During my first visit to Cape Verde, I was amazed by what an assault on the senses it is. This was around 10 years ago at a time when the islands were still relatively unknown and tourism was in its infancy. All-inclusive packages to Sal and Boavista were becoming a popular choice for those seeking fantastic short-haul beaches and sunshine, but the other islands remained pretty much unknown to most visitors. I remember staying in some fantastic little villages well off the beaten track on islands such as Sao Nicolau, Fogo and Santo Antao and being the only foreigner, sticking out like a sore thumb!
Tourism is now one of the main sources of income for Cape Verde and evidence of the benefits that an increasing number of visitors bring can certainly be seen here and there. In terms of figures the number of tourists visiting the islands has more-or-less doubled since my first adventure and now, 10 years later, significant changes are noticeable with new international hotels and developments springing up and more tarmac taking the place of cobbled roads (particularly on the islands of Sal and Santiago). This is also due to some major investment from the Chinese who are looking to acquire rights to fish the seas around the islands in return for improving infrastructure and building new facilities. One of these new facilities is a college on Santiago which has been established to provide training and qualifications specifically for the leisure and hospitality industry, a sign that Cape Verde is realising the importance of this sector and planning ahead.
Whilst areas of Sal and Santiago are developing quite rapidly changes on the smaller islands have been much subtler, and they still maintain the charm and spirit of rural Cape Verde. Visiting Santo Antao still feels very much like a step back in time and I’m sure this will be the case for a good few years to come! Having said that, another of the main differences I found this time around was that, whilst traveling between the islands on planes and ferries, I noticed quite a few more foreigners mixed in with the local commuters and listened to chatter in several different languages rather than just the local creole.
So don’t worry! It is still possible to get away from it all and enjoy the off-the-beaten-track treasures that lie in wait for those eager to explore, and at least you can enjoy the benefits of a smoother ride here and there…
Cape Verde Holiday Specialists
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