The Great African Experience: Visit the Cape Verde Islands

Who doesn’t dream of palm-fringed islands, sparkly white beaches and floating aimlessly in the ocean discovering indigenous marine life in their natural habitat? Perhaps a destination like the Maldives springs to mind? While the Maldives is an absolute must, similar to the Maldives is an African archipelago of 10 islands just off the west coast of Africa known as the Cape Verde Islands. In fact, because of its proximity, Europeans have put the islands on their radar for a short number of years now but this beautiful part of the world has quickly become a preferred island destination. So don’t let go of that castle in the air just yet, crystal clear waters and bareback horse-riding into the sunset are very attainable right here in Africa. Visit the Cape Verde Islands, this might be the start of a whole bunch of African adventures.

Visit Cape Verde Islands

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1. Unwind on the beautiful beaches

Between the 10 islands, finding your favourite might be more of a feat than anticipated. Mostly because they are all so beautiful but of course there are only so many hours in a day and your budget may not allow for you to be on an endless search for exotic beaches. Below are 5 of the top beaches we would strongly suggest you add to list of beautiful places to see while experiencing Cape Verde.

Santa Maria

Location: Sal

Its long golden beaches are suitable for sunbathers soaking up the sun or water enthusiasts frolicking in the waves. Winter months, from November to February, are best for kiteboarding, windsurfing and sailing.

Santa Monica

Location: Boa Vista

This peaceful setting of sun-kissed beaches with waves gently lapping up the shore is an 18km stretch of long lazy walks while intermittently dipping into the pale-blue ocean and romantic sunsets.

Praia de Chaves

Location: Boa Vista

The ideal spot to get some much-needed downtime and solitude. 10 Kilometres of vast beach and desert-like dunes makes for the idyllic romantic getaway. Find one of the few isolated resorts and wake up to a paradise-like setting.

São Pedro

Location: São Vicente

Water sports enthusiasts flock to the São Pedro waters, or otherwise known as “the windsurfers’ paradise pole to pole”. Windsurfers and sunbathers alike will soak up golden stretches scattered with volcanic rock formations accompanied with a view dominated by impressive mountains.

Laginha

Location: Mindelo, São Vicente

White, fluffy beaches and glimmering waters all on the backdrop of Santo Antão’s impressive mountains have yet to disappoint. While it might be a popular favourite, if beaching is not your thing, unwind at some of the many beach bars, Kalimba is one to look out for serving a variety of tasty snacks and drinks.

2. Try your hand at surfing or kitesurfing

The 10 islands of Cape Verde are home to some fantastic, and might we add reputable surfing beaches. The beaches are divided into two categories, the northern islands and the southern islands. The best surfing conditions for the northern islands are in winter and summer for the southern islands. Good surfing spots are in abundance and are suitable for both beginners and advanced surfers.

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If surfing is the focal reason for your travels to Cape Verde, we would recommend the following spots:

Sal

Location: Northern islands

Known for its surfing spot, Ponta Preta, Sal is one of the best surfing spots in the world and the most famous island for surfing, kitesurfing and windsurfing in Cape Verde.

Boavista

Location: Northern islands

A great surfing spot, but the beaches are far more suitable for experienced surfers rather than surfers who are in search of their first surfing lesson. Also an ideal spot for kitesurfing and windsurfing.

Sao Vicente

Location: Northern islands

Sao Vicente is commonly known as one of the best places for windsurfing and bodyboarding. In the past, speed world records have been recorded at Sao Vicente, sometimes exceeding 40 knots.

Santiago

Location: Southern Islands

While not as well distinguished as Sal or Boavista as a surfing destination, January to March sees the best swells making it a top surfing spot over the winter months.

Surfing is a huge drawcard for the islands so to all the surfers looking for new territory, maybe it’s time to visit the Cape Verde Islands.

