Sal is one of the most barren of the group of ten islands and five islets in the archipelago ofCabo Verde, 1500 km south of the Canaries and approx 450km west of Dakar, Senegal, Africa. Although Sal is very barren, there are few who don’t succumb and fall under its spell without plans to return. Cape Verdeans call this “Sodade”, which means yearning…
Barren Sal might be, but from a windsurfing perspective it had it all: reef breaks, point breaks, sandbar breaks and beach breaks if you want waves, and enough flat water to still blast and crack out a few freestyle manoeuvres in turquoise, warm water. With Sal being a relatively small island – 30kms long and a maximum of 12kms wide – there is the potential for port tack and starboard tack wave riding, with the best waves being port tack riding, at places like Calheta Funda, and of course the legendary spot Ponta Preta, home of the mythical “Windsurf Trilogy”.
With a little luck, you will certainly cross paths with celebrities likeBjorn Dunkerbeck and Josh Angulo (who has fallen in love with Cape Verde and made it his home).
|Windy Season||November-April; windiest period January – April|
|Water Temp In Summer||20-22 C|
|Air Temp In Summer||25-28 C|
|Wet Suit?||Boardies or a shortie although there are cold days, so a summer suit is good too.|
|Average Wind Speed||18/22 kts. 4m-6m sail, average 5m (68kilo sailor)|
|Flight Time (From UK)||Six hours (2.5 hours to Lisbon + 3.5 hours to Sal)|
- How To Get There
Flying is the only option. There are as yet no direct flights from the British Isles to Cape Verde, butTACV-Cabo Verde Airlines will begin operating a direct flight between Birmingham and Praia (Island of Santiago) from November 2000. This will of course still mean taking an internal flight.
The fastest and cheapest route is via Portugal. Air Portugal (TAP) is the main European carrier to Cape Verde, and fly scheduled to Sal, Amilcar Cabral International from London Heathrow andGatwick via Lisbon. Flights to Sal leave late evening and return early the next morning.
TAP has high and low season fares in three price bands, with cheap seats selling to early bookers. Prices rise considerably after 9th December and drop again in January. We paid £460, booking as late as we could before the price rise on the 10th December, returning on the 12th February. We booked our flight through Travelocity. Generally we’ve found it slightly cheaper (£30) to book through an agent, as apposed to booking directly with an airline.
TACV also operates flights to several European cities. Check out Cape Verde Travel.Company: Cape Verde Travel:
They offer different UK departures with carriers like KLM and BMI then TACV to Cape Verde. TACV has no English site as yet.www.capeverdetravel.com
Or try the following agents and compare prices with those of the airlines:
Transfer from Airport
Book your accommodation from the UK and a pickup can be arranged for you for around 14 euros. Otherwise get a taxi (an alugar Hiace bus if you have kit). This should cost no more than 10 euros (1000$). It’s a twenty-minute journey to Santa Maria.
Check the links below for all-inclusive package deals to CV.Company: www.planetwindsurf.com
14 nights (Jan-April) at the Leme Bedje including flights and transfers for standard room: £835- £1090. For kit costs see kit hire.Company: www.sportif.travel Full range of accommodation from £530pp for a week or £699pp 2 weeks at Les Alizes B&B, including flights & transfers. Kit hire Mistral centre.
Taking your Own Kit:
I often try to put the thought of excess baggage to the back of my mind, but it never goes away and the harsh reality is that it can end up taking a significant chunk of your budget before you’ve even left the country. Now when we fly, we prefer the security of knowing beforehand the costs of excess baggage rather than the ‘will we, or won’t we get away without paying’, so flying with TAP suited that end.
TAP operate a fixed rate policy for certain sports equipment with surfboards costing €100 and windsurf boards costing €150. We took three boards, two sail bags (seven sails), two booms and a mast bag (six masts), weighing around 85 kilos and managed to get the whole lot through as surfboards, as the person on the check-in desk didn’t know the difference between a surfboard and a windsurf board. This cost us €300 one-way. Coming back, however, we were given a great tip: at the check-in desk, state that TAP has a policy allowing one windsurf board per person free and to call head office to validate this fact. This is obviously a policy TAP advertise little, because after calling head office, and much to the check-in person’s obvious horror seeing how much kit we had, our kit made it through free of any charge. We can’t guarantee this will work for everyone!
So what kit?
We took 9 sails from 4m to 5.5m sharing the quiver and three boards: a 70L Starboard Acid wave, 67L Mistral Beast wave, and a 78L RRD freestyle wave board. I weigh 67k and the Beast, a more traditional down-the-line board, was ideal in 4m to 5m conditions. I used Sam’s 70L Acid a few times to float out at some wave spots like Canoa with a 5.2m sail. The RRD was good on flatter days with a 5m to 5.5m sail. Ideally though, we could have done with a higher volume board at around 85/90L that would have been better for freestyle and blasting with a 5.8m sail.
What it CostSam & Stew’s 9 week stay.Paul & Josie’s two-week trip.
