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The last few months have been full of many things and the winds of change blew again when in August I left behind the comforts of Portugal and started to think about moving to Cape Verde, and just like that is how I became for the first time in my life an island girl!
It has never been a problem for me to change myself from one place to another, because I love adventures and new experiences and I like to get to know new places in peace and by immersing myself in the local lifestyle. More than a year ago, I tore myself away from my home country Finland and everything familiar permanently and moved alone to Lisbon, the amazing capital city of Portugal, for a new job opportunity. This change brought a lot of new friendships, unforgettable experiences into my life that I will never forget, and this also made me grow a lot as a person. Life in Portugal also helped me rediscover the joy of life and travelling and the desire for adventure that Finland kind of suppressed in me.
When I finally traveled to the sunny island of Sal in Cape Verde for the first time in March of this year 2022 to meet my friend, I found myself enjoying the hustle and bustle of this distant island more than I could have imagined. After returning back to Lisbon, it didn’t take long when I found myself already booking another trip to Sal and in April I was once again lying on the beach sand of Santa Maria enjoying Caipirinhas. The atmosphere of the island got me so hooked that I finally threw all of my vacation days together and in June I moved to the island for a month to try if I could really enjoy the island life for a longer time and this time without my friend, who had already moved to work elsewhere because of her work as a tour guide. This month-long trip was full of many good and bad things, but in the end I decided to accept the challenge and seriously try moving to Cape Verde for a longer period of time, because something about this island life just attracted me again and again.
READ MORE ABOUT SAL ISLAND AND MY PREVIOUS EXPERIENCES:
LET THE NEW ISLAND LIFE BEGIN
In August, me moving to Cape Verde finally came up and I set foot permanently on the island of Sal after stepping off the plane, this time with not only a backpack but also two suitcases in which I could fit my entire life from both Finland and Portugal. To pick me up from the airport was my current beloved boyfriend and since that reunion we have been inseparable together.
My first apartment here was at the Misturod Aparthotel* near the center of Santa Maria, but still at a suitable distance, enjoying my own peace. The apartment was reasonably priced and included everything you may need, from air conditioning to free wifi and laundry service and a beautiful private terrace with a hammock. The apartment was just the right place to settle down to get started in a new country, and although there are other similar accommodation options in Sal, this was the most suitable for my needs at the moment. Find out more about all the amazing accommodations on Sal and check out Misturod here*.
HOME SWEET HOME
However, I really wanted some more privacy and peace of my own apartment (after all, I lived in Portugal in a shared apartment with eight other people for over a year), so together with my boyfriend, we finally found a wonderful home near the beach, where we are still enjoying the sea views from our roof terrace together with our little rescue puppy, Mini. When moving to Cape Verde, it is better to find an apartment on the spot and not, for example, online without seeing the apartment first, because the actual condition of the apartment is not always as on the pictures, and it is too easy to cheat remotely.
Life on the island of Sal is mostly peaceful and relaxed beach life day after day. Sal is the most touristic of Cape Verde’s islands, so there are restaurants for every need and more boutiques have also appeared since my first visit in March. Corona brought a lot of challenges to this island that lives on tourism, so it’s also great to see how the place has started to find its own shine again.
The price level of the restaurants varies depending on the restaurant, but in the high season from October to February the prices are slightly higher in several places. The supply of boutiques is expensive, because many products come from, for example, Europe, while in Chinese stores you can find anything and a little cheaper (almost all clothing stores in the Cape Verde islands are Chinese stores, including miscellaneous goods).
In addition to shopping and restaurants, I like to spend time at the beach, chilling with friends or our dog, occasionally visiting another city or having fun with some kind of activity. I work as a freelancer living the famous diginomad life (haha), so I am responsible for my own working hours and I have plenty of time for other things as well. In September, we also celebrated my birthday with a nice beach day, a light evening out and a traditional cake bash, because I really hoped to have a proper big cream cake dream in the Finnish style, and my wonderful boyfriend arranged this for my surprise.
SUMMER, FESTIVALS AND THE RAINY SEASON
Summertime in Cape Verde is usually hot, but fun, because each of the islands have for example their own big summer festivals, where you can even see some bigger names performing. We went to the two-day festival in Santa Maria to celebrate and see artists like Dynamo and Calema, among others, and it was interesting to participate in an island festival for the first time in my life. Locals say that the best festival is always found on the island of Sao Vicente, which is held every year in August. Maybe we will go there next year, in addition to our own home island of course.
