Island hopping by yacht is one of the best ways to see the Cape Verde islands and experience the swell of the Atlantic Ocean. You can sail from Sao Vicente to Santa Antao or Santa Luzia or Sal then dive off a yacht into crystal blue waters, throw a line off the back and catch your supper, or moor up for the evening and taste a new town's food and nightlife each night. If variety is what you are after, with a spirit of adventure, then sailing is definitely the way to go!
www.sailcapeverde.com - based in Mindelo their sleek and comfortable sailing yacht Perseverance will take you wherever you want to go.
Mindelo has a thriving music scene and this is embodied in the vibrant and colourful carnivals that take place throughout the year. The fantastic Brazilian-style Mardi Gras carnival in February sees people from all over the world descend on Mindelo for three to four days of music, costumes, samba dancing, and partying throughout the nights. Like Rio, but smaller and closer to home with a real taste of the exotic side of the islands.
Yearly, on the feast of Mardi Gras (usually around February). The warm ups begin a couple of days before, with the Samba procession the night before Mardi Gras, and the actual Carnaval on the day of Mardi Gras.
Google map: bit.ly/HN1uBu
Holidaying in Cape Verde brings the unexpected, mainly due to the relative difficulty in planning one’s movements and activities ahead of time. Armed with a West African travel guide published the same year as my first trip to the islands, most of the information was already well out of date. Small businesses had blossomed and gone bust so with our hopes of seeing any more than Santiago dashed (the cost of last minute flights between islands were prohibitively expensive), my husband and I switched our thinking from trekking adventure to beach side relaxation and chanced upon many beautiful beaches around Santiago, our favourite being Tarrafal's beach.
On advice from an English speaking hotelier in Praia - a rarity, a small minority speak French as a second language and an even smaller number speak English - we found a minibus coletivo to Tarrafal. By ‘found’, I mean that after several fruitless conversations with local shop owners requesting directions, we caught sight of a driver trying to drum up more business while his present customers waited patiently within the vehicle. He stood on a street corner shouting “Tarrafal! Tarrafal! Tarrafal!”. A couple of hours north west on a bumpy cobblestone road later, we arrived at the picturesque sleepy fishing village of Tarrafal.
After walking through the small town centre and past the local open marketplace, we were greeted by pristine, soft sun bleached white sands, clearest of blue waters and the entirely unexpected view of neighbouring island Fogo across the water. Fogo’s volcano appears to hang over the water in the distance through the clouds, not unlike a hologram. Accommodation was a breeze to organise and within an hour of
our arrival in Tarrafal, we were in the water. In the dry season you can expect temperatures of upwards of 40 degrees and the water is pleasantly cold. The fishermen sorting their nets on the town’s white sandy beach is very classically African. Other beaches in the
immediate region have volcanic black sand. It’s a scene of colours in motion; the boats are brightly painted and the fishermen are dressed
equally vividly. It’s a noisy but efficient affair - after sorting the nets and docking the boats, the beach is quickly returned to its previous spotless state. Ordinarily there are few tourists on the beach, the sun is harsh and most can only take an hour or two at a time.
An alternative to sun baking and beach swimming can be found ten minutes walk away at the Hotel King Fisher, where diving and snorkeling equipment can be hired. The director of the diving school at Hotel King Fisher is a marine biologist and master diver, offering lessons for a reasonable fee. King Bay is accessed through the hotel and is well worth the trip on its own. Perfect for snorkeling even for less than confident swimmers with an array of colourful marine life to be seen, access to the water through the hotel is free of charge for those staying in alternate accommodation.
Extra tip: Euros are the easiest currency to exchange for Cape Verdean Escudos so don’t bother with US dollars or British pounds and remember your Portuguese phrase book!
Tarrafal is located north west on the opposite end of Santiago from Praia and is accessed via one of two arterial routes (either via the coast line or over the mountain route over narrow terraces and ridges) via minivan. Minivans run from Praia twice daily roughly at 10am and 3pm, departing only when the van is full. Expect to encounter the odd chicken or two on their way to or from market within the cabin with you.
The Hotel King Fisher villas (www.king-fisher.de/index.php?lang=en) start at about £50 per night. Cheap and cheerful B&B style rooms (don't necessarily expect hot water or electricity, check beforehand) near the beach are easy to find without a booking for considerably less also.
Google map: bit.ly/udVe1f
I went to Cape Verde on scheduled airlines via Gambia and Senegal. I booked my accommodation online beforehand and got my air tickets in Gambia. The trip was fantastic and I really enjoyed the adventure - much more, I imagine, than I would have done if I'd taken a package.
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