Total Cost:5570 euro (£3800)3200 euro (£2200) Flights:670 euro (£460) each859 euro (£580) each Excess Baggage:300 euro (£205)NO CHARGE (lucky!) Apartment:600 euro (£410) per month511 euro (£350) per week Kit storage:500 euro (£340)110 euro (£75) Food, drink etc per week:290 euro (£200) for two365 euro (£250) for two Note: If renting an apartment ‘long-term’ (four weeks or more) the cost is often not far removed from the cost of weekly ‘holiday’ rental prices.
- How The Wind Works
Cape Verde lies within the northeast trade wind belt. The belt of high pressure in the Azores forces air to move towards the belt of low pressure air along the equator creating the prevailing north easterly trade wind that blows over Cape Verde consistently from October to June, but strongest from February to June. However, between November and February the NE trade wind near CV can become interrupted by the Harmattan wind from the Sahara giving more E to ENE Force 3-5. With high pressure over about 1030 hPa, the Harmattan can become very strong and because this wind blows off the Sahara it is dust-laden and can reduce visibility creating some very overcast and chilly days. The trade wind slackens in the summer.
Typical daily wind: The forecast proved to be pretty erratic while we were there with given forecasts not materializing. In general, the wind needs a forecast of 20/22kts for it to properly kick in at that strength. And although this sounds a little strange, a 15kt forecast just might not produce the wind. In which case expect to be on a 6m sail. Often the wind drops a few knots around 1pm, but increases again later.
So how much sailing can you expect to do?
We spent sixty days in CV, and although December wasn’t good for wind, Jan and Feb saw some good conditions with it blowing 20kts+ for five days straight; so in total we scored 34 planing days, three 6.0m days, eight 5.5m days, three 5.2m days, eight 5.0m days, four 4.7m days,two 4.5m days, two 4.2m days, and four 4.0m days. I weigh 67 kilos. If we’d had a larger volume board we could have sailed a few of the lighter days too. After we left on the 12th February it blew 20kts+ for virtually one and a half weeks with good swell. So Jan and Feb are definitely the best months to go.
- The Sailing Spots
Note: Some of the names of spots vary, and often have more than one name like “Salinas”. The beach at the east end of the bay where Planet Windsurf is situated doesn’t have a name and is often described as “Albatross” because of the hotel behind. But as that has now changed its name and, anyhow, is not very visible from the beach I have given the Leme Bedje hotel as a landmark.
The main windsurfing area on Sal is at the southern end of the island at the small fishing town of Santa Maria. The bay here has a fine-grained, white sandy beach stretching for some 4km with general wind direction of left cross-off offering great windsurfing conditions from October to June, and includes the following spots:
1.Beach east end of bay (Leme Bedje)
This is the beach east of the town in front of the Leme Bedje hotel. Great spot to sail with the wind being left cross-off to crossshore. The wind is a bit messed up in front of the beach here because of the new buildings behind, but cleans up thirty or so metres offshore and is cleaner also as you sail up towards Ponta Leme. Depending on the swell this spot can be flat, or have waves from a foot to boom high wrapping around onto the beach. The waves, however, require a little work to make the most of them. It is advisable to use a slightly larger sail, than you might use sailing on the outside, for attacking these waves due to the gusty conditions. Watch some of the local guys make the waves look easy, like Sidnei, as he goita’s or 360’s off-the-lip, if you’re in need of a bit of inspiration.
Beach direction: S to SW. Best wind direction: The NE trade wind blows left cross-off to cross shore here. Worst wind direction: East is sailable but choppy. What’s on the bottom: Mostly sand, but there are some rocks to deal with here as you launch. Any hazards: Watch out for two buoys approximately thirty metres offshore and a rocky outcrop to the right, but not a real problem. Other water users: Bathers and the odd snorkeler. Never gets too busy with windsurfers, as there is a large sailing area and few kiters sail from this beach. Suitability/levels: Beginner – intermediate plus. Wipeout factor: Perfect for beginners, when flat. Most of the centres here do provide a shorebreak service when it gets bigger and will sail your kit out beyond the break for you if required. When the waves are working they break far enough off the beach to get a few good bottom turns with minimum wipeout risk. Not a tricky spot.
2.Beach west end of bay (Mistral centre)
Sandy, rock-free beach great for beginners and blasting. Can get choppy at times when the wind is blowing more E and most prefer to sail upwind towards Ponta Leme Velho for the waves and freestyle/blasting conditions in cleaner wind, or towards Ponta do Sino for the waves there.
Beach direction: SE Best wind direction: The NE trade wind blows left cross-off to sideshore here, although it can be gusty for the first 200m due to the proximity of the town behind. Worst wind direction: North through to East will work but choppy. What’s on the bottom: Sand. Any hazards: The shorebreak can get quite gnarly and mast snapping when there is a big swell, and if hiring from a centre they will not let you out. On the smaller days they will provide a shorebreak service. The beach however is sandier here with almost no pesky rocks to stub your toes on. Other water users: The official kite surf zone is located a little further upwind here. Lots of other beach users and people swimming in the water. Suitability/levels: Beginner to freerider. Wipeout factor: Reasonably safe spot to sail with rescue cover.