3. Diving and snorkelling: discover marine life you’ve never heard of before

The influence of the tropical and Atlantic currents makes for a rare diversity of marine life. Sporadic coral reefs, turtles resting in caves, and schools of gleeful fish swimming through shipwrecks to name just a few of what the Cape Verde Islands have to offer. Fortunately for the warm ocean and the scarcity of rainfall, Cape Verde is a beautiful destination for diving and snorkelling all year round.

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Diving sites:

With over 20 diving sites in Cape Verde, we have managed to reduce the list to the top diving sites around the best islands within the archipelago. Baovista and Sal are by far the two best of the 10 islands.

Where to dive in Sal: Choclasse, Farol Baiox, Kwarcit shipwreck, Cavala, Trés Groutas, Buracona and Santo Antao shipwreck

Where to dive in Boavista: Atlantida, Shark bow, Teliarte shipwreck, Northern rocks, Bodega de Francoli, Channel, and Bodega de Tchoco

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Snorkelling spots:

Diving might give you a more adventurous experience and expose you to more diverse sea life, but if you are quite content to explore the marine life in a more relaxed yet still active way, then snorkelling might be the activity for you. Another titbit is that Cape Verde is world renowned for its coral biodiversity, in fact, it is one of the top 10 to 15 places in the world.

Where to go snorkelling: Sal, Boavista, Sao Vicente, Santo Antao

These, of course, are not the only places to go snorkelling in Cape Verde. Chatting to the locals will give you some better insights into the surrounding hotspots.

Best time to dive and snorkel: Apart from light rain between August and October, it very rarely rains in Cape Verde, making it idyllic for diving and snorkelling pretty much all year round. You can expect the best conditions between the months of November and July.

You only have to have seen photos of the beautiful shoreline to realise that perhaps it’s time to visit the Cape Verde Islands.

4. Try your hand at fishing

The Cape Verde Archipelago is famed for its game fishing. If it’s the Atlantic Blue Marlin you’re after, you won’t find it anywhere else in the world in such abundance. Locals can be seen fishing all year round from any one of the Cape Verde Islands. For a number of common fish, the best time to fish those species is indicated below.

Best time to go fishing:

Species Fish Type Season Maximum Length
Blue Marlin Sailfish Family March to July 4.5 metres
Wahoo Mackerel Family December to May 2.5 metres
Sailfish Sailfish Family June to September 3.5 metres
Dorade Seam Bream June to September 2.5 metres
Yellowfin Mackerel Family March, April, June, October, November, December 2 metres
Horse Mackerel Mackerel Family All year round 1 metre

Source: Cape Verde Islands.org

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5. Get into the local music scene

You simply can’t ignore it. From the moment you step foot on to the islands of Cape Verde step into a taxi or café, you’ll be met with the wistful sounds of Morna. It was the hit Sodade by world star Cesária Evora that quickly introduced this music to the world. The people of Cape Verde express their emotions and experiences in their music, hence Morna, the Cape Verde variant of the Portuguese Fado which is music that comes from the heart. If you want to understand the saying “music is food for the soul”, then you’ll have to visit the Cape Verde Islands to experience the love that the Cape Verdeans have for their music.

Visit the Cape Verde Islands

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6. Visit Pedra de Lume

What was previously a fully-functional salt pan providing the locals with salt as far back as 1833, is now not just a historical site but rather doubles up as a relaxing spa. The water in the salt has as much as 27 times the amount of salt found in the ocean, allowing tourists to take in the surroundings while quietly floating in the water.

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7. Climb Pico de Fogo

A 2,829-metre climb will give an awe-inspiring view from the top of the Pico de Fogo, one of Cape Verde’s most popular symbols. The volcano inside a volcano is still very active with its last aggressive eruption being in 1995. However, this is not news which deters visitors or even the locals who continue to live within the crater of the volcano growing figs and grapes and providing tours to visitors. If you enjoy an active holiday, a visit to the Cape Verde Islands might be just up your alley.

