Cape Verde, with its dramatic landscape defined by a perfect blend of gorgeous beaches and gargantuan volcanoes, has emerged as a new frontier of African tourism, little wonder why many people are tipping the country as the perfect place for a blissful summer holiday. It’s not just about the clement weather all-year-round; what makes the huge horseshoe-shaped archipelago appealing is its sheer variety.
Each of the 10-strong islands that make up the archipelago nations is unique in their own right – somewhat like a little country in terms of peculiarity and uniqueness. I visited some of them recently and I definitely can take you around – starting with this piece.
If you are one of those whose holiday isn’t complete without the sun, sea and sand (and I am one myself), the easternmost part of Cape Verde would be your perfect playground this summer. I recommend any of Sal or Boa Vista (or both) as your destination. The two islands feel like little Miami or the Caribbean, with their postcard-perfect beaches and trendy beach resorts. The beach sands are so white, you’ll want to keep rolling on them – isn’t that what leisurely, summer holidays are for?
On the flip side are the gorgeous, black sands beaches at Fogo and Santo Antao, as well as plenty other secluded beaches with no beach activities except a promise that you’ll own the beach all to yourself.
What’s next after beach time? For me, it’s beautiful, soul-lifting music. To connect with Cape Verdeans via music, Mindelo on São Vicente Island is the destination you shouldn’t miss. To understand why Mindelo is the heartbeat of Island music, you only need to be part of the Island’s annual carnival and musical bodegas.
The popular tune is Morna, the lilting rhythmic music connects well with the grassroots, and reflects the various influences – Brazilian, Iberia and Africans, on the Island. It’s no surprise that World Beat Superstar, Cesária Évora – the Barefoot Diva who brought Morna to the global stage came from Mindelo.
The mountainous spine of Santo Antão is for adventurous hikers. Those with more guts try to reach the summit of Pico do Fogo, a 9000-foot volcano. Santo Antão is Africa’s most western part; it parades some of the world most imposing sea cliff frames, rugged topography, unspoiled landscapes and challenging trails. Hardcore trekker and history bluff are welcome to this Island; it’s a place to visit if you want to cart away some personal glory.
The most African of the Islands is São Tiago, which offers an impressive immersion into an almost unblemished African culture. In addition to great local dishes like Cachupa, a tasty blend of corn, beans, plantains, yams and some kind of meat or fish; visitors are also treated to Funana and Finacan, the Island’s unique genre of music.
Nature awaits visitor at the Island of Brava, which is characterized by a lush garden and verdant landscape. Brava’s main highlight is Nova Sintra town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site notable as a “garden island”. The UNESCO says the town shows “complete harmony between man and the natural environment, provoking the creation of architectural landscapes and a symbiosis between built heritage and natural heritage.”
Most visitors on a cruise ship are already familiar with Santiago, especially its capital city, Praia. Half of the entire Cape Verdeans live on Santiago Island, while its water harbour is a port of choice for many cruise ships visiting the archipelago.
The beautiful thing about the 10 Islands is their interconnectedness. This makes it possible for visitors to enjoy all the sight and sound or simply get away from it all, whichever they choose.
When I visited, I learnt a few Creole words. The most important of which was “Morabeza”, meaning kindness. I easily recall the word because of the islander’s genuine hospitality; their smile each time they see and greet me and how they easily want to help.
Jose, one of the Islanders who eventually became my guide, was so proud of his homeland that he was eager to show me around. He took me to Pico do Fogo Island to show me the imposing dominance of a volcano of the same name. At 9,000 foot, Pico do Fogo towers above everyone else I saw on the Island. “It last erupted in 2015 and destroyed some homes,” Jose said as we trek around the Island, sipping grogue, a local drink made from sugar cane.
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