|Travel destinations: Cape Verde|
Monday, 12 November 2012 00:00Written by Frances Stanford
The Republic of Cape Verde is an archipelago of ten islands in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa. The islands were uninhabited until they were settled by the Portuguese in the 15th century and they remained a colony of Portugal until
they obtained their independence in 1975. The country has a stable government, but the economy is still in the developing stage. The climate is mild in comparison with that of the rest of the countries in Africa because of the close proximity of the islands to the ocean giving it moderate temperatures.
All of the islands are volcanic in nature, but only one of the volcanoes on the island of Fogo is active. There are extensive salt flats on the islands of Sal and Maio. Santiago is the largest island of Cape Verde and the city of Praia is the capital of the country. Sao Nicolau and Santo Antao feature large banana plantations and fields of sugar cane.
The relative isolation that Cape Verde has had in the past has given rise to many unique species of wildlife. This is the only place in the world where you will see such birds as Alexander's Swift, the Raso Lark and the Iago Sparrow. Due to increased development of the islands, though, many of the endemic species are now on the endangered list.
The culture of Cape Verde is very similar to that of Portugal. Soccer is the main sport and church activities are a very important part of the social life of the villages and towns. One of the traditions that are still alive and well is the walk around the town square to meet and chat with friends. Not all of the towns and villages have electricity, but in those that do there are two television stations.
The architecture of the islands is decidedly European, but the scenery is the bewitching one that is very similar to that of Africa. There are spectacular mountain ranges and deserted beaches and each of the eight inhabited islands exudes its own charm. On Santiago, the diving inlet of Boa Vista is home to some of the best scuba diving opportunities in the world, with numerous shipwrecks dating back hundreds of years lying on the ocean floor just off the coast.
When you visit Cape Verde, there are several must-sees that you should include on your itinerary. These include a visit to the salt mines of Sol, listening to the folk music of the island of Sao Vincente and dancing barefoot on the beach. This dancing is a unique feature of the local culture and if you watch the dancers you will surely be able to pick up a few new moves.
Cidable Village on the island of Santiago was the site of the first European settlement in the tropics and is a World Heritage Site. The ruins, which date back to the 1600's, are spectacular, but the dramatic view from the cliff tops is one that you will remember for the rest of your life. The view of the sunset from the beach of Sol is one of the most glorious sights in the world.
The number and types of accommodation in Cape Verde is ever increasing as the economy expands into tourism. The main islands have hotels of several international hotel chains and on Sal there are several beach resorts. You can also choose a beach hut on one of the smaller islands for your accommodation or you can stay in a family home to totally immerse yourself in the culture. During the peak tourist season it is important to make your reservations in advance.
There are roads throughout each of the islands, many of which are cobblestoned. Traffic drives to the right. You can rent a car for your needs, but there are taxis and buses that will take you where you want to go. If you want to hop between islands, you can do so by air or by ferry.