Cape Verde’s history dates back to the mid-fifteenth century, when Portuguese seafarers pioneered the area as a base for West African slave trade. Today, such influences are still evident through the cuisine, colonial architecture and infectious Morna (music), redolent of days past. Its 24-7 laidback vibe has become increasingly agreeable to the discerning visitor, with cruise ships now getting in on the act.
Miniscule by comparison to the hulking mainland 500km away, Cape Verde juxtaposes greatly to the flora, fauna and vineyards of its African counterpart. What this cluster of arid islands lack somewhat in lush greenery though, they more than make up for with exploratory routes rife with adventure. For a start, Cape Verde is mountainous and volcanic in origin, so it is advisable to pack appropriate footwear. Those of a more audacious ilk may wish to try wreck-diving, lava tubing, canyoning, windsurfing, jetskiing and other water sports which are all readily available. On a more leisurely note, the islands all offer fabulous opportunities for the budding angler whilst 187 species of avian life go about their business up above.
Beaches are stocked to your satisfaction throughout the islands. The likes of Boa Vista, Sal and Maio’s golden offerings and desert-like dunes are something to write home about, while São Nicolau is home to more unconventional obsidian-sanded strips – all ideal spots for creating your own enviable postcards.
The capital Praia, located on the nation’s largest island Santiago, is Cape Verde’s economic and commercial hub. It is also considered the most authentically ‘African’ of the archipelago – a beehive of activity with a buzzing African market, UNESCO-listed Old Town and lively music scene. Away from the crowds, Santiago’s landscape is tailor-made for trekking trails, even sporting some photogenic foliage en-route.
Further north on the island of São Vicente, there is more of a contemporary urgency to Mindelo, be it through the thriving art scene, watersports on offer or the pulsating nightlife, where a convivial revelry always abounds. The island also hosts several festivals, including a Creole Festival (February) and Full Moon Festival at Baía das Gatas (August). In town, peruse the local handicrafts, music, books or bustling fish market for the catch of the day.
Elsewhere, the coffee and wonderful wines of Fogo make a wonderful souvenir. Why not ascend this still-active terrain of Pico to the loftiest point of the island (and Cape Verde for that matter)? Alternatively, splash about in the dormant caldera of one in easterly Sal, in a detoxifying salt crater no less!
When it comes to cuisine, Cape Verde does not disappoint. Sample the briny delicacies of tuna and lobster, or the national staple Cachupa (a dish consisting of corn, sweet potato, cassava, beans and meat), washed down with a couple of Grogues (rum).
On a Cape Verde cruise, you’ll experience the best of both African and European-inspired worlds.