Discovering Cape Verde

Whilst looking to visit somewhere new, yet feel as though we were a long way from home, I stumbled across an article in the Lonely Planet magazine.

The article was about a group of islands off the coast of West Africa that was just registering on the tourist radar. Those islands were the Cape Verde Islands, a former Portuguese colony which gained independence in 1975.

Following a little research we opted to stay in the south of the island of Sal, near the town of Santa Maria. We regularly walked along the beach into the town with a few bars and restaurants along the promenade close to the pier which seemed to be the main focal point for people to gather.

The pier, though not as impressive as others around the world, was a great place to just hang out and watch as the fishermen brought in the catch. We sat and watched as fish were dragged along the pier, gutted, placed into a large bowl and distributed to the locals where they would end up on the dinner plates at the end of the day.

The locals were lovely people who always seem to smile and strike up impromptu bands walking through the streets banging out tunes on their drums. The only negative we found were that there were hawkers who pestered us as we wandered around.

Wanting to see more of the island we joined a jeep safari tour that took us to a few interesting sights further north.

There were a few highlights along the way. Stopping in the middle of a dusty road in the middle of nowhere we were told to watch the horizon. Before our eyes I witnessed my first mirage as what appeared to be a lake creeped into view.

Another sight for the eyes was the blue eye. Standing over a very dangerous precipice, gazing down into a black cavern you get to see crystal clear blue water at the bottom. Because of the darkness of the rest of the cavern the blue is striking.

Our final stop on the tour was the Pedro Lume Salt Mines where we got to take a dip in the salt lake. It proved difficult to get in the water as as soon as you enter your feet seem to want to leave the ground and send you crashing into the water where you then float along.

On our final day we left the island and went out to see in search of a pod of Pilot Whales. Slightly larger than dolphins, it took a while to find them but when we did it was lovely to slide alongside them as they glided along. I've seen dolphins and sperm whales before but I always find it a special moment when you find any creature like this and this wasn't any different.

I felt quite privileged seeing Cape Verde in it's early development as a tourist destination, and but for a chance moment whilst skimming through a magazine, it could easily have been missed.

Have you been to Sal or any of the other islands in Cape Verde? What did you think?

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