Main Page     All Journeys    Travel Tips

Cabo Verde    INFO & DIARY  1

Photos  Map&Plan 
Diary 1  2  3  4
  5  6  7

 GENERAL INFO (Jump to Diary)
The Republic of Cabo Verde or Cape Verde is found in the central Atlantic Ocean, 570 kilometres off the coast, west of the African mainland. The country is named after the Cap-Vert peninsula; 'green cape', on the Senegalese coast.
The islands of Sal, Boa Vista and Maio are flat, dry and sandy deserts, but with great beaches. Santo Antáo, Sáo Vicente, Sáo Nicolau, Brava and Santiago, are rockier and have much more vegetation. Fogo quite the same, only with an active volcano. The total land area is around 4,033 square kilometres, the population is around 500.000, and they speak mainly Cape Verdean Creole, while the official languish is Portuguese. The vast majority of Cape Verdeans are Christian, far the most Catholic.
The Cape Verde islands were uninhabited until 1456, when discovered by the Portuguese, who claimed the islands as their first west African settlement in 1460. In the 1540s, the islands were then populated one by one, and Cape Verde were declared a Portuguese colony. Positioned between Africa, Europe, and the New World, the islands became centre for the slave trade, and later a shipping port.
In 1772 and 1902, a series of droughts hits Cape Verde islands, leading to significant emigration and death.
1956 is the starting point for Cape Verde independence through PAIGC, which leads to war against Portugal.
In 1974 the Portuguese regime falls and Cape Verde independence is declared in 1975.

Cape Verde's climate is milder than that of the African mainland, because the surrounding sea moderates temperatures on the islands, and cold Atlantic currents produce an arid atmosphere around the archipelago.

Animals: Cape Verde's isolation has resulted in the islands having several endemic species, particularly among the 150 species of birds and 22 species of reptiles, many of which are endangered by human development.
Endemic birds include Alexander's swift; Apus alexandri, Bourne's heron; Ardea purpurea bournei, the Raso lark; Alauda razae, the Cape Verde warbler; Acrocephalus brevipennis, and the Iago sparrow; Passer iagoensis. The islands are also an important breeding area for seabirds including the Cape Verde shearwater; Calonectris edwardsii.
Reptiles include the Cape Verde giant gecko; Tarentola gigas, Sao Nicolau Leaf-toed Gecko; Hemidactylus nicolauensis (above) and Sao Nicolau Wall Gecko; Tarentola nicolauensis along with quite some other geckos and skinks like Sao Nicolau Skink; Chioninia nicolauensis.

The Flora of Cape Verde includes about 664 species of plants. Vegetation on the islands is basically of the savannah or steppe type. There are trees, typical of both temperate and tropical climates, depending on elevation. The flatter parts of the islands sustain semi-desert plants, while the higher lands have arid scrubland. The leeward slopes tend to contain desert, with a very sparse shrub cover, mostly thorny or toxic.
Over 80 vascular plant taxa are reported to be endemic to Cape Verde; these include Tornabenea, Aeonium gorgoneum, bellflower; Campanula bravensis, Asteriscus smithii, sagebrush; Artemisia gorgonum, Sideroxylon marginatum, Lotus jacobaeus, Lavandula rotundifolia, Cynanchum daltonii, Euphorbia tuckeyana, Polycarpaea gayi and Erysimum caboverdeanum. Several trees are indigenous such as the blue-green flat-topped dragon tree; Dracaena caboverdeana, and Tamarix senegalensis and tamateira palm; Phoenix atlantica.

For once, I'll just intend to enjoy the views, and can't be really be bothered with names. That said, I am looking forward to see the awesome Cape Verde Dragon Tree; Dracaena caboverdeana (above). To me, it seems to be way more D. cinnabari-like in its appearance than Dracaena draco, although with a significantly shorter stem. It differs from the type species from the Canary islands by very showy bluish-green leaves and a more compact habit with a much shorter trunk, larger top, wider leaves and greater fruits and seeds. Especially Sáo Nicolau has its share of them, in areas above 500 meters to 900 metres on north-facing slopes. Other caudiciforms which I would like photos of are Atriplex halimus (above) and Ficus thonningii.

Santiago is the largest islands of Cape Verde, it is the most important agricultural centre and home to half the nation's population. It covers 990 square kilometres, measuring 55 times 29 kilometres, but the terrain makes it feel significantly bigger. It is part of the Leeward Islands, found in the south. In 1460, António de Noli became the first to visit the island, and he settled here in 1462.
The tallest summit is Pico de Antónia, elevation 1,392 metres, in the centre of the island. Santiago has the most diverse flora and fauna of all Cape Verde islands: It has 1,915 identified land species, of which 289 are endemic. It is also the most forested island of Cape Verde: 38% of its area is forest. The only protected areas of the island are the Natural Parks of Serra do Pico de Antónia and Serra Malagueta, covering only 3.68% of the island.