Summer and autumn are also known to be quite rainy from time to time on the islands, and here in Sal too we got to enjoy rainy days with really heavy downpours, so that the streets were flooded and sometimes we waded knee-deep in water (at least I hope it was only water…). We took advantage of the joy and slipped into an empty hotel swimming pool to enjoy the rain, because why not?! We were already wet and for once the pools were empty! You can see more videos of these rainy days on my social media.
HAVE COURAGE TO LET LIFE LEAD THE WAY
A couple of years ago, I wouldn’t have believed my ears if someone had told me that in a few years I would move to Cape Verde and that I would soon be living on a small island on the coast of West Africa in the middle of amazing afro rhythms, enjoying the sun and the sea, working only on my laptop, watching street dogs running on the beach and horses swimming in the sea, not to mention beautiful sunsets, without the stress of schedules and rush. I really wouldn’t have believed this back then, but I would have said that bring it on sounds nice! And so here we are.
In Cape Verde, island hopping is relatively easy and I can warmly recommend it, if only the travel schedules allow for it. Each island in Cape Verde is different and offers something interesting to experience and see. My boyfriend and I went to the islands of Sao Vicente and Santo Antao in October, and I will tell you more about them here on the blog soon too. We will also visit other islands in the near future, so you should also follow my account on Instagram for more real-time updates: @tiinajohannaaa.
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<3: Tiina Johanna
*Photos: Tiina Johanna, blogger
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Ilha Do Sal and its cozy and relaxed beach atmosphere offers its best with wonderful turquoise clear ocean views, long sandy beaches and hot rhythms all year round. Ilha Do Sal is one of Cape Verde’s most popular holiday islands and most of the island’s tourism is almost invariably concentrated in the southern tip of the seaside town of Santa Maria.
Cape Verde islands are located about 600 kilometers off the coasts of West Africa and Senegal, and each of Cape Verde’s ten islands are different. The islands of Sal and Boa Vista are the most popular for tourists due to their stunning beaches and good holiday settings, but the other islands also offer very interesting things to see and do, from beautiful beaches to magnificent green mountain sceneries, adorable fishing villages and of course local culture, history and ordinary city life. It is popular to travel to the islands for various types of fun water sports, especially surfing and kite surfing. Cape Verde is also an easy destination for those who wish to do island hopping to explore more than just one island during the same trip.
ILHA DO SAL, A BEACH PARADISE FOR A RELAXING LIFESTYLE
As I mentioned already in the previous article, this time I’m going to dig a little more deeper into what Sal Island has to offer with its attractions, things to do and a little bit of the different places of the island. The general vibes and my first thoughts about the island of Sal can be read from the previous post and with this you can already get the best pieces in your back pocket for your own future trips to the fantastic Cape Verde islands.
Santa Maria is the place to be for travelers. Santa Maria’s colorful main street and surrounding areas offer restaurants, bars and cafés for all tastes, and the city’s small but feisty nightlife can also be found along this main street. Santa Maria’s beaches are long light sandy beaches with turquoise sea water glistening in the background far into the horizon and colorful, wooden fishing boats brighten the beach landscape nicely next to the iconic Santa Maria Pier. In addition to being able to admire the local fishermen at work on that pier, there is also a popular tradition of jumping off the pier into the sea, at least once in a lifetime, or, like some the locals, almost every week. This tradition still awaits its performer on my behalf, but maybe next time, maybe…
Santa Maria is a great base for exploring the rest of the island, with services and restaurants working well every day of the week. On the island, traveling is possible in a very short time from place to place, as the length of the island from one end to the other is only about 30 kilometers. Trips are easily done either with your own car or with a travel agency, or as I like to do, on a local bus, which is already in itself a fun experience and a highly recommended one. The price from Santa Maria, for example, to the capital Espargos with the local bus is only 1 euro / way and the buses leave from the bus stop. There are no actual timetables for the buses, as they leave when they get full.
My own favorite attraction in Santa Maria is its secret gem Shell Cemetery Beach, or in my own words, the Seashell beach. The Seashell beach can be found in front of The Budha Beach Hotel, about 1.5km from Santa Maria Pier, walking the road easily along the beachside in less than 20 minutes (see map below). Shell Cemetery Beach is a completely free “attraction” where it’s fun to explore the seashells, walk and sit back and enjoy the sounds of the ocean.
