Cape Verde is a fascinating country – an amazing group of islands and mesh of cultures – located about 700km west of Senegal. Still relatively unknown to many travellers, Cape Verde has however been attracting more and more attention, especially from Europeans, who can reach it by plane in only four hours from Lisbon, Portugal. Other flights by TACV Cabo Verde Airlines now also arrive regularly from Africa and the Americas.
Once you find out a little about Cape Verde you will be amazed that it isn’t at the top of many diehard travellers’ must-see lists. With a fusion of Portuguese and African culture all mixed with pinches of other country’s traditions from its days as a shipping-route hotspot, Cape Verde offers a little bit of everything, from marine conservation projects to remote communities preserving unique cultures and food to whet and satisfy any an appetite.
Marine Turtle Conservation
If you are visiting during July or January, head to Boa Vista Island, where you can get up close and personal with a wildlife conservation project focusing on sea turtles. Cape Verde is home to the second-largest nesting population of loggerhead turtles (Caretta-caretta) in the Atlantic Ocean, and Boa Vista is the place to witness the amazing egg-laying process. On an evening turtle excursion, you are almost 100% guaranteed to see one of these endangered species laying eggs in their native habitat. Conveniently, you can be collected from where you are staying – the Spinguera is a particularly good launching pad for the excursion – and dropped back again afterwards.
The turtles’ picks of beaches like Boa Esperança in the north and Ervatão and Ponta Cosme in the southeast are the choice locations for turtle-watching activities. Also located at Ervatão is an international field station for the scientific research and conservation of Caretta-caretta.
Rabelados – a Symbol of Resistance
Since the 1940s, the Rabelados of Cape Verde have been an enduring symbol of resistance. Located on the island of Santiago, this group has spent seven decades in the mountains keeping alive their traditions, culture and way of life. They fled into an area famously difficult to access to avoid persecution by the Portuguese colonial authorities whose forced imposition of Christian teachings they opposed. The community still exists today, its customs more or less intact despite the challenges of a difficult environment that takes its toll on their quality of life.
Travellers can now visit a Rabelados village, meet with the locals and purchase some of their handmade crafts, such as paintings, sculptures chiseled out of local tree wood and other objects, the sale of which directly benefits the community without compromising the culture.
Nothing feels more real in Cape Verde than to sit down with friends and family to enjoy cachupa, a foodie’s delight and the dish most emblematic of Cape Verde culture. Basically a boiled stew, cachupa transcends culinary boundaries. It can consist of corn, beans, vegetables, spices and marinated meat or fish, but the exact ingredients vary from island to island and family to family, secrets that can include certain vegetables and special spices. Never say no to a homemade cachupa, especially when it includes some of the islands’ abundant fresh seafood!
Cachupa is available at almost every eatery in Cape Verde, usually priced at around €1.50 to €2. Locals often eat it for breakfast (called cachupa rafogado), but in the morning leftovers from the night before are cooked again with olives or butter and onion and then sometimes eaten with egges.
Cape Verde Carnivals
The biggest and most impressive celebration in Cape Verde – one sometimes compared to the Brazil’s Carnaval – is the São Vicente Carnival on the island of São Vicente. The island of São Nicolau also has some parades worth checking out, bringing with them plenty of fun, frivolity and energetic music.
When planning travel during party times, book all accommodation and flights a few months in advance. On São Vicente, a good place to stay is the Oásis Hotel Porto Grande, although there are many good smaller accommodations too.
For more information about Cape Verde, including accommodations, tours, activities, all your travel needs and lots of insider tips, contact your local whl.travel connection: the team from Executiv Tour at www.capeverde-tours.com.