3.Ponta do Leme Velho
Where the beach ends to the left of Leme Bedje, the shoreline is boulders, with only one small bay as an exception, right through to Ponta Leme. From the beach you can sail upwind to Ponta Leme (usually just one or two tacks required) for the point break when the swell is up. You can also head outside beyond the point where there are often a few good ramps for jumping. When the waves work the swell is, in general, wind-generated but wraps around the point running perpendicular with the shore, creating waves of up to 2.5m. The wave is not long, being a point break. In order to get the best from the wave you have to cut in pretty close to the rocks, so keep an eye out for any submersed boulders. Here you can score a couple of nice bottom turns with some decent lips. Stick with the wave as it often reforms fifty metres further on, although again, you need to be tight into the rocks to make the most of it. Alternatively when there is less swell this area is excellent for its blasting and freestyle potential. The water state gets choppier the further off the shoreline you sail, but is still flat for the first 200-300 metres.
Beach direction: Rocky shore, S to SW.
Best wind direction: The NE trade wind blows, left cross offshore to offshore here, stronger and more consistently than from the beach due to the flat, open terrain behind. Worst wind direction: All others. What’s on the bottom: Rocks probably, but not relevant as a point break. Any hazards: Watch out for submersed boulders when bottom turning close to the shore and the returning fishing boats. Other water users: It can get a bit busy with sailors trying to get in close to the point break to score a wave. You need to be checking your position with regards to the rocks and then other sailors dropping in as you begin your bottom turn. Kite surfers are becoming more frequent, also wanting some wave action. Suitability/levels: Intermediate plus for the waves, and beginner onwards for the freeriding. Wipeout factor: Don’t get too absorbed with chasing the wave along the shoreline back to the beach. Keep an eye out, because just beyond halfway back to the beach the wave starts to wrap into the shoreline – to finally become parallel with the beach – so that you may find yourself with no exit and a visit to the rocks. It’s no fun getting washed on the rocks as they are large and slippery and prove difficult to get off unless with help from someone standing by. (See video) A visit here usually results in broken/scuffed kit. Kitesurfers have been known to help windsurfers by towing them off the rocks so don’t get too impatient with them for sailing the same spot.
4. Salinas or Shark Bay “los tiburones” aka “Kite Beach”
Don’t get freaked by the name. No, not kite beach, but shark bay. Get a pickup to this location, which is on the north east side of Santa Maria and costs about 1000$. The best spot to start is at the northern end of the bay just in front of the house on the beach. Even on a small day, when there is little swell at Ponta Leme, there can be some fun-sized waves that are great for port tack jumping and reasonable starboard tack riding that break fifty metres from the shore over the reef. Either arrange for the pick up to return at a set time or you can sail back to Ponte Leme (a few km), as there can be better waves downwind. Good spot also for kiters although they sail further downwind so there is no conflict.
Beach direction: ENE through to ESE Best wind direction: The NE trade wind is clean here and blows left cross-on to cross-shore, and can be a little stronger as it accelerates around the Sierra Negra Mountain. Worst wind direction: All others. What’s on the bottom: Although the beach is sandy, there is exposed reef where the waterline starts so you will need to walk your kit out the first twenty metres until you can safely launch. Beware, as there are some very sharp ‘pinnacle’ bits of reef. The reef gets less the further south you move down the bay. Any hazards: Don’t try getting to this spot in a hire car as you will get stuck in the dunes. Don’t take cameras, money, etc, unless you have someone on the beach to look after the stuff. Don’t pay for the pickup until you’ve returned, otherwise they may not come back to collect you. Other water users: At this end of the bay there will probably be only those of you who took a pickup to the spot. Further down the bay is where the kite surfers generally sail so not a problem. Suitability/levels: Intermediate plus. Wipeout factor: Easy waves with very little rip, but losing your kit may mean getting it scuffed on those spiky bits of reef if washed onto the beach. No rescue cover.
Heading now west of Santa Maria…
Ponta do Sino
This spot is at the far end of the bay, west of Santa Maria. Either sail the two kms downwind from Leme Bedje (depending where you’re staying) and get a pickup back, or you can sail it back. Get some starboard tack wave riding in front of the luxury yacht that ran aground and foundered here a few years ago. Shorebreak can be a bit dumpy.
Beach direction: SE Best wind direction: The NE trade wind is clean here, and blows left cross shore to cross-on and cross-off. Worst wind direction: All others. What’s on the bottom: Rocks, sand and a very large yacht. Any hazards: There is a bit of a rip here and of course the rocks. Other water users: Hardly ever gets busy. Suitability/levels: Intermediate+ Wipeout factor: Not a difficult spot to sail with easy waves. No rescue cover.
Ponta do Preta
This spot is 1 km further on from Ponta do Sino. Surprised to find this spot introduced as a speed run or great for freestyle. When many of the other spots on the east and south coast are firing, Ponta Preta can be as flat as, and fun for blasting when other spots become too intimidating.
