I am pleased to present a new Solo Travel Destination Post from Tracy, a member of the Solo Travel Society on Facebook. Tracy is from England, and submitted the following report about her trip to Sal Island, Cape Verde. Do you have a solo travel destination that you would like to recommend? Submit your description here, along with a few photos, and share it with fellow travelers!
Solo travel rating: 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult. Please see chart below)
Languages spoken: Cape Verdean Creole, English
Costs at Destination: Reasonable (local transportation, dining, tours, events, and attractions)
Reasons to Visit Sal Island
I booked my trip to Cape Verde at the last minute after a bout of bronchitis in January 2018. I was looking for sun, relaxation, and adventure. Sal Island seemed to tick those boxes. Cape Verde is a 6-hour flight from Birmingham airport and Sal is located in the northeast of the island group. It is named Sal (Portuguese for salt) because it has salt deposits.
I stayed at the Melias Dunas apartments, a mile outside of Santa Maria. I rented a self-catering apartment through booking.com on the complex. You can also go all-inclusive and pay 75 euros extra a day. I took a taxi for 2 euros into Santa Maria, to the local supermarket. The currency is the Cape Verdean Escudo or CVE which can only be obtained in the islands. You can take Sterling or Euros to exchange. The fixed exchange rate is 110 CVE to €1. Euros are widely accepted throughout the islands but credit cards are not. Currently, only Visa and MasterCard are accepted.
I used taxis to visit Santa Maria, which is south of Sal Island, or I could take a courtesy bus from the accommodation site. I did not take local transport, but according to Lonely Planet, options are available “ranging from comfortable vans to pick-up trucks with narrow wooden benches, minibuses – known as colectivos or aluguers – which provide connections between even relatively small places. They pick up people at unmarked points around town, set off when they’re more or less full, and drop passengers off anywhere on the way, on request.”
I visited Santa Maria’s harbor and watched fisherman bringing in their wares mid-morning. I avoided being enticed by free gifts by a few foreign tradesmen. I heard from other tourists that they encourage you to visit their market stands and put pressure on you to pay for goods you might not have been looking for. A polite no usually goes a long way. The local Cape Verdeans discourage this practice.
The restaurants serve local fish, meats, and various other delights. Do not be afraid to barter for goods in souvenir shops. I encountered small children selling their wares as I had a morning coffee in a beach café in Santa Maria.
Sal Island has some beautiful beaches. I loved to watch the sun go down at Melias Dunas beach. Entertainment was also laid on at sundown, such as a classic violinist, or there were fitness classes. I took part in a zumba class on the beach, run by energetic locals.
The weather is around 26 degrees in January but still windy. I wore sunfactor fifty but still got red due to the strong sun.
The accommodation had an electrical power cut for a few hours and a water cut during my stay. Apparently, this is not uncommon on the island, so be prepared. Hotels run on generators to keep services going.
Viveiro, Botanical Garden & Zoo di Terra is a 10-minute walk from Melias Dunas complex. Taxis also go there from the center of Santa Maria. I went to see the animal sanctuary and the botanical gardens were a welcome refuge from the hot sun. There is a small entrance fee to pay.
An island tour is a must if you wish to see more of the island. There are many to choose from, from your hotel or locally in Santa Maria or from registered sellers on the beach. Cape Verde runs on its own time and there is no rush anywhere you go. Do not expect quick service like you may experience at home. It all adds to the Cape Verdean charm.
My favorite place on the island tour was the Blue Eye or Buracona (large hole). It has a collapsed cave which has an opening to the sea and a second opening to the surface, right off the shore. The opening allows sunlight to fall on the sea water and light it with a deep blue color. Midday is the best time to go as the sun is at its highest. There are pools you can bathe in. I would not recommend taking flips flops as the ground is rocky and uneven. The entrance fee is 3 euros.
After lunch just outside of Espargos (Portuguese for asparagus), Shark Bay was next on the agenda. Encounter small yellow sharks out in the sea bed and watch them swim away if you get too close. You can pay 2 euros to rent rubber shoes and walk out on the rocky sea bed. Balance is key.
Next on the island tour was Pedra de Lume. It is situated on high ground and it is a salt lake situated inside the mouth of a long-extinct volcano. It costs 5 euros to enter and bathe in the salt lakes. My skin felt invigorated after a soak in the lakes and got rid of some hard skin on my feet.
There is plenty to do for adventurers from surfing the waves, to hiring a quad bike to tour the island, to flying a kite on Kite Beach. You will also benefit from much rest if you prefer a quieter life by taking it easy on the array of gorgeous beaches and sampling the laid back Cape Verdean way of life. The weather also restored me back to full health!
Solo Travel Destination Rating System
Safety – 2 (1 very safe, 2 safe in most areas, 3 be cautious at all times.)
Language – 2 (1 English is first language, 2 English speakers easy to find, 3 English speakers rare)
Navigation – 1 (1 easy to navigate by transit or car, 2 poor transit, car necessary, 3 not easy to get around)
Culture – 2 (1 Similar to North America or Western Europe, 2 Different from above but relaxed and easy, 3 Challenging)
Average Rating – 2 (1 is easiest, 3 is most difficult)