Perhaps something of a well-kept secret, Cape Verde is a group of 10 islands some 400 miles off the coast of Senegal, west Africa. Keep going and you reach Brazil.
With 350 days of sunshine and year-round temperatures in the high 20s, it is one of the easiest winter sunshine destinations to visit, although it welcomes visitors year-round. Just six hours flying time and a one hour time difference, there is no jet lag either.
Cape Verde was uninhabited until the Portuguese came along and colonised it in 1456. It remained part of Portugal until it gained independence in 1975.
The island of Sal, named after its salt pans, is largely just a huge pile of rock and sand in the Atlantic. The climate is cooler and less humid than mainland Africa, thanks to the surrounding ocean and almost constant winds. Virtually nothing grows naturally here apart from a few stunted trees and bushes. Everything other than fish is imported, and tourism is the mainstay of the island’s existence.
The biggest town is colourful Santa Maria. Founded in 1830, its harbour is the centre of a small fishing industry supplying the local hotels. At the last census it had a population of just over 6,000. The town has an African vibe with touristy shops and bars, some with live music. During the day you’ll find visitors strolling through its streets and markets but it comes alive at night with the sound of Portuguese Fado music.
The main activities for visitors are primarily based upon what their hotel has to offer, although a trip to the salt pans may be of interest and there are a number of fascinating birds to look out for. One is the black winged Stilt with its long red legs that trail behind it as it flies. The island also has a breeding ground for Caretta turtles which hatch in the summer.
My destination was the newly-opened Robinson Club hotel. Sal is known for its laid-back style, a place where you can chill out and relax in warm sunshine. However, the Robinson also caters for more active guests and makes full use of Sal’s huge sandy beaches and regular breezes.
Water sports are popular here, with wind surfing and kite surfing being two of the main attractions, along with sailing and scuba diving. For those wanting a less energetic holiday, the extensive hotel grounds and vast beaches provide plenty of room to relax. For gentle exercise I enjoyed a stroll to Santa Maria along the beach and promenade.
The hotel is adults-only and all-inclusive. The main restaurant is buffet-style and with a large variety of dishes on offer, especially impressive bearing in mind that almost everything is imported. I also tried the speciality Tapas restaurant, Pousada, which is free as far as food is concerned but there is a charge for the fine wines served there. The menu offers a range of enticing dishes and guests are encouraged to choose several. I did my best! There is also a three-item pudding menu. A second speciality restaurant is due to be opened soon.
Accommodation consists of double rooms and a range of suites, although even the largest is set up for just two people. There is a gym, fitness room with spinning, spa, and mixed saunas offering both clothed and unclothed areas. It is the water sports that set this hotel apart.
The beach bar is popular for sunset drinks, and after dark the entertainment centres on the main bar where there is an open-air disco and an occasional show from talented locals. At the other end of the hotel the cosy No Hassle bar provides a peaceful setting for a quiet drink and a chat.
Cape Verde cannot be compared to the Caribbean. It’s a unique, tranquil and under-developed destination, a great place to relax, re-charge the batteries and, if you feel so inclined, indulge in some great water sports.
TUI offers seven night holidays to Sal staying at the 4T Robinson Club Cabo Verde on an all-inclusive basis with prices from £936 per person when booked online. Price is based on two adults sharing and includes flights from Manchester, transfers and airport visitor tax.
Go to tui.co.uk, visit your local TUI holiday store or download the app. Holiday Extras offers trusted Meet and Greet parking and other services at all major UK airports. To book, call 0800 1313 777 or visit www.holidayextras.com.
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