How to enjoy Cape Verde
Sal, Cape Verde
How to enjoy Cape Verde Sal Reviews
Sep 13, 2007
I know a lot of people come to Cape Verde. And I know a lot of them stay in Santa Maria, on the island of Sal. And I know a lot of them sit in their all-inclusive resorts and only hang out with other Europeans. And I know that this is a pretty lame vacation. I've been living here for about a year, and tourism development is a huge issue. I'm not a particularly big fan of the way that Sal has gone, and I think it could be different. A few tips for really enjoying Cape Verde:
1. Don't go to Sal. I have had a really good time there before, but only because I hang out in Espargos, where there are people who don't try to speak to me in Italian and sell me a trinket (note: All that art you see on the street is not Cape Verdean. It is 99% from Senegal or Guinea-Bissau). Santa Maria is beautiful in a lot of ways and it is certainly the best developed area, but you get that at the same cost as any other place frequented by a lot of tourists. But hey, if you're comfortable with going to West Africa on vacation and only hanging out with people just like you, by all means, have at it.
2. Learn a few words of Creole. Speaking Portuguese is definitely a plus, but speaking a bit of Creole will make all the difference in the world. You go from being a tourist to being a person worthy of inviting over for a drink in 5 seconds. It's a really simple language, and you'll learn the basics in about a day.
3. Don't stay in all-inclusive resorts. I get it: it's a good deal if you're coming from Europe, and the tour packages make it easy. But it deprives the local economy of a large percentage of your money (it all goes right back to Europe, via the guys who own those places). And you're not going to have as much fun. Promise. Find a nice pensão or residencial, or a locally owned hotel.
4. Hang out with Cape Verdeans. The people in this country are nicer and more fun than you could possibly imagine. I like Europeans, too, don't get me wrong. But you're not in Europe. Don't go to that bar with the house music blasting and the Italian couple making out in front. Go down a side street and find a hole in the wall. Strike up a conversation with the old dude out front. You'll like him.
5. Learn to windsurf. Shameless plug: François Guy is a French windsurfer who discovered CV as a watersports spot about 20 years ago. Go find him at the Boa Vista Wind Club, on Estoril beach, just south of Sal Rei, Boa Vista. The bay is calm, warm, shallow, and protected from the ocean. There is a steady NE trade wind from Dec to Apr, and it is the perfect place to learn. It will make your vacation. You may never leave.
6. Go to Santo Antão. It's tricky to get to, but worth the trip. Take the morning boat from Mindelo, São Vicente (also worth a few days) and head over the mountains to Ribeira Grande and Paúl. If you get there around Sept-Nov, you'll catch the island at its greenest. Do some hiking, drink some grogue, and squeeze in some diving or snorkeling. Be sure to head up the Ribeira do Paúl and visit Alfred, the nice Austrian guy who makes homemade cheese and grogue on a little plot of land by the road.
7. Dig the music and dance the dances. Go to a live music show, even if it's a local artist who's not very good. São Vicente probably has the best scene, but Praia is no slouch. The mornas of Boa Vista are beautiful, but they'll put you to sleep. Go to a discoteca and learn some dances. Santiago has funaná if you want to shake your ass, most places have the coladeira if you want to do some seriously weird bumping of the pelvis, and every disco has a couple solid blocks of zouk music, where you can grind crotches with your buddy (warning to women: your Cape Verdean dance partner will get a boner. You will notice. It will be awkward).
8. Play a game of pick up football. There is no faster way to make friends. They might kick your ass though. They play a LOT. If you can involve yourself in a heated argument over Portuguese League teams, all the better. Benfica, Porto, and Sporting are your only choices.
9. Pass through a really small town, maybe on Santiago. Spend a day or so just wandering around a tiny rural town. You might be the only foreigner to walk through in a long time. You'll get stared at, but people will be curious and interested in you. More than likely, they'll invite you in for lunch. Even if your Portuguese or Creole is lousy, you'll have fun trying to communicate. Just be warned, you'll be expected to stay friends for life, or else you are ingrato/ingratu/ingrot (depends on your dialect - ungrateful).
10. Come to Boa Vista. This is my current home and where my heart is. Sal Rei is a gorgeous little sleepy beachside town. Stay in a little hotel in town (NOT at VentaClub or MarineClub) and relax. There are miles of nearly deserted beaches to the south and some to the north. When I'm not working, I spend my days swimming in the bay, lounging in the shade, windsurfing, drinking in my favorite bar, or just sitting and talking to the people that walk by (Cape Verde's 2nd national sport). There is a beautiful inland desert a short car ride away. Praia Santa Monica is a short (but difficult) journey to the southern shore, where you will find an endless beach of white sand and blue water, with not a single living soul to be found. Also, sea turtles nest on the east coast. Ask around for a midnight ride to go watch them lay eggs.
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