But forget flat water, what PP is all about is big waves. Ponta Preta offers the challenge of world-class waves and is the backyard of Josh Angulo, 2003 PWA world champion, and other regular visitors like Bjorn Dunkerbeck. The waves here are truly awesome and start to break a few hundred metres out from the black rocks and roll clean and hollow over a length of 300 metres until they hit the white sandy beach in the bay. These waves are definitely for those that know what they are doing. They are big and powerful and can easily reach 5m!! The cost of any mistakes is high. The rocks are sharp and gnarly and it may not be just your kit that pays. The wind can often be light and gusty adding to the difficulty factor. If this spot is beyond your limit you at least have to come and watch the pros ripping it up. The best direction for swell is N-NW, while any swell from the west produces faster waves. Swell needs to be minimum 1.5/2m for it to work here otherwise it’s flat. Get a pickup to this spot.
Beach direction: W-WSW Best wind direction: The NE trade wind blows right cross-offshore to offshore and sometimes cross shore. Worst wind direction: All others. What’s on the bottom: Sand and rocks. Any hazards: Rocks: sharp and gnarly. Sharks? Other water users: When PP is working it can get busy with surfers, body boarders, and the occasional kitesurfer… respect the line up. Suitability/levels: The very confident to expert. Wipeout factor: The highest. No big wave comes without some cost of getting it wrong. Here you will have to deal with some serious wave pounding then deal with some very nasty rocks. The shore dump in the bay can be considerable. No rescue cover.
Rife das Tartarugas and Calheta Funda (Canoa)
These two spots are quite close to each other where the wind blows right cross-off to cross shore and are port tack wave riding locations. Take a pickup (should be no more than 2000$). These spots can be reached from the road leaving Santa Maria on the way to the airport. After about 11 km you will see a sign on the left pointing to Calheta Funda. This dirt road will take you to the small sanded beach at the southern end of Baia da Murdeira, with Monte Leão dominating the background. This is not a beginners spot, and requires some skill when big. The waves can reach three metres and are fairly fast. This break only works when the swell is 1.2m or more. Swell has to be generally from the NW. There is a small launch area to the right of the beach, where there is an opening in the reef. There is a channel here through the waves with a fair amount of suck that accelerates you out. You need to land in the same spot. There are two waves here. The right-hand wave is easier to ride as you can use the channel to exit the wave after two or three bottom turns. However, the left-hand wave will give you by far the better ride with the possibility of a two/three hundred metre, and more, ride with some good aerials. Choose the largest set as these will peak further out, and be ready to exit off the back once you’ve finished your ride. The whole shoreline is rocky and reefy and not a place you want to get washed. Highly recommended spot with great waves.
Beach direction: NW Best wind direction: The NE trade wind blows right cross shore to cross-offshore. Worst wind direction: All others. What’s on the bottom: Sand, rocks and reef. Any hazards: Reef, reef and reef! Again, don’t take cameras, money, etc, unless you have someone on the beach to look after the stuff. Don’t pay for the pickup until you’ve returned, otherwise they may not come back to collect you. Other water users: None. These spots rarely get busy. Suitability/levels: Intermediate plus although it can be a demanding wave location because you don’t want to get washed into the reefy shore. Wipeout factor: Quite big because of that reefy shoreline. If you don’t get off the wave in time you’ll end up in the next bay with a walk back and scuffed kit. However there is a bit of a suck back that can hold you off and give you those few precious extra seconds to recover the rig and head back out. No rescue cover.
For the point break at Rife, head left at Canoa along the dirt road for about half a kilometre over the point until you come to two bays. Drive to either bay to launch, depending on wind direction. Launch from the sandy beach and sail out of the small bay for the waves. An excellent spot to sail.
Beach direction: W, small bay. Best wind direction: The NE trade wind blows right cross shore to cross-offshore. Worst wind direction: All others. What’s on the bottom: Sand, rocks and reef. Any hazards: Lookout for that shallow reef as you sail out from the bay. Other water users: None. Again, these spots rarely gets busy. Suitability/levels: Intermediate plus. Wipeout factor: Lots of reefy coastline about and a bit of a rip, but once back in the bay it’s not too serious. No rescue cover.
If you fancy some pioneering type sailing there are certainly a few other spots, secret and otherwise, on the island. One secret spot is said to be larger than Punta Preta. It was certainly as big as PP the day we looked at it, but you will have to investigate these for yourself.
- Water State
The great thing about CV is that it offers waves and super-flat conditions to suit all levels of sailor and on occasion, at the same time.
West coast wave spots like Ponta Preta work best with a NW swell but westerly swell also works. A minimum of 1.5m is needed (1.5/2m at Ponta Preta). The swell is generated from Atlantic lows and hurricanes that hit America. Best time of year for this swell is mid-Jan to March.
Swell on the east coast is, in general, wind generated but wraps to create some nice waves at Ponta Leme Velho, Salinas and in the bay of Santa Maria. However any storm driven swell from the south can also produce some waves.
