Fisherman on the Sal Island, Cape Verde
Cape Verde

Visit Cape Verde – More than Sun, Surf and Sand

An inspiring melting pot of cultures spread out over ten beautiful islands, from sun drenched beaches to misty mountain tops…

Cape Verde is more than its beach resorts on the islands of Sal and Boa Vista. Its islands, with their diverse micro-climates, boast varying habitats serving many species of plants and animals. Its unique geography is home to both endemic and imported life forms, and we experienced varying types of deserts and rain forests, going from one island to the next.

fogo volcano brava sunset sunrise atlantic ocean
View of the Fogo volcano, across the Atlantic ocean from Brava, just after sunrise

The islands were known to me due to their significant presence in Charles Darwin’s notebooks, featuring in the first chapter of The Voyage of the Beagle. Notably, it was his comparison of flora and fauna between the islands of Cape Verde and the Galapagos, that  lead to one of the keystones in his development of the Theory of Evolution.

terra boa sal island fata morgana desert island
The desert of Terra Boa, where most island tours of Sal will take you on, to view the fata morgana

Being previously uninhabited, the islands’ fascinating history and culture began with their colonisation by the Portuguese in the 15th century, the UNESCO heritage town of Cidade Velha on Santiago being the first permanent European settlement in the tropics. Its long history as a Portuguese colony, with its tortured past as a key port along the trans-Atlantic slave trade route has resulted in the island’s unique culture, which reflects its mixed African and Portuguese roots.

Brava island Cape Verde old house papaya tree
An old abandoned house on Brava, overgrown with vegetation and a number of papaya trees

Sitting at a cafe in Ponta Do Sol, on the island of Santo Antão, listening to Morna played by a trio of musicians (the song was about the smell of a burning tyre being mistaken for a roasting pig), I asked our guide about the origins of Cape Verdean music and culture. “It all began here”, she told us. “When we arrived, there was nothing, and we had nothing. Everything started with us.”

Fajã de Agua brava island cape verde
Houses in the fishing village of Fajã de Àgua, on Brava

Despite its rich culture and geography, island destinations, unfortunately, have most of their marketing done by resorts offering all-inclusive holidays with promises of cheap sunshine. For many, Cape Verde does not extend beyond the beaches on the island of Sal, and the private pools of their resorts. The irony is that, just a little further, beyond the Martin Parr-esque dioramas on its beaches, there are breathtaking worlds that seem almost lost in time.

cute colourful boats on beach santa maria sal island cape verde
Photo of the beach by the town of Santa Maria, Sal. This was where divers came and went to the dive spots around the island