What to do in Cape Verde

Adventure Travel, Africa — By on May 18, 2011 at 12:30 pm

By Ceri Houlbrook
Special to Lost Girls World

350 miles off the coast of West Africa lies an archipelago of ten volcanic islands, known collectively as Cape Verde. Despite their small sizes, these islands offer a wealth of stunning landscapes – from stark, black volcanic slopes to idyllic white, sandy beaches – perfect for exploring, hiking, or simply relaxing by the ocean. The islands also provide the ideal venue for water-sport adrenaline junkies, nature lovers, music fans, and culture-buffs alike.

Cape VerdeHowever, despite Cape Verde’s many natural and cultural charms, it still remains little-known in the tourist industry. You’ll find very few package-holiday tourists swarming onto the beaches or monopolizing the bars. And that is exactly why, for my last trip, I made my destination Cape Verde; to escape the hordes of tourists and to find some hidden gems of my own. And here are a few of my recommendations for making the most of any holiday in Cape Verde:

Strapping on your hiking boots

For those of you eager for a challenge, hit the slopes of Pico do Fogo. This cinder-cloaked volcano is Cape Verde’s highest peak, looming above the island of Fogo at an impressive 9,281 ft above sea level. Despite being an active volcano, having last erupted in 1995, many local farmers still grow coffee and grapes on its fertile slopes, and close to its peak is the small village of Chã das Caldeiras. It’s best to start your hike from here. It takes a good three-four hours to reach the peak, so leave early in the day and bear in mind that the steep trail can prove quite strenuous, so a decent pair of hiking boots is required. That. and a lot of resolve. But once you reach the peak, it will all seem worth it. With the black, moon-like crater of Chã das Caldeiras draped beneath you, and the ash-coated slopes of Mt. Fogo, streaked with frozen lava flows, arching gracefully down into the azure waters of the ocean below, you’re promised the best views in all of Cape Verde.

Hitting the waves

Santa Maria BayCape Verde is a world-class destination for windsurfing, its location in the winter trade wind belt ensuring constant winds and decent waves all year round, especially from November to June. And with the temperature rarely dropping below 20°C, even during winter, this really is a windsurfer’s paradise.  Each island offers a wealth of beaches to choose from, but the best one to hit is at Santa Maria Bay, on the island of Sal. Here, the sea is generally calm and when the swell comes from the south, it creates a long wave that’s safe, easy to ride, but still promises an adrenaline rush. And for those of you who – like me – have never windsurfed in your life, there are numerous companies in Santa Maria offering starter courses. They don’t come cheap – a ten hour course including equipment will set you back about £160 – but they’re definitely worth it. You’ll be riding those waves like a pro in no time.

Spotting the wildlife

Cabo VerdeHome to the second largest nesting population of loggerhead turtles in the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Verde offers the perfect opportunity for any nature-lovers out there to get up close and personal with these beautiful creatures. July to September is the best time for turtle-spotting, as this is their nesting period, and the island of Boavista provides the perfect venue, with an international field station dedicated to turtle conservation situated on the beach of Ervatão. There are numerous groups which offer night tours down to the beach, where you’re almost guaranteed a glimpse of turtles coming ashore to lay their eggs.

Sampling the cuisine

Cape Verde cuisine is an eclectic cocktail of Portuguese, Creole and African recipes, often blended together to make something brand new and unique to the islands. However, Cape Verde isn’t known for its fine dining; meals here are generally casual affairs, with most restaurants offering cheerful atmospheres and menus that combine simple international fare with authentic Cape Verdean Cuisine.

And so, with all that Cape Verde has to offer, what’s stopping you from booking your next holiday there? Grab your passport, dig out your hiking boots, invest in a surfboard, and get adventuring!

Ceri Houlbrook is from Manchester, England – no, she doesn’t support United - and her passions include reading, writing, hiking and traveling the globe in search of some adventure!

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