Island of adventure

Find a sunshine break with a twist off the coast of Africa in Cape Verde


Put every island in the Cape Verde archipelago together and it’s still only a little larger than Suffolk — but within these African islands, you can discover volcanoes and salt lakes, lemon sharks and fascinating history.

For most visitors, it’s not Santiago — home to the capital Praia — that’s their destination but the most popular island of Sal. One of the flattest, driest of the nine inhabited islands along with nearby Boa Vista, it was the first to welcome tourists in the days when Cape Verde was still a Portuguese colony.

And while you won’t find the lush green slopes of sister islands Fogo, home to an active volcano, or the Jewish heritage of Santo Antao — where now only the village name of Sinagoga recalls the Portuguese and Moroccan Jews who once lived here — you do get golden sand beaches, sunshine almost every day and some distinctly unusual attractions.

So if you’re thinking ahead to winter sun or craving a relaxed beach break, embrace the local motto of ‘no stress’ and check out the best of what Sal has to offer.

Float at the salt pans

At Pedra de Lume, the salt pans which give Sal its name once provided salt to Brazil: today, although they still produce enough for the island itself, their main role is as one of the biggest tourist attractions.

You can float in the salinas, the salt lakes which remains in the old volcanic crater. The salt content is higher than the Dead Sea, so it’s easy to lie back and relax as you soak in the otherworldly landscape and consider the promise that you’ll emerge looking 10 years younger.

Spot lemon sharks

Growing to over 10 feet long in the warm shallows off the coast of Sal, the island is a great place to spot these shy yellowy-brown sharks.

More wary of humans than fearsome, they live wild so there’s a chance of seeing only a fleeting glimpse of fin — but also of getting a good look at this threatened species, found only along the west coast of Africa and the Americas.

You need to wade out over the rocky seafloor and waves can be rough, so it’s essential to have water shoes.

See the Blue Eye

This natural lava pool has been carved out of the coastline at Buracona by the ocean and its water looks a vivid turquoise in the sun. When the weather is calm, you can swim in the pool next to it too.

For the more dramatic waves for which the islands are famous, watch the surf crashing high into the air against the rocks at Baia da Murdeira, where the island’s sleeping lion rock is visible.

Find the mirage

In the heart of the island, the land of Terra Boa was so named as it was best for cultivating — hard to believe when only small melons appear to grow in the dusty brown earth. 
It’s also here that you can find the island’s mirage, near a little souvenir shop standing alone in the middle of the empty landscape.

As you look out to the distance, you can see the unmistakeable silvery shimmer of water; but venture closer and the sparkle on the horizon vanishes, revealed as a mirage.

Explore the villages

Most of Sal’s resorts are at the southern tip of the island, not far from Santa Maria. Its brightly coloured houses come in every shade of the rainbow, with kite surfers making the most of the island breezes by the beach off one side of the town.

On the other, you can see locals bringing in the fish, their boats drawn up on the sand a stone’s throw from souvenir stalls galore.

For a less touristy version, head to the fishing villages Palmeira, whose painted houses are just as colourful.

Discover Sal’s botanic gardens

In the middle of the dusty landscape of Sal lies a small oasis — the island’s botanic gardens, filled with tropical flowers and trees shading the path. Viveiro, as the gardens are called, are also home to a small animal sanctuary with a monkey, horses and other farm animals.


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