The Cape Verdes are a wonderful mix of chaos, colour and culture! All are of volcanic origin and were originally under Portugeuse rule until they became independent in 1975. The archipelago is made up of 14 islands (5 uninhabitated), lie about 325 miles off the west coast of Africa and although they have European roots are firmly and proudly part of Africa.
We’ve had just over three weeks exploring these wonderful islands which are all totally different to each other in feel, geology and climate. The islands are poor – there are hundreds of unfinished building projects, stray dogs rule the streets, it’s hard to buy decent groceries and 75% of Cape Verdians live overseas. But the islands are also full of smiling, welcoming people; colourful fishing boats; stunning beachs; aqua seas; lush tropical valleys and desert sand dunes. Truly a country of contrasts.
We arrrived in Sal in the middle of the night (full story in previous post!) and were greeted in the morning with the rather charming if completely ramshackle town of Palmeira. This little town become our ‘home’ for five days – we enjoyed watching local fishermen bring in their tuna catches for the chaotic market on the harbour wall, children swim among the coloured boats, woman carry baskets fulls of curios on their heads and turtles popping their heads up next to our boat.
We loved our two visits to Baia da Mordeira – nicknamed turtle beach as it’s a favourite spot for endangered turtles to lay their eggs. We also visited the bustling and completely different resort town of Santa Maria – full of tourists, bars and restaurants all along a gorgeous sandy beach. Also well worth a visit is the very atmospheric Porto de Pedra de Lume – home of the island’s salt production (from where it gets its name!) where we enjoyed a swim in the weirdly bouyant salty water in the volcanoes crater.
Top tip: Anchor in Baia Mordeira – just around the corner from Palmeira – we had the whole bay to ourselves, and a fantastic windsurfing spot.
The anchorage at Sal Rai, Boavista is surrounded by soft white sandy beaches and the water is clear and deep blue. The kids were in heaven and although the weather was a bit dodgy – the kids rarely left the water. We loved visiting the little island in the bay, exploring the bustling main town of Sal Rei and even did an alugeur tour which basically consists of sitting in the back of a bakkie (pick up truck) whizzing around the island. We actually spent three extra days at Boavista waiting for strong wind to pass , Patrick to indulge in some brilliant windsurfing and for us all to enjoying having our friends on Dana de la Mar anchoraging right next door.
Top tip: Visit the lovely restaurant on the water’s edge called Beramar run by a charming Italian couple – it’s a feast for the tastebuds, a delight for interior funs and full of goodies made of gorgeous African fabrics.
After the dry desert islands of Sal and Boavista, São Nicolau was a breath of fresh air – green, lush and covered in mountains, it was a total feast for the eyes! Unfortunately we didn’t have the best of starts – we arrived in the dark and had to try and anchor in an unknown bay in 40 gusts of wind. It took 4 hours, many many swear words, a few tears and one flying fish hitting me on deck. When I finally went down below at 11pm Fin had put himself to bed still wearing his life jacket and Stella was asking if she could please have a bit more than the bowl of cereal she had made herself for supper!
We had a wonderful day exploring São Nicolau by foot – a two hour walk down through a valley of little villages to the lovely interior town of Ribeira Brava. We saw bananas, sugar cane, papayas, bread fruit, meilies, aloes, agave, all growing – it felt nostalgic and familiar and reminded me of parts of South Africa.
Top tip: Don’t try and anchor in the dark! Ask an alugeur to drop you off on the main road at Cachaço and walk down the valley to Ribeira Brava – have a traditional meal of cachupa (maize, beans, chorizo and a fried egg) at one of the cafes.
We had one night at the gorgeous uninhabitated island of Santa Luzia – snorkelling, swimming, star gazing and exploring this special place. We feel very priviledged to be able to see places like these that are impossible to visit without a boat.
Top tip: Apparently the best fishing in the Cape Verdes takes place in the Canal De Santa Luzia (between the islands of Santa Luzia & São Vicente – we didn’t catch anything but I’m happy to report that we did catch a gorgeous skipjack tuna just as we left Tarrafal on São Nicolau – delicious fresh tuna steaks in an empty anchorage – heaven!
There isn’t much to São Vicente with one big excpetion – the only marina and yacht facilities in whole of the Cape Verdes is in Mindelo which is the main town. So all the boats in the Cape Verdes eventually end up in Mindelo! Some boats only visit Mindelo which is a real shame as the Cape Verdes have so much to offer. We spent 5 days anchored and 3 days in the marina – catching up with friends, provisioning and getting ready to cross the Atlantic. Patrick had to install new parts for our broken fridge, fix the generator, service the engine and just generally check everything is ok for our two weeks across the Atlantic. Mattie and I have been provisioning – also known as getting creative with the limited suppies available in the Verdes!
Top tip: Take an alugier to Baia das Gatas for a swim with the locals. Drink (very strong) caiparinhas on the floating bar at the marina and enjoy the fabulous local music coming out of every little bar around town.
We visited the glorious Santo Antão by ferry from Mindelo – 12 of us set off on a minibus tour of the island and it was stunning! Another island of contrasts with beautiful deep and dramatic valleys, forests of pine and eucalyptus and a crater full of sugar cane.
Top tip: We didn’t have the time but if you can spend more time exploring the peace and tranquility of this beautfiul place please do – walk, relax, read, recharge… it’s the perfect place.
So that’s a quick round up of our little tour of the Cape Verdes – we’ve loved it! As I write this there are hundreds of kids running up & down the marina docks as their parents desperately try to finish off their to-do list before tomorrow’s departure. The much anticipated wind has finally arrived and so a big group of boats is leaving tomorrow: boats from UK, Denmark, Norway, Canada, – and we’ll be among them. The guys have even invented an imaginary ‘start-line’ so tonight there will no doubt to more beers, fond farewells, crazy kids wringing out the last few moments together and slightly nervous but excited parents discussing Atlantic crossing plans, tactics, routes and weather!!!
I’ll be having my 40th in the middle of the Atlantic – and then no doubt using it as an excuse again when we arrive in Barbados in a few weeks time – they tell me there will be ‘pink’ sand beaches and they promise me drinks with umbrellas…bring it on! Until then we’ll be sailing…