The Santa Maria bay can be described as flat to choppy to big chop depending on the swell and wind direction. At the eastern end, it can be super flat near the shoreline in N to NE winds but if there is too much easterly, it can get pretty choppy right across the whole bay.
- Instruction And Kit Hire
There is definitely no shortage of instruction and kit hire in Santa Maria. If staying for long periods it is possible to work a deal for either kit storage or kit hire. Try one of these centres.
Located conveniently on the beach east of the town in front of the Leme Bedje. Rent North rigs and Fanatic boards. Normal rental: one week’s hire €200, two weeks €310, kit insurance €35, storage for one board, two rigs €59 one week (includes safety cover and full use of facilities). Provide instruction: 3hr beginner lesson incl. board €60.
Located west end of town offering tuition for beginners, intermediate and advanced plus private lessons. Hires Mistral boards and North sails. One week’s hire €180, two weeks €300, storage for one board, two rigs and safety cover €50 one week. Comprehensive tuition packages.
Located east of town just back from beach. Check this out for heaps of links for everything Cape Verde, hire and accommodation etc. Rents Ezzy sails and Angulo boards, such as the Amigu, Chango and Sumo. One week’s hire €195, two weeks €330, kit insurance €30. Kit can be taken away from the centre to other sailing locations. Instruction available. Kit storage possible.
Located east of town next to Angulo Centre. Rents JP boards and Neil Pryde rigs. One week’s hire €185, two weeks €295, kit insurance €28, board storage €46 per week. Kit can be taken away from centre. Provide tuition.
There is little in the way of windsurfing kit shops. However, Josh Angulo’s surf clothing store offers a few of the basics like Neil Pryde booms, Ezzy sails and masts and fins, etc. Josh will also offer you the chance to demo some of his boards from his centre if you’re interested in buying. The other centres, like Planet Windsurf, also occasionally have some of the latest new boards, sails and masts for sale, so it’s worth asking around. There are a few other surf shops in town that sell some of the smaller accessories like harness lines and board repair kits.
In our view the best place to stay is at the eastern side of town (Zona Tanquinho), putting you close to the beach there, and the better sailing conditions. We stayed in an apartment on the main beach road with a view to the sea. That made it relatively expensive, but apartments are also available further back starting at €250 per week (from about €350 per month if staying for longer periods. Gas, electricity and water is extra on long lets, so budget an extra €50 a month). We arranged our accommodation through Kim Lark,owner of Aqui Sal, who is the only English letting agent in Sal.
www.capeverdeportal.com - for self-catering rental apartments.
Leme Bedje , at the eastern end of town. Complex of apartments directly opposite the main windsurfing beach. 48 apartments with small cooking corner. Single bed from €56, double €76 breakfast included. Restaurant. Rua 15 de Agosta; Tel: (00238) 421146; fax: (00238) 421684; email: firstname.lastname@example.org ; www.lemebedje.com
Aparthotel Santa Maria Beach at eastern end of town. 21 rooms, bath, balcony and sea view. Single room €34, double €48. Nice aparthotel in good position on beach road. Tel: (00238) 421450; fax: (00238) 421478; Email: email@example.com
Sab Sab Hotel (Albatross) eastern end of town behind Angulo centre. Fifty rooms all with view of beach. Single room from €56, double €69. Tel: (00238) 421301; fax: (00238) 421161; Email:firstname.lastname@example.org
Odjo d’Água Just east of the pier. Live it up at around €80 per night for some classy beach apartments. Tel: (00238) 421400 fax: (00238) 421415; email: email@example.com
Note: There are a lot of new apartment blocks currently being built in the town and east of town. Make sure that you find out where an apartment is in relation to the work – or you could be in for a noisy one.
There are a large variety of restaurants in Santa Maria catering for most tastes from top restaurants like Odjo d’Áqua, to some great, local back-street ‘barbecue’ restaurants. Seafood dominates the restaurant menus with much of it caught fresh that day. You have to love fish to enjoy the food here. Yellow fin tuna, serra (wahoo) and smaller fish like garopa (reef fish) are the main catch. Good steak and other meat, such as chicken, are hard to find. The lagosta (cray), either grilled or in one of the many other ways it comes (seafood risotto), is worth trying if only once, although costs from 1200$ to 2500$.
The local food offers a variety of exotic dishes strongly influenced by African and Creole cooking. One of the local dishes is cachupa rica - a stew of hominy corn, beans and meat. Cachupa guisadabeing the best, which is just the beans fried with either tuna or fried egg on top.
Try the pinchos 150$ (fish or pork stick kebabs) and frango 150$ (chicken) that are cooked on a barbeque out front of the restaurant, where you can take a table. If concerned about becoming ill eating at some of the more ‘local’ restaurants it is worth considering that you may well get ill eating a lukewarm buffet at a good hotel, as opposed to well-cooked ‘street’ food.
Eating out you need to bear in mind that service Cape Verdian style is very chilled, and can take an hour or so.
Where to eat
Americo’s: Popular place with good seafood, and one of the few places with decent steak, although it is one the pricier restaurants. On the main street by the Calema bar. Slow service. Accepts visa.