Sao Nicolau is one of the least visited islands of the Cape Verde Islands. It was discovered by the Portuguese in 1461, along with the surrounding islands of Sao Vicente and Santo Antao. The island is named after Saint Nicholas. It is part of the Windward Islands, found in the north. There are approximately 13,000 inhabitants. The life on Sao Nicolau is in general a relatively simple farmer's life. The mountainous island has fertile soil in the west, while the lower areas in the east are very dry. At the foot of the mountain range, sugar cane and coffee plantations are found along with many bananas, oranges, papayas and beans. Here are 46 endemic plant species

The rocky island is about 45 by 20 kilometres in size, covering 343 square kilometres, with the highest point at an altitude of over 1,312 meters; Monte Gordo. On its slopes, national park Monte Gordo is found, covering 950 hectares. The nature reserve includes forests, rivers and a rich flora and fauna. The very rich biodiversity is unique in the Cape Verde island. It is dry in the north and northeast of the park. And in the south and southeast of the Monte Gordo park, there are more humid areas, partly caused by the fog and rising rain clouds. No less than 32 endemic plant species grow in the park, the majority are endangered. The main town is old Ribeira Brava with about 8,000 inhabitants, found inland for protection against pirates.

20/1 2024: Day 0.
I fly to the island of Santiago via Lisbon, where I had a great and active 12 hour stop-over. I then have to wait one day on Santiago for my connecting flight to Sao Nicolau, and I skipped the car for this short stay. I planned just to relax, while I explore the capital and vicinity by foot.

My entire luggage is reduced to 2,2 kg, including thermo-mug, flip-flops and the 11" computer. The remaining 580 grams can easily fit into the pockets of my pants. Real nice, considering the many flights, walking-day in Lisbon and different hotels. One zip-bag with the GPS and equipment for the car, electronics and toilettes, Another for the clean cloths. With the boots, pans and down-jacket I'm wearing, I can live for months in climates from 0 to 50oC - till I'm out of toothpaste. Well, I do need food and a bed.

Day 1. I arrival just after midnight from Lisbon, and my private driver; Tomas is waiting to bring me to the apartment. I could have walked, but it is nice go get the right place the first time, passed midnight  and I done my walking in Lisbon. He get me sorted out with key, water and wi-fi.

I still have some work to do on my Lisbon photos - but that will be after a good night's sleep. Further more, I will have two additional days here, without a car, which should be plenty of time to see the little capital.

Day 2. Despite the lack of recent sleep, I only get five hours, and quite disturbed, as I oddly enough freezes. Breakfast at the hotels restaurant, while the sun break through the mist. None of the young people understand the most simple English, and I don't understand them at all. Numerous roosters great the sun, but else,  the suborns are real calm. Well, till the dogs wake up. They spend half an hour, catching up on their news.

I'm ready for Cabo Verde at nine, and head into the centre of the capital: Praia. I am not in the rich part of town - if it have one at all. But people are so friendly and smiling, and I feel welcome. I cross the river: Ribeira da Trindade, which is dry by now, and I continues up to the natural fortress, on which the old town is build.

As no surprise, the city market, the bus-stop market and the Sucupira market is 95% closed on a Sunday like this. I find a bank with an ATM, everything works, except giving me the roughly €200. Time will show, if they actually withdraw them (they did: Three times actually).

I do a few loops in the old centre, and find the huge Sunday market at Avenida Machado Santos. Here are endless stalls with second-hand clothing, some with toys, tools and whatever. I do it all, but except from a small tourist souvenir and an odd tasting coffee, I buy nothing.

The coffee is found at one of the stalls, and it taste a bit like ginger and something else. It is hot, but have no hints of coffee, as I know it. One of the few open shops is a supermarcando, an I get müsley and tea for the next days, along with a bun for now.

I chat with a few, but the general lack of common languish does not help. They are not keen on photos, but else real smiling and cheerful. After I have seen it all, I head out the southern beach road. Well, it is hard to access the beach for new building sites, but I succeed a few times. Some are rocks, some nice sand. Here are numerous pointy snail encasings in some parts. In one beach, a large crowd is gathered. It turns out to be a Catholic service preformed here, with benches and all.

