Do you know that there is a Caribbean paradise just 5-hour flight from Europe? Cape Verde Islands have natural beauty and charm. And although it becomes more popular as a tourist destination, the islands remain still unspoilt.
Lisa is one of the women I met in the virtual space. She is from the UK and has been following me on Facebook for a while. After she shared several beautiful pictures from Cape Verde, I asked her if she would like to share her experience with the other women from our community. This post from the LADIES ON THE MOVE series is a result of her travel passion and willingness to be helpful to others. She said: “This is my first time writing, so please be gentle!” but I think she did a great job to inspire us to visit Cape Verde! Read her bio at the bottom of this post.
If you want to take part in our LADIES ON THE MOVE series, just write me an e-mail at contact [at] whenwomantravels [dot] com or contact me on social media.
Why Are the Cape Verde Islands Interesting as a Destination?
Just imagine that you are in Sal and strolling down the Santa Maria’s, beautiful, magnolia coloured sands, lapped by clear azure waters.
Small brightly painted fishing boats are scattered on the shore, ready for the next morning’s fishing.
Walking down the pier, you see the bustle of everyday life, as this morning’s fresh haul is hand prepared by everyone from toddlers to the elderly!
There’s something about Sal….
You could mistake this beautiful Island for any Caribbean destination.
Except….. It’s closer! Nestled just off the coast of Senegal are the Cape Verde Islands. They consist of 10 beautiful Islands and a handful of Islets, each one of them unique!
The archipelago is created by volcanoes and Saharan drift and it is still a little-known destination and so, still relatively unspoilt. There is no better time to visit!
I have visited the Island of Sal for 10 years now, as our family invested in property there. I have watched the very slow, but sure progress of the Island, and can safely say it has remained mostly the same in its natural beauty and charm, but improved in variety and quality of restaurants in the town, amenities, and services.
The Islands all have their own local weather systems, and so vary greatly in humidity, landscape, greenery, rainfall, and development.
Sal is mostly flat and desert-like, with little rain, sand dunes, and long sweeping, beautiful beaches. One of its gems is the friendly coastal town of Santa Maria.
From stunning beaches, mountains, rainforests, and volcanoes to salt flats – amongst the ten Islands, there is something for everyone!
What Should Women Know Before Going to Sal?
Visas and Airport:
You can buy a visa in advance, and many holiday companies or airlines offer this service. But in my opinion, it is fairly pointless and often results in you queuing longer, and in some cases having to pay again and wait for reimbursement! To avoid any further delay have Euros ready; they will not accept anything else (25Euros per person, Feb 2017)
On entering the tiny airport on arrival, turn LEFT and queue along the window side lane, towards a counter for Visas. I have had airport staff try to usher me into the wrong lane that takes you forward to Passport control!
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For instance, I watched a whole plane full of people get in the Passport control lane as directed, and then after queuing for sometime were all told to join our Visa queue! They were warned on the plane by cabin crew of this on-going confusion. They didn’t listen, and so people who were first off the plane were now at the back of the queue! (Trust me go left, you will be on the beach in no time!
They use two currencies – Euros and Cape Verdean Escudos, which is a closed currency. Always check your currency against both, before travel. (GBP favoured Escudo over the Euro, Feb 2017.)
Health and vaccinations:
· No necessary vaccinations required at present.
• Water isn’t generally safe to drink here, as with most countries please use bottled water, and check ice is made with bottled water.
• On Sal, mosquitoes are relatively few, depending on the time of year. I last went in February 2017. I am a mosquito magnet in most countries! I had one bite which is unheard of for me! One of my children who is also a mosquito magnet only had one too! In any country with mosquitoes, the risks of malaria are still present, so please take precautions and use insect repellent.
• Please note that Cape Verde is now apparently classed as at risk for ZIKA virus for till further notice, so please be aware if pregnant, or planning to become pregnant soon.
- I have always felt safe in Santa Maria on Sal, it’s very much a local community, I have walked the streets of the town and beach at night alone, and alone with my young children many times, and never felt intimidated or worried. As with anywhere though, always avoid quiet areas, unlit paths, and anything that makes you feel uneasy. The main type of crime found here would be a bag, camera or purse taken if left unattended, but it is easily avoided!
- The sea can be extremely rough at times, in certain bays on the Island’s with very strong currents. That’s why please exercise caution, even if you are a strong swimmer. Avoid night swimming. Some species of the local wildlife like to come here to dine in the evenings too!
- If travelling with children, Porto Antigo 1 has a perfect, small, shallow beach for children to play. There is a small local shop just outside of Porto 1, with most basic convenience goods, if out for the day. The beach is down a small set of steps and enclosed by the old Port walls, so makes relaxing with little ones much easier! There is a shower above by the pool, and a bar/restaurant called Papayas for refreshments food and toilets! Not to mention a beautiful view at any time of day, but especially nice to watch the sunset!
What Should You Know about the Local Culture?
- The Cape Verde Islands A.K.A The Republic of Cabo Verde was a Portuguese colony.
- The main languages spoken are Portuguese and Cape Verdean Creole, as the majority of locals are of Senegalese descent. Portuguese is used mainly for important and official matters. Creole/Kriol is spoken amongst friends on the streets. There are also many Italians on the Island now.
- The Islands have a fantastic rich mixed culture, which has a heavy African influence, but also a Jamaican, and Brazilian vibe too!