Cretcheu: Recommended for their very good pizzas, pasta and starters. Well priced at around 800$. Close to the pier by Morabeza. Good service. Accepts visa.
Hibisco’s: Sumos and sushi bar. Good sushi and freshly made juices. Also own-made filet mignonburgers and chicken pie. Reasonably priced (juices 250$, sushi around 250$ portion). Located behind the cinema at the west end town.
Nha Ihla: Local, great little restaurant. Good place to fill up cheaply. Try the Cachupa guisada,carbonara and many fish dishes. Good service.
Tam Tam’s: Irish run cafe-style bar. Go for breakfast or just take a coffee. Well priced – goodhamburguer completo (egg, bacon, etc). Good service. Find on Rua Amilcar Cabral.
Kreoul: Try the lagosta either grilled or seafood style. Best chicken and chips (600$). Good menu. Reasonably priced. East of town by the stadium. Good service. Leonardo’s: Italian restaurant. Sit either upstairs on the balcony or in the courtyard. Try either one of the excellent fish dishes, roast pork loin, pizza or the Parma ham as an antipasto. More expensively priced. Good service. Find near the Angulo shop down a small road off the Caixa bank.
Nocturna: Great, well price food. Fish, seafood, chicken. Small but popular restaurant – the owners are very accommodating and will fit you in if busy. Good service.
Odjo d’Áqua: In need of a treat then check this place out. The restaurant is behind the hotel, set right at the waters edge, and is open to non-hotel guests. The food is excellent, but get there early (7/7:30) to get a table as it does get busy. Also go for breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, toast, and many other courses. Quite pricey, but not seriously so. Find behind the municipal market. Accept visa.
Sab Sab bar and Leme Bedje are both good places for a spot of mid-day ‘power eating’. Pizza, tuna paninis, etc. Just off the beach east of town.
The diet here is mainly protein and carbo based. Don’t expect to find too many vegetables. Most meals are accompanied with rice and chips. The best place to go if you are in need of some good quality green stuff (plus cheeses, salami, etc) is Americo’s, who run a deli under their restaurant. It’s expensive though.
There are plenty of bars at which to drink coffee. Coffee in CV is very good, due to the Italian influence, and most bars have big espresso machines.
Cost of living
Self-catering is limited due to the availability of food stuffs, and because what little is available is imported it’s quite expensive. It is generally cheaper to eat at some of the ‘local’ restaurants; otherwise you could be cooking tuna pasta every night. Most apartments come with hob but no oven. Bread, grogue, bananas and papaya (from street vendors) are some of the few cheap food items available. Food can be bought at mini mercados. Don’t expect much though.
Go to the pier (if just for the experience) where you can buy freshly caught fish straight from the boats. The fish is cheap and you can get them to clean it for you. Don’t expect to be able to buy any of the yellow fin though as most of it goes straight to the restaurants.
Two people can eat at a restaurant for a little as 1200$. Coffee 150$.
Other general costs: Bottled water costs 300$ 5L; French stick 30$; pack Pringles 450$; wine 800$.
Santa Maria isn’t a party town. However, there are still plenty of bars in which there is a sociable scene. If you stay east of the town start with a sun downer at the Leme Bedje happy hour where they serve ‘two for the price of one’ drinks (starts at 5:30pm) and/or the nicely placed Sab Sabbar next to the Angulo centre, which runs until 7:00pm (both 70m from the sea). Try a caipiriña, which is fresh lime juice, sugar, and grogue. Costs around 250$. The main beer is Sagres, either bottled or on tap. Bottled $150 at most bars and restaurants. The Sab Sab show windsurfing videos, and also hold movie nights.
Heading into town for a meal? On route try the local grogue. Grogue is distilled from sugarcane and can be a little rough on its own. Ponche is (literally a punch), made by adding honey and fruit, and much more drinkable. An evening wouldn’t be right without a stop at one of the small grogue shops around town and back streets of Santa Maria. It’s a chance to meet some of the local people, who we always found to be friendly. A shot of ponche costs around 50$.
If you have energy left try Tam Tam’s, Calema’s, the Chill Out bar, or one of the many other bars around town, where you can usually drink until midnight. Looking to offer yourself up as a wind sacrifice then Pirata’s (bar discoteca) kicks off after midnight .
- Bored Of Windsurfing
Ponta Preta: This wave has three sections and breaks vary in size. There are left and right handers and Apex frames. Ponta Preta is one of the best right handers in the world that breaks for 150 to 300m, wrapping into the bay, and starts working at 1.5m-2m/5ft-6ft and holds up to 4m+/12ft+. The best swell is from N-NW, whilst swell from the west produces faster waves. This wave is for the pros and the kamikaze with any mistakes resulting in serious pounding and visit to the rocky shore.
Ponton: Located between the pier and hotel Odjo d’Áqua. Has great small wave perfect for beginners to the right and a larger left hand 3/4 ft wave to the left. No current. Ideal for beginners, especially at high tide, the waves remain nice even when the rest of the bay is windy.
