretty much the only town on the Island of Sal. The town is in the midst of a construction boom, and everything from buildings to roads are being built as fast as money will allow. What stands now though is a mix of slightly dilapidated buildings, rust eating away at anything it can get its hands on and modern accommodation to house the foreigners who were lucky enough to find this place is paradise. The combination, although it rarely does, seems to work in the centre of Santa Maria.
The beaches are nothing less than perfect, miles of white sand and crystal clear water, which is pleasantly warm all year round.
A town run by women, or more affectionately known as ‘boss lady’ and carrying a motto of ‘no stress’ anything goes! The locals are amongst the friendliest people you can meet, but be aware, they won't be afraid to take your money, should you not be wise enough to barter.
What to do
Apart from chilling out on the beach or having a crack on the beach gym equipment which is made from bits of cement and cast off tyres, Sal has two main activities, Kite Surfing or Diving. As our Kite Surfing was reserved for Boa Vista we opted to dive for two days.
The guys at Boa Vista diving know there stuff and are great fun to head out for a day with. They offer dives for all skill levels with a combination of wreck and reef diving. The Three Caves dive is beautiful with good visibility and plenty of seafaring creatures to see, the trumpet fish are especially cool.
Where to stay
Ocean Suites is in the centre of town on the beachfront. It’s attached to a funky little shop with its own bar which hosts local live music every night. The rooms are cleverly decorated with artistic pieces which give it a truly original feel. My personal favourite though is the photography, taken by a local Cape verde local. (name) The photographs are spectacular and capture the true character of the island and its people. The beds are comfy and the massive shower is always welcome after a tough day at the beach. I would recommend booking a room on the town side however as the afternoon sun on the windows can be a little bit of a killer.
Where to eat
Food is not the draw of this island but there are still some decent places to eat.
This vibrant beach bar is the only place to go to have your sunset Caprihina. You can listen to the live local music, watch some truly athletic beach volleyball all whilst the sunset over a stunning Atlantic ocean.
The Hungry Frog
A cute little restaurant with an awesome band, this place does all things local well. The fish of the day is my recommendation and is fresh light and extremely tasty. It is just off the main street, with the main seating being the ally. I would not recommend dessert, although there is an excellent gelato bar next door.
There cuisine may not be local but everything else is a representation of Cape Verde it is fun, friendly, tasty and has possibly the best location of all the eaterie very drinkable. I recommend visiting for lunch where you can watch the world go by, along with a kite surfer or two.
The Island of Boa Vista
The flight to Boa Vista is short to sat the least, A grand total of 20 minutes and not noteworthy which is what you prefer a flight to be. Arriving in Boa Vista, it doesn't immediately strike you as to how different it will be, but as you start to take in the surroundings, the island has a different feel a different look to that of Sal
Through the haze of sea spray and heat, there is a faint outline of mountains in the distance and the town of Sal Rei in the other direction. Sal Rei is a bustling little town which is ingrained with visible poverty and fairly singular way of life found between tourism and fishing. As you walk down the cobbled roads, which still scream of Portugal, there are dilapidated buildings with a scattering of renovated gems. All of this adds to the charm.
We pulled up outside Nos Kasa which was a beautifully renovated property which looked like it was straight off the Island of Santorini. Set beside the harbour there is a pretty pungent smell of decaying fish but the sunsets over the fishing boats and the perfect hospitality far outweigh the smell.
Things to do
We spent the a day quad biking around the island. Much of the island is paved and has extremely good roads. You can head out to Praia De Santa Monica, which is renowned for being one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. I don’t necessarily agree with this because it is difficult to swim in with a brutal shore break, but it sure is beautiful. This side of the island is deserted, apart from one monstrosity of a all inclusive hotel so if you can ignore that, or swipe a free drink it is worth the drive over.
Backtrack a little and back to the other side of the island is Fundo de Figueiras. This is where the roads get much more interesting and a whole lot more fun. Just before you get to those roads though, make sure you take in a the few little towns that you pass through, they are bright and colourful with some delicious food to be had. Don’t expect anything fancy though as it is basic and that is just perfect.
At the end of the last village you will come to the off roads begin, make sure you head to the left as the right will take you to a dead end. You can swerve and bump your way through dust and sand to reach a cobbled assent to a derelict lighthouse called Farol Morro Negro. The lighthouse is stunning for its rusted charm and spectacular location. The is nothing but endless white sands and crystal blue water as far as the eye can see. It is a dusty, heat filled day but a great way to see the island.
Head down to Boa Vista Kitesurfing, you can be a beginner or join one of the pros down there, but as long as the wind allows these guys are amazing and will get you kiting in no time. The school is a 15 minute walk along the beach from Sal Rei and along the way there are some awesome places to grab a Caipirinha and have a surf or paddle board throughout the day.
Where to eat.
Be sure to try Cabo Cafe for the atmosphere and some delicious food. Dip in to the fresh sea food, which is fresh and perfectly cooked, with a true Cape Veridian feel. For those who love a true local, Blue Marlin is the oldest restaurant in Boa Vista with the best tuna sashimi in town, it is a travesty to miss it.
Cape Verde is truly spectacular and a place for those who love sun, surf and adventure.