Sal Island

A land of friendly, cheerful, relaxed and beautiful people

Sal Island has a unique beauty where the turquoise sea and golden sands overlap the arid and barren nature. It owes its name to the huge amount of salt produced there; nowadays the structures used for the extraction of this product are still visible.
In the last years, Cape Verde has established itself as a prime holiday destination coveted by citizens of Portugal, Spain, Italy, France, UK, Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Finland, among others. Only 4-5 hours flight from Europe and a small difference in time zone, this archipelago of ten islands (nine inhabited) becomes particularly eligible for those looking for rest, relaxing moments in family, quietly enjoying retirement or for sports and fun.
The mild climate all year round, the paradisiacal beaches, observation of nature, birds and marine animals, the truly fascinating culture, a rich gastronomy, combined with morabeza and friendliness of its people, makes Cape Verde a single tourist destination.

Sal Island emerges timidly from the Atlantic and is the most arid island from all over the Cape Verde archipelago. Its landscapes, devoid of vegetation, remind us that we are on the same latitude of the Sahara desert. The austerity of their land does not suggest at any time that this island one day, as the rest of the archipelago of Cape Verde, was covered by a thick green mantle. The landscape encourages looking at the sea: the beautiful beaches surrounding the island, the numerous water sports available and the great fish that local fishermen catch daily express the intimate relationship the island has with the ocean. There are no large gatherings of people, just quiet towns and a few hotels, which make Sal an ideal place for those seeking peace and tranquillity.
With beautiful white sand beaches, Sal Island offers excellent conditions to practice sea related activities, beach, swimming, surfing, windsurfing, diving, fishing and boat trips.

If you are a diving fan, know that the underwater fauna of Cape Verde has predominantly tunas, swordfish and serranids. You can also find lobsters, several species of moray, conger eels, turtles and even sharks. There are still remains of sunken ships, like St. Antao, which is a 6-10 meters deep and just five minutes by boat from the dive center.

Morabeza: What is it?

The morabeza is taken by Cape Verdeans as something difficult to translate (as the word saudade in Portuguese) and expresses a typical Cape Verdean feeling. Perhaps this is the Creole word that best identifies with the Cape Verdean spirit, a very own philosophy of an affable people who has in the form of receiving its main feature and it is in the islands of Sal and S. Vicente it finds most meaning.

Etimology

The name of the country stems from the nearby Cap-Vert, on the Senegalese coast, which in its turn was originally named “Cabo Verde” when it was sighted by Portuguese explorers in 1444, a few years before the islands were discovered (verde is Portuguese for “green”).

Useful Information

Time difference: – one hour in the fall / winter and – 2 hours in spring / summer.

Documentation: Valid Passport and visa required. For the handling of the Visa it can be done either through your travel agency ten days before departure or by going to the Cape Verdean Consulate in your country. More information on Cape Verdean embassies` locations available in www.embassypages.com/capeverde

Visa required: 25 Euros.

Electricity: 220 volts.

Currency: Cape Verde Escudo. 1 Euro = 110 escudos, the exchange rate generally applied is 1 Euro = 100 escudos, since the use of euro is accepted in the usual way.

Language: In addition to the Portuguese, the official language, the Cape Verdean Creole is used in day-to-day by the majority of the population of Sal, as there is a local variant of Cape Verdean Creole.

Vaccines: No need, but should pay attention to tap water consumption and raw foods. It is also recommended to take insect repellent and sunscreen.

Cape
Cape Verde’s national flag

It was only in 1963 Sal`s City Hall was formed. Currently, tourism and airport activity are the main pillars of socio-economic development of the Sal. The history of tourism in the island started with the arrival of the Belgian couple Gaspard Vynckier and Marguerite Massart in 1963. Attracted by the climate and for health reasons, they decided to build a holiday home in the village of Santa Maria. Later, the home of the Belgian couple welcomed the crews of several airlines that were stopping for flight levels on Sal. The house became, a few years later, the first hotel of Santa Maria and baptized later with the name of Hotel Morabeza, considered by many the cradle of tourism in Cape Verde.

Thus, Sal is known to be the Cape Verdean tourism capital, seen as the island of opportunities and a development model for other islands!

My love letter to Sal

First impressions

Cape Verde was not in my priority list of holiday destinations. I first came here in 2013 mostly due to the insistence of a friend whose roots are Cape Verdean. We travelled in August and she met me in Sal, coming from her hometown in S. Nicolau. As a world traveller I must confess I had high expectations regarding such popular destination which were not really met while landing as I glimpsed a very dry, arid land with practically no vegetation. From above I could though see the amazing crystal clear waters bathing the island.

I immediately decided to clear my expectations and make the most of my well deserved holiday, putting aside my first impression, after all it was collected whilst still on the plane.

The People

Already during the first days I was struck by the gentleness of the people, the relaxing atmosphere and of course delighted myself by bathing in this amazing mildly warm sea, taking advantage of the sun which was a constant.
Cape Verdeans are happy people, full of rhythm, very helpful and active. The town of Santa Maria is very international and we can hear throughout the day multiple languages being spoken in the various bars, restaurants and coffee places.

The fresh fish and seafood available every day, the nice terraces, the live music often being played, the immense number of children and mixed race couples give it all together a more special touch to this place. The delicious caipirinhas made out of the local rum and the salty popcorn are the queens of the happy hours! The water sports are also a major attraction with diverse possibilities whether one prefers kite, windsurf, diving, fishing or just snorkelling.

I felt at ease and at home!