Other spots: Sal’s west coast has a succession of world class lefts and right surf spots on offer to the advanced surfer, many of which require a 4WD to get to. The secret spots you’ll have to work out for yourself, but start at Mont Leon, Ali Baba and Murdeira…
Ponta Preta surf watch: When Ponta Preta is working the word will go out – either take a taxi, or walk, but go watch Josh Angulo windsurfing, or surfing, and other local surfers ripping in some awesome surf.
Car hire: Rag a 4WD around the island, see the salt pans and take a bath in the concentrated saltwater atPedra de Lume, Buracona natural swimming pool and nearby the blue eye, an underground pool. It also worth checking out the other windsurf/surf spots around the island. It’s a great drive. This is the only country in which I’ve hired a car where off roading is actively condoned. There are few main roads to take you around Sal, and the only way to reach most surf spots, and tourist sites is via dirt tracks. However, half a day of bumping over corrugated surfaces soon sees off the initial excitement of off roading. Car hire from €45 to €65 per day, with an excess of €1000. Traffic drives on the right-hand side and an International Driving Licence is required.
There is a choice of rental through:
HERTZ RentaCar : Located at the Hotel Crioula. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Tel: 00 238 421661. Daihatsu Terios 4WD for €62 per day.
ALUCAR : Email: email@example.com Tel: 421187 book through places like Sab Sab hotel.
Quad biking: Take a guided tour and see the spots. Can be arranged through most hotels. 1 person €40, 2 person €60 for a 2 ½ hour trip.
Rent a scooter: €15 2hr, €25 4hr, €35 9hr.
Kite surfing: Sal is becoming a popular location for kiting with exclusive spots like “kite beach” there is, as yet, little conflict between the sports. There are a number of places offering kite hire and lessons.
Deep sea fishing and boat trips: Grouper and yellow fin tuna are plentiful inshore off Sal and Boa Vista and further out marlin, wahoo, barracuda and tiger shark can be caught in Cape Verde waters. Bookable through many hotels or wander down to the pier and book there for as little as €35 for three hour trip on a catamaran and if you’re lucky you’ll come across some dolphins.
Marine turtles: The turtle is the national symbol of Sal, and every year, from late May to September, more than 3,000 loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) come ashore on Cape Verde’s beaches, with Salinas on Sal being one of their last breeding grounds. The area is now protected from any further development within 300m of the beach. If you’re lucky enough to come across any remember that these species are endangered and under great pressure from tourism.
Diving: Diving in crystal-clear warm Cape Verde water reveals brilliantly coloured reef fish and there are three wrecks off Santa Maria at 10m to explore.
Take a trip to one of the other islands: TACV – Cabo Verde Airlines is the main domestic carrier. There’s a network of expensive daily internal flights between the islands; Praia, Mindelo and Sal. Private charters are available from Cape Verde Express air-taxi service.
Barracuda Tours can organise many of the above activities for you including trips to other islands like Boa Vista.
Although the official language is Portuguese, Crioulo is the language most widely spoken, which is a blend of Portuguese and West African languages. With Crioulo not being a written language, and few phrase books available it can be confusing trying to learn the language and communicate. However, using Portuguese or Spanish seems to be enough. For a list of useful Crioula words and phrases check the back of the Bradt Guide to CV.
Apart from fishing, the islanders’ main source of food and income, music also plays a key role in Cape Verdeans’ life, with international artists like Cesaria Evora.
Few hotels and even less restaurants accept credit cards so it may be better to pay for accommodation in advance. You will need either Euros (€) or Cape Verdian Escudos ($/CVE) to pay. Car hire companies, and those providing excursions do accept credit cards, but for everything else you will need cash. You can change travellers’ cheques at one of the two banks in Santa Maria (Caixa and Banco Atlantico). There are also ATM’s at the western end town. Commission is approx 500$ and is charged based on the denomination i.e. if you have e.g. €200 and €100 cheques it will cost you 1000$, so try and get one denomination. Also, some branches apply some unfair charges, for example, you will charge again if the serial numbers on the cheques are not consecutive! Cape Verdian Escudos are only available in Cape Verde. If you bring Euros it is possible to change money at a friendly bar, which may give a better rate of exchange than spending euros in stores.
Banking and business hours: Banks 08:00-14:00 Monday to Friday; Shops 08:00-12:00 and 15:00-19:00 Monday to Saturday.
No vaccinations are required for entry to Cape Verde, however it is recommended that precautions be taken against cholera, typhoid fever, polio and Hepatitis B. Water is unsafe to drink without prior treatment. Medical facilities are limited and some medicines in short supply. Visitors receive free hospital treatment in general hospitals on presenting their passports, but health/travel insurance is strongly advised, with coverage for emergency repatriation.
Wherever there is a huge disparity between the wealthy and poor there is inevitably some crime and it is no different here in Cape Verde. The same rule applies: don’t leave valuables on display and bags on the beach. There had been a spate of crime while we were there with opportunistic individuals climbing in through open windows and making off with whatever they could. It is advisable while there to not sleep with windows open or leave doors open even though you might be in the apartment.