While I'm out here, I check the location of Hertz car rental and my next apartment on Santiago. It is found in the more fancy part of the old town, and I have a deep-fried something with loads of cheese and a few vegetables on the central square: A green park. They serve Malta, which is among my absolute favourites, and I just sit and enjoy life some time - mainly because my meal apparently take forever to fry.

Then back across the river and up through a real poor neighbourhood. However, people are greeting me nicely, and help me navigate the maze. Back at base, I make a cup of tea and update diary, budget and the world in general.

But there are plenty of daylight left, and I try to find a northern beach. It is a long stroll around the huge commercial harbour. I do not see much wildlife in town: A few sparrows, some domesticated doves and a single small falcon. However, it is through an industrial area, mainly with marble cutting.

Some companies have rather fancy buildings, but all roads in the area are copplestone - if sealed. Quite some lots are left to the nature, and I meet a single young bull on the road. Here are a few birds, which look like larks - or sparrows, and a single metallic blue and black Grey-headed Kingfisher; Halcyon leucocephala.

The road leave the industrial area, and cross down in a ravine. On the other side, a single farmer have some vegetable fields, all artificial watered and real well weeded. I reach Porthino Beach, which is small but real beautiful. They tell me the sea is rich, but I only find a few live sea urchins.

I have a long chat with two off-duty police officers, who are here with two friends and their kids. Besides from them, the lovely golden beach is vacant. Two colourful wooden dinghies lay on the lava rocks, and that is all the human activities on this pristine beach. I make way too many photos of these 100 meters of beach, before I head home.

Considered this was supposed to be kind of a resting day, I have walked for eight hours, and seen quite some of the capital. I sincerely hope the markets will be open, when I return next week.

As there are no other restaurants around, I eat at the hotel - and once again, I get some real delicious vegetarian meal. Don't ask me what it was made of or how. I work till ten, and call it a day. Day 1 HIGHLIGHTS.

Day 2. I did get to catch-up on sleep for once, thanks to the blanket my host supplied. Breakfast at the room, as it is too early for the restaurant. Then my private driver pick me up, and deliver me to the airport for the 10 o'clock flight to Sau Nicolau. Just time enough for a coffee and a delicious and huge chocolate sponge cake in the domestic "wing", or actually; gate.

It is a short and nice flight to SAO NICOLAU, and I have my car within eight minutes after touch-down. That will be a record which I never try to brake! I set the GPS for my apartment, way across the island.

It is a real great drive: First through the arid coastal hills of the east, then up through the narrow cannons and into the fertile highlands. I pass a few cosy-looking villages and their farmed terraces on the slopes. Here are several Baobab trees, which seems to thrive.

I reach Tarrafal, its harbour and old town. I find my apartment right next to the copplestone square. Actually, all the streets in town are copplestone, it seems. There are none at the apartment, but the lady in the street-shop nearby, know where the owner live. Two houses up along the dry river. A cheerful Italian host upgrades med to a single bedroom, but better view apartment.

A short stroll to the nearby supermarket to stock food for the week, and back to enjoy a cup of tea. I shift the table to the balcony, and overlook the mountains, dry river and sea. Life could be worse. Then around the corner to withdraw money for the apartment and have a look around.

Back to pay rent, and my host is making his own kind of Limoncello, which I have to taste. Different lemons compared to Italians, but he add oranges, and it is awesome. And he make another one, with herbs - one of them being Hashish. It is a bit hard to get out of the door, as he wants to show me all the sights on the island on a map - and drink with me.

Finally, I make it, and start on a little tour south of town, towards a little beach; Baixo Rocha. I is on a long gravel road. It actually turns un-sealed within the town. It follows the lava coast on the most south-western part of the island. I only meet a few donkeys on this rough set of wheel tacks.

Here are real barren, and I think I soon get the ten plants documented. Small ravines leads to black lava boulders at the seaside, and way into the low mountains. I do several walks, one to a rocky little beach with so many remains of huge sea snails.

Then I reach the end of the road at Baixo Rocha. It is a white sand beach, with a strange sandy wall. The waves have piled the sand high up against the basalt wall. I do the the entire beach, but besides from the views, I only find the remains of a pufferfish. The clouds drift in, and I return home, with a few additional stops, just to make sure I haven't missed any plants.

I get to work a bit on the balcony, enjoying the view and sipping tea before dinner. Despite I'm only one street from the central square, here are so quiet. I only hear birds and remote human mumble. The sun returns, and it is lovely. Day 2 HIGHLIGHTS.
                                                          It is time to enter Diary 2.

Photos   Map & Plan   Diary 1  2  3  4  5  6  7