Updated on Jan 06, 2023 by Ella Brundle
Blog > First impressions of Cape Verde - an island-hopping adventure
We asked Karen, from our product team, about her first visit to Cape Verde,
we chatted about island-hopping, watching turtles nesting & hatching and her first impressions of these beautiful islands
With ten islands to choose from, an island-hopping itinerary is the perfect way to experience the diversity of the archipelago of Cape Verde. Karen from our product team’s, recent visit took her to three of these, namely Sal, Santiago and Boa Vista. With no entry requirements regarding COVID-19 since September 2022, Cape Verde is now a simple choice for some winter sun, with the flight time being well under six hours too. Karen said, "With short private transfers included in the price on Sal and Boa Vista for Cape Verde Experience customers, we were enjoying a refreshing drink on the beach by mid-afternoon, a great way to start our seven-night adventure!”
My first impression of Sal was of how flat it is – the odd hill rears up from the dusty plain, but mountainous it is not! However, what it does provide is expanses of golden sand, some great wildlife opportunities and nightlife in the beachfront resort on Santa Maria – we tried them all!
It was hard to choose between the popular Hotel Morabeza and the newer Hilton Resort – both are on the beach, receive excellent feedback and provide easy access to Santa Maria.
The best way to take in what Sal has to offer is through an island tour, half or full day with lunch. We were lucky to arrive at the Blue Eye Cave Buracona just as the sun popped out, and the reflection on the water certainly lived up to its name. Later, we enjoyed the rather hot walk to the salt pans, where you can still see the original wooden structures used to pulley the salt to the port. We watched people float in the highly salinated water – the tricky part is trying to stand up again! However, the highlight was undoubtedly the opportunity to paddle with Lemon Sharks off the rocky beach near Pedra de Lume. Equipped with just water shoes and a phone, we waded out at low tide and were soon rewarded by the arrival of several inquisitive sharks. As it was so shallow only the juveniles can approach so there’s no danger and it was a real treat to witness these docile creatures in their natural habitat. Back in Santa Maria, we embarked on a late afternoon walk up to the turtle hatchery run by conservation group Project Biodiversity, a fascinating way to complete our Sal experience.’
What a contrast! Santiago is as mountainous as Sal is flat and has some extraordinary scenery to go with it. And it’s green, a total change to the dust and haze of the last couple of days and with some cooler weather up high. We decided on a split stay to experience both the history in and around Praia (which is both the capital of Santiago and Cape Verde) and the lush interior. The older waterfront capital of Cidade Velha is a picturesque spot to have a cool drink, as well as providing an insight into the island’s Portuguese colonial past.
During our trip we headed towards the small northern resort of Tarrafal, home to nesting turtles during summer and our home for the night, Oasis Tarrafal Alfandega Suites. The route took us via the mountainside hotel Quinta da Montanha, where guided walks can be arranged. As we wound upwards form the coast through the centre of the island the views were spectacular, which meant slow progress due to a few photo stops along the way! It was a great opportunity to experience scenes of everyday life away from the tourist areas. The return journey was equally enjoyable as we hugged the rugged east coast whilst driving along cobbled roads.
This was our third and final stop and possibly my favourite. Once again, the island is totally unique with its fabulous stretches of white sand and turquoise waters. The ocean can, however, be rough so it’s best to seek advice before swimming. We opted to stay on bed and breakfast rather than all inclusive, at the charming Orquidea Guesthouse, which allowed us to explore the sleepy town of Sal Rei, including a fabulous meal in a traditional sobrado house, Sodade Restaurant. Our half day tour took us to some real beauty spots such as the iconic shipwreck and Santa Monica beach, with a touch of adrenaline thrown in on a sand dune rally sitting in the back of an open-truck – hold on to your hat!
Inter-island flights are operated by Bestfly and include a healthy 20kg hold luggage per person. These are relatively short, Boa Vista to Sal took only 15 minutes. Top tip – don’t be late as they sometimes leave early! It is a great way to see the varied topography and scenery from a different viewpoint as you land too.
A spontaneous decision to go in search of Loggerhead Turtles paid huge dividends. Although the nesting season usually can’t be guaranteed beyond the end of September, we took a chance and were lucky enough to see a female laying her eggs on the beach at night (the same upon which she was born) before making her way back to the ocean. Even luckier, with it being season crossover between nesting and hatching, we came across some hatchlings making their way down the beach and were able to give them a helping hand, along with the rangers who patrol the beaches every night. What an amazing experience – July to September are apparently the best months to witness these wonderful creatures, I’m planning my return trip next summer already!
Posted in Holidays | Tagged Accommodation, Boa Vista, Excursions & tours, Hotels, Island hopping, Sal, Santiago, The Cape Verde Experience, Things to do
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