There are some secluded areas in and around Santa Maria and generally it’s pretty safe when out in the evening but like anywhere try not to wander around alone.
It is rare for windsurfing kit to be stolen in CV, as there is no way of getting it off the island, and anything that is stolen is quickly located and the individual is ‘black listed’.
Phones and Internet
If you use Vodaphone, Orange or O2 you will be able to use your mobile phone in Cape Verde. Internet is widely available in most hotels. Try the Cyber Café near Calema’s where you can use their machines or plug in your laptop. Connection is broadband, so there is no problem sending those great pictures of you sailing Ponta Preta to all your mates. About 300$ an hour to use a laptop.
Latest travel advice and vital information
UK Embassy ( Senegal ): 20 rue Dr Guillet, BP 6025, Dakar , Senegal ; tel:( 221) 823 7392. Consulate: António Canuto, Shell Cabo Verde, Avenida Amílcar Cabral, Mindelo, São Vicente, Cape Verde; Tel (238) 326625; fax (238) 326629.
Foreign & Commonwealth Office (London) - check this for latest travel information, embassies etc.
If you’re going for a short trip and taking your own equipment, we would recommend hiring a car for the whole trip. This will ensure that you don’t miss any wave sailing opportunities when the swell is working away from Santa Maria. If you are staying long term and car rental is prohibitive you can still get pickups to all the main breaks, but you won’t have the freedom to do that windsurfer thing of checking out all the breaks and choosing the best one. And if the conditions aren’t working, you might find yourself sitting on a beach with no swell and 1000$ the poorer!
Because there is often a short transfer time at Lisbon your kit may well not make it until the following evening. Make sure you have transfer tags on your luggage or else take what you need for one night in your hand luggage.
If you plan to get your visa on arrival at Sal don’t wait in the line along with everyone else to be told twenty minutes later you need to go somewhere else for your visa – head straight to the visa office at the front, through the little door just to the left of the main queue.
SHARKS! Yes, they’re out there somewhere! But we heard very little mention of them while we were there, so I don’t think it’s a major concern.
- Electric Power is 220V running at 50Hz. The Plug type used is the round pin attachment plug.
- Don’t drink the local water… drink only bottled water.
- Take a phrase book as most menus are in Portuguese .
Much as we loved Cape Town, we went to Sal in search of a less hectically windy and less crowded venue, where we wouldn’t be changing location, because it had become blown out, and changing down sail size every two hours! Sam wanted some wave riding without being stupidly overpowered all the time. In terms of wind Sal definitely fulfilled this desire, there was rarely a day in Jan or Feb when we weren’t planing on the same sail all day. And crowded? Not really. There might have been about 40 sailors out at its busiest (Leme Bedje beach) but as the sailing is so spread out across the sailing areas you certainly were never fighting for somewhere to even gybe like at Big Bay, in CT. Sal has been one of the most chilled places I’ve sailed for its lack of crowds. But in terms of waves, we would have liked some more wave action.
In reality, although the waves we had were great the NW swell only worked a couple of times in the time we were there and often when the swell was working the wind was a little light. That said, we had to leave early Feb and a long period of swell kicked in for about two weeks after. So that was just our bad luck. If we’d stayed to the end of Feb we would have felt differently. As it was we left with the feeling that we’d not quite had enough time in the waves. We’d certainly give it another shot but perhaps for a shorter trip and on the strength of a good forecast, in or around February, which definitely seems the best month for swell. But overall Sal has proved itself to be ideal for the wave hungry with some quality waves, as well as offering perfect blasting conditions from the beginner through to advanced. Other islands such as Boa Vista also boast excellent conditions for both wave riding and blasting, which certainly will be the subject of future visits.
Josie: I thought that the one beach that we stayed at [Leme Bedje] was great for all levels and was flat, although a little gusty for beginners. A little apprehensive about the fact it is virtually dead offshore and the first few days was worried about whether anyone would rescue me if need be. Once I got used to it, it was great. Paul: From my point of view Sal was a great place to go somewhere a bit different, but still suitable for all levels. Especially liked being able to sail around with Josie and then pop off to the point for a couple of waves. Was nice sailing at the ‘remote’ spots with no one else around but it was so remote you do need to leave someone on the shore! Will definitely return, and I see it as one of those must go places, especially before it becomes overdeveloped.
Your long stay tourists were… Stew and Sam of the Aqua Sports Company in Surrey.
Local beach in UK: Shoreham, Hayling.
Time sailing: 14 years and 11 years.
Last move cracked: back loop for Stewie, and monkey gybe for Sam.
What we’re working on: everything for Stewie, and back loops for Sam.
Your two-week tourists were… Josie Gibson andPaul Gliddon, who currently live in Southampton.
Local beach in UK: Hill Head, Lepe, Boscombe.
Time sailing: 13 years for Paul, and 1 year for Josie.
Last move cracked: spock for Paul, and waterstart and gybe for Josie.
What we’re working on: everything for Paul, and forward loop for Josie!
Article written by Stew. Photos and movies were taken by Josie Gibson and Stew.