To visit Cape Verde some would say is to visit paradise. I’ve been writing for Madame Noire from this island nation for the past few months, having spent time here off and on for the past three years. I’ll be back in the States at some point during the spring of 2013, but I plan to return to continue teaching English.
The first thing to catch your eye might be the sun and surf, but there’s much more to the culture. Best of all, it’s not far from the States — about six hours from Boston. In fact, the flight itself isn’t the most daunting part of the trip. A quick Expedia search for tickets in March resulted in seats with a $2,700 price tag. Once you’re here (according to today’s exchange rate), $1 will get you about 83 Cape Verde Escudos.
Cape Verde is a Portuguese-speaking country located 300 miles off the west coast of Africa. It is actually made up of 10 islands, nine of them inhabitable each with its own flavor — even the local patois (Crioulo) is a little different island to island. There’s a mix of nature, including an active volcano (yes, it can blow at any moment). And the people are of mixed race origins — African (the Portuguese brought slaves from the West African coast) and European (mainly Portuguese).
The islands are Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia (uninhabited), São Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista, Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava. I haven’t visited all the islands, but here are the ones I have.
Boa Vista means “good view” in Portuguese — and the island lives up to its name. The country’s third largest island, it is a great place to unwind by the sea.
What to do: Enjoy one of the most beautiful beaches in the world — Santa Monica Beach. A stop in Deserto de Viana will bring you to a land of rocky red clay soil and isolation, like Mars. Another amazing must between late May and September is a late-night excursion to see thousands of turtles emerge from the ocean to lay eggs. Between March and April is the peak of whale breeding season. For sports enthusiasts, Cape Verde is one of the most important destinations in the world for windsurfing and kite-surfing.
Where to stay: Considered one of the best resorts on this resort-filled island is the 750-room Riu Karamboa. It is unlike any hotel found in Africa — or North America, for that matter. This all-inclusive has tons of activities — from traditional Cape Verde “funana” dance lessons to beach volleyball to great spa services (I had an absolutely fabulous deep-tissue massage) to a late night disco and live entertainment.
Maio is one of Cape Verde’s quietest islands, where many Italians take respite. Spend your days at the beach or walking around the centre of Vila do Maio. At night, dine at the various homey restaurants or listen to live music.
What to do: The beaches are beautiful with fine golden sand. Make sure to visit the small village of Morro to shop for local handicrafts. The Morrinho Salt Pit is also popular with tourists.
Where to Stay: There are tons of condos, some available to tourists for temporary stays. One of them is Stella Maris Village. Most of the studio apartments have a sea view. It’s a relatively new residence with a beautiful swimming pool that sits on the top of the ocean and private access to a small beach. And they all have small kitchens so you can grab some local fresh fish, cook it up yourself, and dine on your outdoor patio.