Cape Verde – Dream Destination
Not everyone thinks of going to Africa for their holidays, but it’s easily my favorite place. The Cape Verde Islands are just off the West Coast of Africa, and are actually a part of Africa. They’re almost directly on the equator, so pretty much every day there’s bright blue skies and hot sunny weather. There are ten islands in Cape Verde, formed by volcanoes under the sea. The Capital city, Praia is on an island called Santiago which I have never visited, but I’ve been to the two islands that are better known for tourism; Sal and Boa Vista (on the right of the map).
For me, Cape Verde isn’t just a place, I have so many memories there, from learning to kitesurf and windsurf, making friends and even just chilling out on the beach watching professional kitesurfers battle it out at the world class break Ponta Preta. One of my favourite parts of going to Cape Verde is how relaxed everything is, as soon as the sun goes down, everything stops, you go to bed to get up for an early morning kitesurf or go to a party, if you know the right people that is ;). The people are friendly and fun, and are more than willing to help you if you’re lost and they’ll happily show you the best places to eat, shop and relax on the island.
Ponta Preta on a smaller day
Ponta Preta Beach, Sal
On the island of Sal, there aren’t many spots to kitesurf, one of the spots is kitebeach, or as the locals call it, shark beach as it’s fairly normal to see a grey fin slicing through the water or to see a turtle cruising through the crystal waters, both are amazing things I don’t think I’ll ever forget! To get to kite beach, there’s no roads, so you sit in the back of a pickup truck clinging onto your kit as you bounce from dune to dune across the empty desert until reaching the ocean, and for me that’s one of the most surreal and fun experiences I’ve had. The other well-known kiteboarding spot is Ponta Preta, a local point break near the Riu hotel, but Ponta Preta is only for the professionals or experts as the waves are easily the size of houses, breaking onto shallow water that hides a lot of rock and the wind is bang offshore. It’s not somewhere you want to make a mistake! Even kite beach has fairly big waves though, to the point that I couldn’t get past them when I was learning as they were the height of me (5ft 8”). Although I learnt to kitesurf in Cape Verde, it’s not really a beginners spot due to either off shore gusty winds, or big swell’s where the wind is onshore and the harsh sun. In saying all of that though, I can’t imagine myself learning to kitesurf anywhere else!
Fishing Boats in Santa Maria
I have been to the Cape Verde islands nine times, and each time I go, I fall in love with the idyllic beaches, friendly people and warm climate a bit more. The island of Sal is where I stay, and it is well known for the consistent trade winds (20 knots all day long!) that in the right spot make it world class for kitesurfing and windsurfing. Before I learnt to kitesurf, I learnt to windsurf, and my lessons took place in Santa Maria bay, which is a stunning fishing town in the south of Sal. Santa Maria is the town closest to the Riu and Melia Tortuga hotels, there’s bars, shops, restaurants, cafes and plenty of tourist information centers to book any excursions like island tours or water sports. One of the best things to do at Santa Maria is to go onto the pier when the fish is being brought in, and to see men and women gutting the fish and selling them within minutes of them being caught as it’s fascinating and really eye opening to the Cape Verdian culture.
Walking up the beach after my first lesson
When I learnt to kitesurf, I learnt on the west side of the island at a spot called Kite Beach, I think that anyone who has ever kitesurfed in Sal will have been to Kite Beach. Like any other popular kite boarding beach, it gets busy quickly so the best time to go is early in the morning when there aren’t too many people around. Again, another amazing experience was to watch my dad kitesurf with the sun rising behind him a few years ago when I was still a windsurfer. My instructor, Elvis (100 Piedi Kiteschool) was an amazing teacher, and he’s probably one of the best kitesurfers I have ever seen. I had an eight hour course with him and I learnt so much over the time, even though I didn’t really stand up and ride, my kite control improved so much because of the gusty conditions. I learnt in two spots on the island, Kite Beach and Ponta Preta Bay.
Learning to board start
A day too windy for me to learn, but not too windy for a piggy back ride!
Protective headwear for me, not so sure about Elvis!
Santa Maria Beach
On my last visit to Cape Verde, I hadn’t discovered Platinum Sun, which is a shame because Cape Verde is the only place I’ve kitesurfed where you need to be wearing a 50spf rashguard all day to keep the sun off. I wish I’d had a Platinum Sun rashguard then so I could have stood out from the rest of the kiteboarders in their bright colours and awesome designs! Now, at my home spot in the UK I wear rashguards to keep warm and to avoid my wetsuit rubbing against my skin, sadly not because of the sun!
Heading into the water
Not only is Sal a good place to kitesurf, but it is also one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. The islands boast crystal clear waters so clear you can see the bottom, scorching heat, cloudless blue skies and white sandy beaches. One of my favorite things about Sal is its lack of sky scraper hotels and tourism, many tourists do go to the islands but not in their hundreds of thousands like you’d see in Spain or California. I also love the mixed culture of African and Southern European, not only has it influenced the buildings and food served, but also the local language of Creole which is a mix of European and African languages. In Cape Verde the beaches are still relatively quiet, there’s rarely other vehicles on the roads and there really isn’t that much to do except relax on the beach, kitesurf or windsurf and see some of the local sights, and that’s what I love about it; the simplicity.