Stargazing on Fogo Island, Cape Verde

We invited our filmmaker and photographer to explore and capture the stars and the pure night sky on Fogo Island, Cape VerdeFraser James tells us about his experience on this fascinating, little known island….

‘There are seldom few places left in the world that have yet to be photographed or shared across the pages of social media. A discouraging realisation for a travel photographer like myself – perhaps we have explored most of our little planet and there isn’t much left to see, let alone photograph. But thankfully, for the adventurous few at least, that isn’t entirely true. When Ian and the Archipelago Choice team said that I would be spending a few nights on Fogo to explore, I must admit I had no idea what that meant. That four letter name had never cropped up on my radar before, and yet, the unknown made it all the more enticing. I immediately Google image searched “Fogo”. Nothing. Just pictures of fire. I searched “Fogo Island”. A hotel in Newfoundland. One last try; “Fogo Island CAPE VERDE”.

Cape Verde Holidays - Fogo by Frazer James

There it was. A majestic three thousand metre high volcanic cone rising straight out of the Atlantic Ocean, this looked more like my cup of tea. And I would be staying at Chã das Caldeiras, about half way up the volcanic monster. My photographic mind started whizzing and whirring as the cogs began to turn, I knew I could capture something pretty unique here if I got the right conditions.

Fast forward a few weeks and it’s my first night at Casa Marisa on the hot lava field. It’s midnight, everyone has gone to bed, the electricity has been turned off and the only noise is the distant sound of dogs barking playfully some eight kilometres away on the other side of the gigantic caldera. I’m 1700m up, backed by sheer one-kilometre high volcanic escarpments, in front of me is the mighty Pico Do Fogo and in four hours time I’ll be waking up to summit it before the midday sun makes any attempt even more difficult than hiking an active volcano will inevitably be.

But as beautiful as all this must have been it was neither here nor there, because I couldn’t see a thing. See, midnight in the middle of the ocean, in a town with no lights, on top of a volcano is a night like you have never experienced. It is the purest night you can imagine. Utter darkness. After about ten minutes however my eyes began to acclimatise to the shadows and before I knew it the brightest night sky I have ever seen was sitting above me, a dazzling Milky Way silhouetting Pico Do Fogo right before my eyes. It was one of those rare “pinch me” moments in life, but everyone had gone to bed exhausted from their day’s hike. So I got my camera out instead.

Cape Verde Holidays - Fogo by Frazer James

I readied the tripod, set the exposure to a generous 10-seconds, opened up the aperture to F1.8 and waited anxiously to see the results. The camera beeped and stalled as it processed the data for what seemed like an eternity (I like to think it couldn’t believe what it was seeing), and suddenly “BING”! There it was. It was perfect. The milky way delicately poised over the summit of Pico Do Fogo bigger and brighter than I could have ever planned, no editing or post processing tricks, just pure unadulterated photographic goodness. I spent the next hour or so running and tripping over hot lava like a giddy schoolboy to get the shot – I still have the scrapes to prove it – until I eventually realised I had a six hour hike kicking off in three hours time, so I reluctantly returned to my lava warmed bedroom to get some much needed shut eye.

Cape Verde Holidays - Fogo by Frazer James

Just because it hasn’t done the rounds on social media or it isn’t Google’s first guess doesn’t mean it isn’t there to be discovered. I guess it looks like there is still a lot left to see out there.’

Explore Fogo island Cape Verde with us…

Our Cape Verde specialists, Jake, Max and Susanne have visited the islands  several times and are keen to chat with you about your personalised holiday to Cape Verde; just give them a call on 01768 721040.

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