Visit the Cape Verde Islands

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8. Sample the local cuisine

The cuisine of Cape Verde is influenced by its rich history including a delicate mix of Portuguese and African flavours. Surrounded by the ocean, whatever Cape Verdeans can catch, they eat. Tuna is generally the staple order of the day which is prepared in a variety of ways. Other specialities include tasty pastries (Portuguese influence), a variety of fruits, goat meat, salted port and gourmet sausages.

If authentic experiences are your style of travelling then we would strongly suggest you sample cachupa, the most famous national dish. The basic ingredients of this flavoursome stew are cooked beans and corn accompanied by a meat or fish of your preference, cooked with a number of different herbs and spices. Since it is made from what is readily available on the islands, every island has its own variant of the stew with the two most popular being the Cachupa Rica and Cachupa Pobre. Visit the Cape Verde Islands, you might just be in for a treat

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Beverages

Like any tropical island, most liquors are accessible, however, there are some special drinks which belong to Cape Verde. You know what they say, “when in Rome”.

Grogue:

Otherwise known as the local spirit of Cape Verde. You might want to take it easy with this one as this sugar cane distilled beverage has an alcohol content of 40%. Similar to rum, the Cape Verdeans produce a brown and white grogue. The brown grogue is slightly older and can be drunk neat, while the younger white grogue forms part of the base of many cocktails.

Visit the Cape Verde Islands

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Strela Beer:

You can never pass up the opportunity to try a local. Strela Beer is the beer of Cape Verde, produced only on the island of Santiago, and is then distributed to the other islands. It’s the perfect way to end a day out in the sun. Try all three variants of the Strela. Who doesn’t like an ice-cold beer? Visit the Cape Verde Islands, you might just discover your new favourite drink.

Visit the Cape Verde Islands

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Fogo Coffee:

If they sell it at Starbucks, it must be good. That could also be because the Cape Verdeans have been cultivating Fogo coffee for some 300 years. What started as local organic coffee grown in the volcanic soil of the Fogo craters, it was quickly rediscovered by the Dutch government who gave a grant to commercialise the coffee which can now be found in specialised coffee bars around the world.

Visit the Cape Verde Islands

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Fogo Wine:

Calling all wine lovers! Cape Verdeans have been producing wine since 1870 when Frenchman settled on Fogo and cultivated grapes. The volcanic soil and dry climate make for great quality wine. Whether white, red, or rosé – you’re unlikely to be disappointed by CHÃ, Vinho Do Fogo.

South Africans love their wine so a visit to the Cape Verde Islands might have to make a feature on your list of African adventures.

Visit the Cape Verde Islands

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9. Bars and Nightlife

If you’re looking for a party island, unfortunately, Cape Verde may disappoint in this aspect. Beyond 10 pm you are unlikely to find any entertainment, however, if you have acquainted yourself with some of the locals, you may crack an invite for some light celebrations over dark grogue. Authentic experiences which will be engrained in your mind forever far exceed the inside of another bar or club.

Visit the Cape Verde Islands

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During the peak season, which includes Christmas, New Year and the summer months, there is generally more entertainment on the larger islands. These islands include Santa Maria on the island of Sal, Mindelo on São Vicente, Praia on Santiago and Sal Rei and Esplanada on Boa Vista.

10. 5 Luxurious Resorts of Cape Verde

Sometimes you just want to kick your feet up and go nowhere fast! That’s what resorts are for. A little piece of heaven where you can unwind and temporarily renege on all responsibilities. Below are five resorts we thought you might like to make your next hideout.

1. Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort, Sal

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2. Hotel Morabeza, Sal

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3. Iberostar Club Boa Vista Hotel, Boa Vista

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4. Quinta da Montanha Hotel, Santiago

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5. Colonial Guest House, Fogo

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As you can see, you don’t have to venture too far to get your unique island experiences. We have everything you need right here on the African continent, some of which you may not even have heard of before. Visit the Cape Verde Islands and get the authentic island experience of a lifetime.

Have you been to Cape Verde? Please share any experiences we may not have included in the comments below.

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