According to Wikipedia Cape Verde is an island country spanning an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Yup – I had to look up what archipelago meant too. Located 570km off the coast of Western Africa, the islands cover a combined area of slightly over 4,000 square kilometres. This is pretty much all the information I had before I travelled to Boa Vista, the third largest island in Cape Verde. When I announced to friends where I was going I was either met with a blank look or squeals of delight. Cape Verde is just on the cusp of becoming the next big thing in the world of travel. Billed as the ‘Caribbean of Europe’, around 95% of its untouched, beautiful coastline has already been bought by hotels in preparation for the surge of tourists flocking to this up-coming destination. So here is what all the fuss is about…
Although tourism is expected to take off in a big way very soon on Boa Vista, it is important to remember that at the moment it is still a developing island. Despite its neighbouring Island, Sal, already being an established holiday destination, on Boa Vista locals still live in very basic conditions. Outside the gates of the the all inclusive, luxury hotels, they have limited electricity, and often have to walk to get their water from the local well. Very few people can afford cars on the island and there is no hospital as such – just a dubious looking ‘health centre’, however most of the hotels have on-call foreign doctors for guests.
Another fun fact to mention is that there’s not much of a road infrastructure. I was over the moon when our Thomson rep informed us we would all receive a complimentary back massage, however not so much when I realised that this would be courtesy of the cobblestone road we encountered after 10 minutes of tarmac from the airport. As more hotels open, they are agreeing to help fund the building of tarmac roads, so make sure you book soon if you want to receive your massage!
Boa Vista (Portuguese for ‘good view’) is a desert island with a rather lunar landscape (no I have never been to the moon, but I can imagine it would look like this). It’s very dry and in the centre of the island you will find miles of the most stunning sand dunes formed by sand from the Sahara Desert which has been blown over by the North Easterly Trade Winds.
Overall it is currently a sleepy island of peace and tranquility and beautiful unspoilt beaches. It’s the place to come to chill out and relax, completely get away from the stresses of modern life and reconnect – with nature, with each other and with yourself. If I were you, I would visit now whilst the island still has it’s character, whilst the beaches are still untouched and whilst the local ‘grog’ is still legal (one word – HANGOVER).
Things to do
For a peaceful island which doesn’t appear to have much going on outside the hotel, there is actually a comprehensive list of excursions you can book through various companies – here’s my pick of the best:
Take a guided quad biking trip over the sand dunes for stunning views and an adrenaline rush. This is one of the most popular activities on the island and there are a number of different durations of tours available to book.
Book one of the catamaran trips from Boa Vista’s capital Sal Rei. You can book a number of trips to suit all tastes, from an over 18’s party boat to a chill out cruise, some with BBQ included – perfect way to see the island from afar.
Have a drink at the Morabeza beach bar. There are a number of excursions to this beautiful and unique beach bar looking out over the sea. The actual bar area features swings and used part of an old boat as the actual bar. Perfect for swimming, sunbathing and chilling out. Saturday night is party night with meal and African drumming show.
Take a trip to Sal Rei – No visit to Boa Vista is complete without a trip to its colourful capital. Make sure you go on a guided excursion to see all it’s hidden treasures.
Visit Santa Maria Shipwreck. The wreck of the former cargo ship lies at the North of the island where she ran aground during high winds in September 1968. It is a magnificent sight and well worth a visit.
Do’s and Don’t’s:
DO leave a tip for the staff – they are constantly smiling, work ridiculously hard, and do not get paid much. Leaving toiletries and a tip means more to them than you could imagine.
DO Book escorted trips, usually I would recommend getting out there and finding your own path to explore, but transport is at a premium and you could easily be overcharged for ‘taxis’ or get stuck on a remote part of the island (aka all of it!). You will also miss hearing about Boa Vista’s history and visiting it’s hidden gems so go with people in the know. All the trips listed above are bookable either Thomson or Giggling Gecko Adventures.
DON’T think you’ll be fine with a factor 10 on because its breezy and you can’t feel the sun burning you. It is. Trust me. It is.
DO take Euros – Cape Verdean currency is the Escudo which can be changed on the islands but Euros are now widely accepted.
DON’T expect the hotel maids to make an animal out of the towels every day. This just leads to disappointment on a huge scale.
DO join in with the animation team’s crazy games – there’s nothing more entertaining than throwing a full water balloon at your other half.
DON’T wear your nicest clothes to sit on the back of an open top Toyota pick up truck. Unless they are orange, then the dust will just blend in.
DO try and visit before they expand the airport. At the moment it’s a very cute little open air building which resembles a sandcastle, not your standard airport!
DO be wary when taking a nice relaxing paddle at Santa Monica Beach, there are lots of crabs.
DON’T worry, they sense vibrations so won’t come anywhere near you. But they are still crabs.