Relax in Cape Verde

relax in cape verde
Winter can seem to go on forever. Unless you are fortunate enough to be living on the equator, getting through those dark, cold winter months can be pretty tough going.  This year, we decided to book a spontaneous trip away hoping for 7 days of sunshine, a relaxed atmosphere and some good food. A Google of the world’s current Covid restrictions and current temperatures, lead me to Cape Verde.
The entire process was pretty simple. Following the guidance from all the required documentation was completed before we travelled, and necessary covid tests were done. We flew with TUI and our hotel is a TUI dominant resort, however, we paid separately for flights and hotel saving us roughly £500. On arrival to the airport, we had priority through boarder control due to having a child with us, and were in and out pretty quickly. We obviously didn’t have transfers included, so hopped into one of the many Taxis all desperate for a passenger. 20 minute drive to the hotel and we had checked in before the coach load of people behind us turned up.

The Cape Verde Islands are located approximately 450 miles from continental Africa. A Portuguese speaking area with a predominantly Roman Catholic religion. We chose the popular island of Sal for our week away. Sal is reported to have the best beaches of the Cape Verde islands and is flat and pretty barren outside of the tourist areas and with approximately 145mm of rain a year (mostly in September) is classified as a desert. Before tourism became the primary source of income to the island, Sal’s main economy derived from its salt deposits, hence its name which is Salt in Portuguese.   A fairly windy island, it is famous for its year-round kiteboarding and windsurfing.   

The wildlife on Sal is pretty amazing, with turtles hatching on its beaches and humpback whales breeding along its coastlines. Depending on the time of year that you travel here, you will easily find locals ready and willing to offer you an excursion for whale watching or dolphin spotting or you may be very lucky and spot them from the land. There are rays and sharks here too, offering some of the worlds best diving. 

relax in cape verdeThe beaches are pretty spectacular (don’t forget your swimming suit) beautiful clear waters and white sands. The seas around Santa Maria are warm and clear with beautiful soft white sand. Shallow for only a few meters, the sand suddenly drops away leaving you out of your depth. The waves are pretty big too and break very close to the shore, but once you reach beyond that, the water is perfect for swimming. Lifeguards are apparent around the main stretches, and a flag system is in place to warn you of any currents. Not ideal for small children unfortunately, they are very likely to get swept over by a sudden large wave (not just the children actually, I did a very undignified roll amongst the breaking waves when I was swept off my feet). 

Santa Maria is very lively and quite touristy, but has some wonderful sites too. The old pier and its fish market was great. Watching the locals bringing in their huge catches and seeing them descale and gut them on the spot. Looking down between the planks below you, the water is absolutely teeming with a huge variety of fish all hoping for scraps to fall from above. The local dogs mooching around all seem friendly and fairly harmless also. There are some good bars, restaurants and shops to buy souvenirs here too, but unfortunately the hassling locals can be a bit off putting.  Along the beach, there are deck chairs for the local hotels, and also some for hire. Our hotel was further away from Santa Maria so we hired deck chairs for the day and were grateful for the parasol and windbreaker also included for the €3.50. The guys who own the deck chairs patrol around their area and we felt able to leave our bags with money, phone and camera on the chairs whilst we swam.

The refreshing breeze keeps you cool here, but don’t make the mistake many newcomers do and let yourself burn to a crisp on the first day( here All About Burns ). Alas, it is the end of December and I am currently sat next to the swimming pool wearing a T-Shirt and sitting in the shade to protect my fair skin from further sunburn, despite having applied suncream four times a day and being in the shade quite a lot. Bring rash vests for the kids at least and seriously apply that factor 50 multiple times a day. Usually, the application of cream once or twice a day is more than enough for me, but not here!

As I mentioned above, there are many excursions available as part of organised tours with TUI, or using the locals who will give you a set price for the day. Taxi drivers are in abundance here, and are fairly reasonably priced. We decided to spend a morning in the lemon shark nursery on the island. The sharks breed here and their young can be found in the shallow waters hunting for fish. The taxi from our Hotel Rui Funana to Shark Bay and back cost €40 and the driver waited for us whilst we were there. It was then €3 each to hire shoes to walk over the rocks out to the lemon sharks. I was very glad we had an underwater camera with us, as I got some great shots of the sharks. They were beautiful, swimming in and our of our legs around our feet and a couple even nudged into my hand whilst I was taken pictures. The guides who take you out were encouraging them to come close using bits of squid and fish, and seemed very protective of their sharks, asking us to be careful and were not happy when someone tried to touch one. It was nice to see that these endangered animals seemed to be respected by the locals.

The only other trip we did, was a rather extravagant private fishing trip. We were collected at our hotel at 0745 and taken out on a fishing boat for 4 hours. For €300 we were alone on the boat except for the Captain and the guy doing the fishing with us. The swell was pretty big and the boat was up and down like crazy. The kid was a bit worried about it and spent most of the time inside the cabin, but eventually got used to it and came out.  We caught and brought in five really good sized Dorado (Dolphin Fish) and a yellow fin tuna.

cape verde dolphin fishBringing them is was very exciting and quite hard work, and we lost a few on the way, one of which was stolen by a dolphin.  We saw many dolphins up incredibly close.  The men on the boat was amazing, so friendly and kind. One was concerned my son was inside because he felt sick and they, therefore, decided not to head to the next fishing spot due to the rough seas, instead he kept popping in to check on him and gave him some juice to drink. When the dolphins were around, he took my camera and managed to balance his way round to the front of the ship to try and get a good photo, despite the huge amount of movement on the boat.  All in all it was a great experience but not for people prone to sea sickness.

The currency here is the Cape Verde Escudo which is what comes out of the cash machines, but the default appears to be euros, which is much simpler. If we had known that before we came, we would have just brought euros with us.

Four days into our seven day trip and aside from the sunburn, we are feeling pretty relaxed and happy to have escaped the rain for a while. It was nice to take a break from a holiday spent actively exploring and just to sit and relax for a while. Although the weather was beautiful, the locals friendly (albeit pushy at times), the food decent and the all inclusive drinks much appreciated, it is very much a winter sun destination, and not one for the active explorer, unless water sports is your thing.

your pocket nurse