Things to see and do in Sal Island (West Africa)
Sal Island of Cape Verde is small. It is 35 km long (which is as far as my working route from Rotterdam to the Hague) with 12 km wide. In principal, you can drive around the entire island in less than a day. Dutchie and I rented a car for a day and visited the touristy places, and we had the mission accomplished in half day 😀 (ended in Kite Beach).
Our starting point was Santa Maria, a small town in the southern part of the island. The town has beautiful white sandy beach with numerous dive centers, hotels, restaurants and shops. Majority hotels or resorts are situated in or nearby Santa Maria thus most touristy activities are located in this town. But Sal offers unique places to explore and excellent water activities to do, wouldn’t it better to check them out once we are there 😉
“Pedra de Lume”
swimming in the salty pond inside of a (volcanic) crater
Pedra de Lume is an area where salt evaporation ponds located, and they are actually inside a crater. The volcano is no longer active though, not much suspense when visiting the area. For five euro, you can swim in the salt pond. You will float as you swim in one of saltiest body of waters in the world. Perhaps this reminds you of the Dead Sea.
“Baia da Parda”
to see the Lemon sharks
This is the place where visitors can see the lemon sharks without snorkeling or scuba diving. The sharks are swimming nearby the coast and their dorsal fins exposed above the surface. The bay is nurseries area for the lemon shark pups where they stay safely from other big fish that can eat the pups.
The sharks were far from the beach area and we had to walk through the corals and stones to get closer to see the sharks. We saw three fins sticking up through the water, at least three sharks were there and maybe several unseen pups swam underwater. While it was exciting to see the dorsal fin of the sharks for some people, but I did not enjoy the sight. I felt guilty to the corals and possible small marine species that could be accidentally stepped on.
“Mirador in Espargos”
to see the aerial of Sal Island
Esparagos is the capital city of Sal Island. Esperagos means asparagus, the vegetable. It appears the asparagus grows rapidly there. It is a very small city, in fact, I don’t feel it is a city 😀 This place is perfect to see the island’s aerial. As you can see, the whole island looks like dessert island. Rains are very rare in Sal Island, maybe only two or five times annually.
After having lunch in Espargos, we drove to the Mirador, a telecommunication tower in the middle of the city. The tower was guarded by military officers, and we were the only visitors. There was a souvenirs stall with a friendly salesman who was extremely happy to see us. He offered everything with half prices. ‘Half’ price as he claimed of course, but then I already fell on his friendliness and not pushy attitude.
to swim or to dive
I wrote about my scuba diving experience in Buracona – Buracona Cave Diving: Underwater Light Shows. Buracona is an area of lava rocks coast with beautiful ocean view. There is a hole in the middle of the coast and as the sun hits the water inside the hole, it will show the ‘Blue Eye’ reflection. The area has a natural swimming pond – it’s bit greenish but certainly a nice pool to cool down after hot days.
Lucky us, the place was empty! Dutchie had the luxury to jumped into the natural swimming pool without other tourists around 🙂
to see, get inspired, learn and do Kitesurfing
Have you seen kitesurfers in action? They can “fly” high! This beach is popular for kitesurfing due to its strong winds. Many Europeans come to Sal Island especially for kitesurfing holiday. Well known kitesurfers, Airton Cozzolino and Matchu Almeida Lopes are actually coming from Sal Island. I bet they have been practicing many times in Kite Beach.
Kitesurfing requires training. It needs physical strength and it is a serious water sport. At least we need one week to get familiar with it. A training for a beginner in Sal Island requires a minimum of 8 hours. The kitesurfing season is at the peak in October to March. We were there during the low season thus we did not see many surfers, but the beach was truly beautiful and the wind, boy oh boy, it was strong (even stronger during the peak season).
Here is a movie of kitesurfing at Kite Beach in Sal Island to inspire you (if you click the link of Airton and Matchu, you will see a short documentary of their life in Sal and their strapless kiteboard styles). I can watch the kitesurfing, again and again, those kitesurfers are super cool!
If you are not sure about the kitesurfing, do try the windsurfing. It is easier and also available in Santa Maria beach.
Last place with recommendation to visit is “Murdeira Bay”. This bay is known as the best snorkeling spot in Cape Verde. We did not visit this place so I could not really say much about the quality of its snorkeling. However we have been diving in a dive site nearby to Murdeira and it was awesome.
In short, Sal Island offers excellent water activities for active beach goers, from snorkeling to superb kitesurfing area. For those who just want to relax, the white sandy beach of Sal Island is always there to enjoy. “No Stress” is the motto of the Island that suits to the character of Cape Verdeans: easy going and relax. The food and the local wines are dangerously delicious. And 90% chance that you will have your holiday free from rainy days 🙂