Located 350 miles off the Western African coast is an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands known as Cape Verde, perfect as a fascinating and different vacation destination. Officially dubbed the Republic of Cabo Verde, this island country has many and varied scenic landscapes and so much of interest to see.
Stuck out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Verde is surprisingly easy to access, with convenient airports and modern ports in the country’s capital Praia and other locations, while still in so many ways remaining completely unspoiled.
When the Portuguese explorers found the islands back in the 15th century, they were at that stage completely uninhabited. However, these islands soon became the ideal spot for the Atlantic slave trade and many of the inhabitants of today’s Cape Verde islands are the descendants of those slaves. The islands were also popular with pirates and privateers, and well known people visited in the past, including Sir Francis Drake back in the 1580s and Charles Darwin’s expedition also made a stop-over in the islands in 1832.
As more people became aware of the perfect positioning of the Cape Verde Islands, located as it is on the major shipping lanes from Europe, Australia and India, settlements grew on many of the islands.
Cape Verde was a Portuguese colony up until the islands received independence in 1975 and today, the economy is doing very well, mainly in the tourism field and also with foreign investment. The archipelago has been praised as an excellent example among the various African nations for its developmental growth and stability and despite its lack of natural resources, took second place only to Mauritius in 2014 in the Ibrahim Index of African Governance (IIGA).
The excellent positioning of the islands, together with improvements in both airport facilities and the various ports, has made the islands easier for foreign visitors to access. The updated facilities, along with a year-round mild and warm climate, have made the Cape Verde Islands an excellent and fascinating vacation destination.
Each island has its own scenic landscape, whether with volcanic, beach, desert or floral displays, making for a different experience for tourists as they visit each one. There are around 222 accommodation facilities of various types for visitors including a couple of major modern hotels, some smaller hotels, pensions and residences throughout the various towns on the islands.
The most commonly spoken languages are Portuguese and Creole and while English is spoken reasonably widely in the major centers, it might be difficult to find someone to communicate with in the outlying smaller towns.
Food on offer in the Cape Verde Islands tends to mainly consist of fish and vegetables, together with the normal staples of corn and rice, as well as various fresh fruits. A favorite dish on the islands is the Cachupa, a slow-cooked fish or meat stew with corn and vegetables. The fish is freshly caught that day and generally very tasty.
For entertainment, the Cape Verde Islands offers a remarkable mix of Brazilian, Caribbean and Portuguese influences in both music and dance, with the national music being the “Morna,” a melodic and rather melancholy kind of song, often sung in the local Creole language. However one of the islands’ most famous singers is the “Barefoot Diva,” Cesária Évora, who usually sang in Portuguese and was considered the “Queen of Morna.”
The video below is of Évora singing the song “Mar Azul”, which evokes the feeling of the Cape Verde Islands:
There are many activities available on the islands with the most popular being wave sailing, which is a type of windsurfing, as well as kiteboarding and other water sports. There is also sea and land fishing, hiking and birding opportunities available. Evenings offer delicious local cuisine, music and local entertainment.
A video showing a photographic slideshow of the islands, backed by the dulcet tones of Évora, is included below. The Cape Verde Islands are, in conclusion, a friendly and fascinating destination, a little out of the way and the ordinary, and well worth a vacation trip.
By Anne Sewell
Desert scene and Naquela Praia (top) CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Zé Pinho
Street scene CC-by-SA Cedric Lange