The Caribbean of Africa
When the name of your capital city means ‘beach’ in Portuguese, there are only two options: you’re either a beach destination or you’re dying to become one. For Cape Verde, it’s a little of both: it’s a destination full of sun and sand but it has the charm of a place yet to be overwhelmed by mass tourism. It’s slowly opening its doors to the world, revealing itself as an oasis with a whole lot to offer in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Its ten islands are attracting a growing number of visitors and it competes with its neighbour Senegal for the title of ‘the Caribbean of Africa’.
Although some beaches can be found in the capital city Praia, among them Prainha and Quebra Canela, the best ones are found on the islands of Sal and Boa Vista. The first, which is volcanic, is the most tourism-oriented. It harbours the international airport and has a dozen or so resorts offering luxury holidays. Its arid landscape contrasts sharply with the turquoise colour of its water. This lack of vegetation has a lot to do with its proximity to the Sahara, which is on the same latitude.
The ‘Green’ of Cape Verde
It’s usually said that Cape Verde (‘verde’ means green in Portuguese) is neither a cape nor green. But only those who haven’t been to Santo Antão say that. The island is the archipelago’s second largest and has the best paths for hiking through valleys and craters.
Once you get to the shore of Santa María beach, however, the desert couldn’t seem farther away. Santa María inspires tranquillity and contemplation, inviting us to bask in the ‘morabeza’ of Cape Verde. This term derives from Portuguese, which is the country’s official language despite the presence of Creole, and describes ‘warm sentiments’ like hospitality, internal beauty, love… All of this is in no way incompatible with the flip side of the country: the rush of adrenaline and its water sports. Its eight kilometres of sand offer more than enough space for kite surfing, windsurfing, fishing and diving.
But it’s not all fine sandy beaches. The volcanic terrain makes places like Buracona possible. The bay, where erosion has caused natural pools to form, is sheltered by giant basaltic rocks. It’s a unique place where you can go for a dip next to the Pedra do Lume salt ponds, which are the island of Sal’s other main attraction. They are a curious place occupying the crater of an extinct volcano and are the reason the island, which used to be called ‘Llana’, changed its name. The high concentration of salt causes visitors who plunge into the pinkish waters to float.
If you want to splash around some more, this time in the Atlantic Ocean, Praia do Estoril is another beach that’s well worth a visit. Located on the island of Boa Vista to the south of the capital, Sal Rei, it’s one kilometre long and is sheltered from the wind by a small islet. It’s one of the gems on Boa Vista, which boasts 55 kilometres of beaches from which to choose.
Santa Mónica, which received its name due to its resemblance to the California beach, is one of the most difficult beaches to reach and, as a result, is almost unspoiled. Praia da Cruz is the opposite: its refreshment stands and bars contribute to the hustle and bustle and liven up the atmosphere. Baia das Gatas is a favourite among dolphins –they don’t want to miss the beauty of the new Caribbean of Africa either.