Cape Verde travel: The biggest draw is a natural high

We’re cooing as if the cutest ever newborn is being paraded. Eight tiny loggerhead turtles, barely a day old, are taking their first steps since being rescued by the Project Biodiversity team. The group, supported by TUI’s Turtle Aid Programme have set up a flat sandy area with hundreds of nests filled with turtle eggs. Each is numbered.

They’ve been moved away from areas of the beach which suffer from light pollution or where eggs would have been damaged, to ensure they hatch and make it down to the sea. Even the little ones which are not strong enough are placed into buckets and released into the sea at night, to give them the best chance of survival.

This stunning volcanic island chain is made up of ten islands and five islets and sits 310 miles off the coast of West Africa. It could be likened to islands in the Caribbean thanks to their all-round sunshine and golden sands.

But they also offer visitors the rare chance to get up close to the turtles. The archipelago is home to the third largest loggerhead turtle nesting population in the world and second in the Atlantic ocean overall. Cape Verde has often been referred to as The African Caribbean but in reality it’s perhaps only now that it has the quality of hotels, activities and restaurants to rival the likes of Barbados and Jamaica.

With a two-hour time difference and just a six-hour flight time, there is no jetlag to speak of. Although there are palm trees and pastel coloured homes in every shade, what you’ll also find is a blend of mountains, beaches and peaceful seaside villages set amid a melting pot of African, Brazilian and Portuguese cultures.

The 18-mile long island of Sal, with its red deserts and salt pans, is also home to unusual wildlife. You can paddle with baby lemon sharks and deep-sea dive with tropical fish.

Depending on how lazy or adventurous you are, the Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort, can be a base to explore or a paradise to relax in without going very far. Opened in 2017, it offers a glorious vacation spot in the colourful town of Santa Maria. As well as the oversized swimming pool at the heart of the hotel, and the Eforea Spa which does fantastic post-flight massages, including the signature Cabo Verde Earth Reconnecting Journey, there are also four restaurants, including the excellent Magellan, bars, watersports and fitness centre.

But if you do, you could sink your toes in the pristine white-sand beaches and stroll to destinations such as the extinct Pedra de Lume volcano surrounded by white and pink salt pans.

We joined a tour with guide, Manuel. Swimming in the medicinal salt waters is a bit like taking a dip on a giant industrial estate that has been built on Mars.

There’s still old mining equipment scattered around and the old cable car frame, so it’s not the most glamorous of locations but the salt is good for my skin – apparently.

Other highlights of the day tour was Shark Bay to see the lemon sharks which swim around your feet, (they only eat fish apparently) and the natural phenomena, the Buracona Lagoon.When the sun hits the water in a particular way, it lights up the surface like a blue eye. Eerie but beautiful.

That night we dined at the appropriately-named LobStar restaurant in Santa Maria, working our way through seafood platters washed down with their homemade sorbet served in champagne flutes.

The next morning I decided to try my hand at something a little more strenuous. The Atlantic Star Nautical Centre focuses on all things watersports, in particular kite surfing and waterskiing. I tried my hand at the latter but given the amount of times I fell over, it was clear I was not a natural. The centre also offers a Scuba Diving Day, which aims to introduce people to the wonders of diving, including a theory session before diving into the Hilton pool, followed by an open water dive.

However it’s kite surfing that’s the big draw, thanks to the perfect wind conditions.

It’s no surprise then that three world champions hail from the island.

The local mantra of Cape Verde, and the phrase they live by is “no stress”. It wouldn’t be a difficult decision to choose to come again.


TUI ( offers seven nights in Sal staying at the 5T Hilton Cabo Verde Sal Resort from £852pp, B&B (two sharing). Including flights from Gatwick on December 8 and transfers.

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