I was invaded by this very familiar feeling, as if I belonged here all along. Even though Sal is not the common holiday site of only white villas and spotless gardens it has a lot of character. It is Africa but in a very different way. It is safe, calm, great to spend time in family and bring your children to but its vibrant and it has a busy enough night life for the ones who enjoy music and dancing. Whether one wants to relax, have a romantic holiday or party there is plenty of choice in the island.
It helps us unwind from the busy routine of 9 to 5 jobs, there are no traffic lights and no mass tourism! It has been often compared to the Caribbe which I have visited and can promise it is not a fool’s comparison… It is as authentic and original as its people.


Having said all the above I really just need to add that Sal is now the place I call home! I saw opportunities here, I saw the chance of creating a different and better life for myself far from Europe, a life where I didn’t need to take holidays from and here I am, sharing my experience and telling first hand some of the reasons why I think Cape Verde is worth your visit. Did I mention the delicious tuna, grilled chicken available on the streets, lobster, goat cheese from Fogo, the local handicraft, the Salinas and the loggerhead turtles?

There are just so many reasons to visit Sal!
– Hélia

Sports

Water sports such as windsurfing and kitesurfing and mountain biking or TT vehicles (Jeeps and Quad bikes) have known great expansion in the island.

  • Scuba Diving
  • Wind Surfing
  • Kite Surfing

Food

As gastronomic specialties do not miss the “Catchupa” (meat based dish, beef, pork and sausages-corn and vegetables, beans, cabbage and potatoes) or the delights of the sea like lobsters or rock barnacle as well as grilled fish or even delicious fish stews.

“Odjo Azul” or “Blue Eye”

A natural pool formed by the ocean into the lava rocks. When the light hits this natural pool from the right angle, the color turns into a magic turquoise blue. It is absolutely beautiful! You can swim in the natural lava pool right next to the “blue eye” but this can be dangerous on windy days. Experienced divers might explore the hidden caves and grottos at this fantastic spot.

Praia Alfonso

If you are staying in Sal and Santa Maria town, in Cape Verde islands, Praia Alfonso is at walking distance just 1 kilometer east of Santa Maria. Praia Alfonso is very child friendly even for a small baby since the crystal clear turquoise pond behind the house is completely safe from waves and cut of from the sea. No more than 0,5-1 m water, but filled with tropical fish and crabs. Snorkeling here is a must for children and adults. There is no other place like this in the whole of Cape Verde islands or Sal.

Nature

One of the main natural attractions of the island of Sal is its fauna and maritime biodiversity and resident/migratory seabirds. To enjoy all its beauty there are several proposals for Diving and Sport Fishing.

Geography

This strikingly beautiful country is part of the Macaronesia ecoregion, situated in the Atlantic Ocean, about 570km off the West African Coast, close to Senegal, Gambia and Mauritania. Ravaged by the winds, Sal Island is the flattest of the archipelago and despite its volcanic origin, its highest point – Monte Grande, rises just 406 meters (about 1332 ft) from the sea level. The closest to the African continent, subjected to similar climatic conditions that exist at the same latitude, on the continent, appears very dry. With elongated shape has an area of 30 km in the direction north / south and a width not exceeding 12 km towards east / west.

Climate

Sal has a very sunny and warm climate throughout the year. Although not as hot as the African mainland, temperatures are kept moderate thanks to the surrounding sea and it’s Atlantic currents. With temperatures ranging from 20 to high 30 degrees celsius, a constant breeze that is a blessing in disguise and turquoise waters never dropping below 20ºC, it’s always pleasant to be outside!

Important area of salt exploration

Sal Island was discovered in 1460 by the Portuguese Diogo Afonso and the Genoese Antonio di Noli. Initially, it was called Llana, but because of the exploitation of salt on the island it became known as Sal. The first area to be explored was Pedra de Lume in 1804 by Manuel António Martins due to the salt found there, thus beginning populating the island. Manuel António Martins founded the town of Santa Maria in 1835. Initially, he gave it the name of Porto Martins, but the village`s name perpetuated itself in time as Santa Maria. A few years later, Manuel Antonio Martins died but his remains are in the mausoleum of the cemetery of the village of Santa Maria.

The flat condition of the island favoured the creation of the first airport of the archipelago, whose construction began in 1939. Later, the Portuguese colonial government acquired the airport to the Italian company, having completed the work in 1949. Thanks to the construction of the airstrips by an Italian company, the village of Espargos was born and after the independence of Cape Verde, the airport was name Amilcar Cabral International Airport. In 1935, Santa Maria became officially a village hosting the administrative centre of the island.

A bit of history

Sal Island with an area of 215 Km2, began to have significant economic activity in the mid-sixteenth century with the exploitation of its salt of excellent quality and considerable quantity, which lasted until 1985. However, its importance had entered decline in the early nineteenth century with the difficulties of outlets for its traditional markets in South America, particularly Brazil. In 1949, aiming at a stopover point for flights to South America, came by Italian initiative and Portuguese embodiment, the Amílcar Cabral International Airport today the main entry point in the country.

The early development of the island due to Manuel Antonio Martins who in 1830 founded the town of Santa Maria. It was with this “lord of the islands” that the settlement began through internal migration, especially from S. Nicolau and Boavista. The island of Sal has in Espargos, the administrative capital, the largest population concentration.

The existence of the International Airport, the sun, the mild climate, one of the world’s best, the golden and fine sand beaches, crystal clear sea, made this island the seaside resort of Cape Verde for excellence attracting, since the 1960s, the attention of foreign visitors. Despite its lunar dryness, the friendliness and intimacy of its people is captivating.