The end of 2017 saw the start of our co-founder Komali’s birthday celebrations. The main event of these was jetting out to Cape Verde to kick start 2018.
We flew into Sal, the second biggest of the cluster of islands off the West coast of Africa. When we landed the air was hazy with heat and clay-coloured desert sprawled into the horizon. Our resort was in the centre of Santa Maria, the main town and a stones throw away from the island’s main beach.
At this time of year, the island is a haven for water sports lovers; strong breeze regulated the 28 degree heat. The beaches were filled with locals and tourists alike surfing, body boarding and fishing. Although it’s a fairly poor country, the vibe and warmth emanates from the natives and we were made to feel right at home instantly.
Seeing as the islands bask in sun all year round, a lot of the natives are super body conscious. We made the most of the beach gym and loved watching the locals ingenious exercises in the sand. Sal is quite literally an African postcard, of glittering blue sea, white sand and towering palm trees.
We were able to see what else the island had to offer when we went on a tour. We chose to go on a local tour rather than a Thomas Cook so that we could keep it 100. Tino, our tour guide arrived in a red open-back Jeep and we piled into the back of it.
Once a Portuguese colony, Sal translates as salt, the export of which was the lifeblood of the island. Our first stop was a mini salt mine, it was amazing to see the shallow pools of solid salt. He later took us to Pedra Lume, a volcanic crater, which were used as salt evaporation pools. Now a tourist attraction, the water is saltier than the Dead Sea so it’s almost impossible to sink. Just don’t get it in your eyes! The view from the top of the mountain was breathtaking.
Another stop on the tour was the mirage at Terra Boa, we literally couldn’t believe our eyes. After driving through the slums, with our Jeep whipping up a cloud of dust as we went. We arrived in the middle of nowhere, with nothing but sprawling sand and mountains ahead of us. Tino pointed into the distance and suddenly we could see a shimmering body of water. Some of our group didn’t believe it was real and insisted on running out into the desert to get a closer look. We were very happy to observe it from where we were, that’s how people get killed out here!
We visited gorgeous coves, saw lemon sharks, a shipwreck and even got to see some turtles which are Cape Verde’s national symbol. If you’re a lionheart and you’ve got the time to island hop, you can climb Pico de Fogo, an active volcano that last erupted in 2014.
The best food on the island is the seafood, you can see fisherman on the beach all day so you know what you’re eating is fresh. Our favourite restaurant in Santa Maria was OCaranguejo. It was cute and cozy with lovely staff, we’d recommend the tuna Algarve and the spinach mash.
One highlight of the trip was renting quad bikes – Sal’s sand dunes and swathes of empty land make it perfect for it. Literally hours of fun, except we only had them for four. We decided to go off road and found a deserted stretch off the main road. It was all fun and games until one of the quads got stuck in a mini bog. We were stressed, seeing as there wasn’t anyone for miles around! Somehow, we were saved by two locals, who appeared as if by magic in the distance to help us out!
Despite that little mishap, we still had time to do a mini-shoot in the sand dunes.
Live music is a crucial part of the culture here and from Thursday to Sunday, the main strip is blocked off to allow full live bands to play outside. The traditional sounds of the islands include morna and coladeira, it was amazing to watch the locals partake in traditional dancing at one bar. It was even better to see their club culture when we visited Chillout Bar. You could almost forget you weren’t in London, afrobeats are big there and standard club classics like Eve & Gwen Stefani never fail.
On our last evening, we had an enchanted beach side dinner at Farolin, decked with fairy lights and the crash of waves, it was the perfect end to a lovely holiday. It was the best food we’d had all week too and we filled the table on a Last Supper vibe.
We also met some really special people along the way who are testament to the island’s warmth and hospitality. We’d recommend Cape Verde as a top holiday destination any time of year.
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