Espargos is the capital of the island of Sal and it is located in the middle of the island, where you will also find Sal Airport. The highest point of Espargos is Monte Curral Hill, which rises to a height of 109 meters and from where it is nice to enjoy the views down to the city. Sal is quite rugged and dry and you can see this very clearly from above.
It is very easy to do a day trip to Espargos on your own from Santa Maria by bus, as I mentioned earlier. Espargos is a local and cozy town, although there is not much to do here except for small boutiques and restaurants and other normal everyday things. However, Espargos is a great break from the more touristic hustle and bustle of Santa Maria, when you just want to walk around in peace, relax and just enjoy being “somewhere else”. As it is the capital city, it is also a must visit place and I personally enjoy Espargos a lot every time I go there. On my next trip in June, I’ll be spending even more time in Espargos, so stay tuned for some extra vibes of this city by following my social media channels.
Palmeira is a lovely small town on the west coast of the island of Sal, about four kilometers from the capital Espargos. Palmeira is the island’s main port and here you can enjoy the charm of a small fishing town. Palmeira is one of my own favorite places to visit for a day, as the relaxing and calm vibes of the place feel really nice and the local atmosphere provides a good balance for the more touristic and lively Santa Maria. Here I just like to watch the local fishermen at work and the best part is when the kids come to the harbor to jump off the pier to play their water games and whatever they only come up with. That genuine joy and energy is contagious.
The village of Murdeira is also located on the west coast of Sal, about nine kilometers from Espargos. Murdeira was originally a region for mostly farmers and fishermen, but in the late 1990s a bigger tourist settlement was built in the area, and nowadays the houses are mostly owned by locals and other people who have found their way to this place. This small community and village is located in a cove in the Murdeira Bay, which is also a nature reserve known for its small coral reef and rich marine life.
BURACONA AND THE BLUE EYE
The small bay of Buracona is located about five kilometers north of Palmeira and is part of the protected landscape of Buracona-Ragona, which covers the coastal area between Palmeira and Ponta Preta and the Monte Leste mountain. In Buracona, the attraction is its natural pool, which is formed by the power of the sea in the middle of volcanic rocks. However, Buracona’s best-known attraction is the Blue Eye, “Olho Azul”, a deep cave with water at the bottom. When the rays of the sun hit the cave and the water, the sight is just like a bright blue eye. Unfortunately, on my own trip to Buracona, I didn’t see this Eye because the sun wasn’t really shining that day, but next time then. Hah.
PEDRA DE LUME
The village of Pedra de Lume is located on the east coast of Sal, about five kilometers from Espargos. Pedra de Lume has both a small harbor and a lighthouse, but its most famous attraction is its saltwater pools, where it is also possible to float and experience the refreshing and healing power of saltwater. The saltwater pools are located inside the old volcanic crater and the crater and pools are part of a protected area along with Mount Cagarral. Salt ponds flourished in the late 18th century and the best periods of the salt production continued until the end of the 19th century, after which the value of salt production was no longer the same anymore. Today, tourism is the largest and most important source of livelyhood on the island.
Shark Bay is my own favorite attraction on the island of Sal, because here it is possible to walk in the ocean with Lemon sharks and see these beautiful animals in nature and up close. Lemon sharks come here to eat fish and plankton and care for their babies and they are not a danger to humans. Sharks may come very close, especially if there aren’t many people present, and the babies especially can come swimming between your legs because they are small enough to swim in the shallows. You should definetely come to Shark Bay in the form of a guided tour * to get more information about the sharks and the area. Water slippers are rented on site for 2e, as the bottom is rocky and not easy to walk barefoot.
CHECK OUT THE BEST ACTIVITIES AND TRIPS ON THE SAL ISLAND HERE:
CHECK OUT ALSO THE BEST ACCOMMODATIONS IN SAL ON BOOKING.COM*!
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HAVE YOU VISITED CAPE VERDE AND ILHA DO SAL OR ARE YOU PLANNING TO? SHARE YOUR EXPERIENCE AND THOUGHTS AND, OF COURSE, QUESTIONS IN THE COMMENT FIELD! 🙂
<3: Tiina Johanna
*Photos: Tiina Johanna, blogger
*Photo editing: Loov.fi “Tropical blues” presets – check it out!