- A fantastic website to give more information on culture and history of the Islands is Every Culture.
Great things about Cape Verde:
Short flight distances from European destinations, compared to the Caribbean. (UK to Sal is approx 5.5 hrs)
No Jet lag! Due to little difference in time zones.
Travel is very easy as the islands are very small and distances between destinations are quick and simple, meaning you can cram more into your day!
As The Cape Verde Islands are on the Equator, they get to enjoy beautiful all year round temperatures.
Sal has very little rainfall, compared to its neighbours, which you can tell by its desert like landscape.
The Islands are blessed by day with a breeze, helping you to tan whilst keeping you cool. The breeze is also creating amazing waves for great water sports conditions, blowing away a lot of the mosquitoes, and also being the result of tropical storms forming off the coast of the Islands and heading off to the Caribbean! (Yes you can feel smug that you are probably enjoying the better weather!). Due to the breeze, it can be a little cooler outside in the evening once the sun has gone down. So it’s wise to pack a couple of pairs of thin trousers, and a cardigan or a light jacket for walking about in the evenings, just in case.
Taxis around the town of Santa Maria, Sal should be around 2 Euros by day and 3 Euros at night. (2017)
If you don’t want to do a set trip to a location with a huge group, and restrictions on times and schedule etc, you can arrange and fix a price with a local taxi driver to take you privately. We paid 40 Euros for a taxi to take us to Baia da Parda and wait for us then take us back when we were ready.
The cuisine is mostly based on the amazing fresh sea food sourced from around the waters of the Islands, and local Cape Verdean dishes. But now is branching out to a great variety of European dishes, and Italian restaurants.
What To Do and See In Sal?
- Always a first and must for my children and I each day, is a stroll down Santa Maria pier. You never know what you might find! I have seen huge Tiger sharks caught, lemon sharks, enormous Tuna, Eels, Lobster, and every thing in between! It’s a hub for the town for most of the day, as they prepare the fish for sale to the local restaurants delivered by wheelbarrows full of ice!
- It’s a beautiful spot to take in the crystal waters and rich culture of every day life in Santa Maria.
- Horseback riding, down the beach.
- Buracona lagoon. At the right time of year and time of day, when the sun lines up and hits it in the right spot, it lights up like a blue eye!
- Salina, de Pedre Lume, Salt mine. The Island is named after the Salt mine found at Pedre de Lume. In an inactive volcano, you can now float in a salt lake that is 25% Salt, similar to the Dead Sea!
Salinas, de Pedre da Lume
- Baia da Parda, Walking with Lemon sharks! Wade in waist high as the placid Lemon sharks come in to graze on the starfish, on the rocky sea floor! Ocean shoes are a must but can hire these from locals on the beach for 2 Euros, they will offer to wade out with you helping you navigate the rocks, and will show you where they are feeding. Expect a polite request of approx 2 Euros per person for their service, it’s worth it for the steady arm to cling to, as very rocky, due to old volcanic eruptions!
The Lemon sharks at Baia da Parda and my 8 year old son!
- Kite surfing, Surfing, Wakeboarding.
- Scuba diving and snorkelling. If you enjoy these, there is a statue of Jesus at the bottom of the sea near Hotel O’djo d’Agua and Porto Antigo 1.
- Neptunus, glass bottomed Yellow submarine, not recommended for those who suffer sea sickness though!
- Monte Grande, Portuguese for “Big Mountain” is the highest point on the Island.
- Project Biodiversity. A project and charity where you can volunteer to help with Turtle conservation on the Island, by doing night camp outs and patrols of the beaches, at nesting and hatching seasons, to deter poachers, and aid hatchlings into the sea safely!
- Yoga and Pilates. Yoga Cabo Verde offers a variety of yoga experiences.
- Segway tours.
- Waterskiing, Jet skiing.
- Electric beach bike tours and hire.
- Island jeep tours.
- Boat tours, and fishing, Humpback Whale, Dolphin and flying fish watching, dependant on season and weather/sea conditions
- Quad and car hire. It is very easy to navigate the island as one main road down the centre and only a handful of roads off to each small town. Almost impossible to get lost!
Check the site for more practical information on visiting Cape Verde
- Santa Maria’s local school is a charity run school. Donations of stationary, school books, and especially school bags are very welcome. Please note: No photos of the children are to be taken though.
- Markets, art shops, bars, and lots of restaurants! It is easy to make friends with the locals, they are amazing, beautiful people when you get involved and get to know them! Yes, they would like to sell you things, they need to make a living, but they are very polite and will accept a polite “No, Thank you” with a smile and well wishes. Cape Verde’s motto is “Cabo Verde, No Stress!”
- Don’t forget there is also the opportunity to explore the other Islands!!
ADD THIS PHOTO TO PINTEREST!
Santa Maria, my 5 year old Mermaid enjoying the beautiful sands…
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
My name is Lisa Boden. I am from the UK and a pre-school teacher and mother of two. I have a love of travel, and new experiences, and a passion for sharing these with others!
I used to enjoy backpacking alone, with friends and then with my husband. Now I have children and I am enjoying opening up their eyes to the beautiful world around them, and immersing them in other cultures! I travel alone with my children, at times when my husband is busy with work.
We are fortunate to have family properties in Cape Verde, Turkey and Corfu and so spend a lot of time making the most of these locations, but also love to see new places in between!