We are breaking out of our typical luxury series, because some destinations are luxurious for the experiences and knowledge they bring us. We visited Cape Verde a few years ago and unleashed the adventurers in us! In all honesty, I don’t even think this particular island has a luxury resort. That might be one of the reasons why we loved it so much! We stayed at a local’s house, had one mattress on the floor for all three of us, and boiled water in a saucepan to rinse off at night. We laced our trekking shoes, put the baby in a trekking baby carrier, and hit the mountains of the luxuriant island of Santo Antão! And for everything it taught us, we call it a luxury experience! Because very few get to experience it and we feel very blessed to have seen and touched this little corner of our world! Enjoy the visit!
We spent a week and a half in Cape Verde – or Cabo Verde – an island country of 10 islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. Technically considered Africa and located just West of Senegal, it was discovered and colonized by the Portuguese during the 15th century, and had been un-inhabited until then.
Getting to Santo Antão
Our first week in Cape Verde was relaxing and beautiful on the sandy island of Boa Vista. We stayed at the all-inclusive Riu Karamboa and enjoyed the beautiful beach and amenities of our resort. While we loved our visit of Boa Vista, a flat island, mostly visited for its beautiful beaches, we had to explore some of the other islands.
We boarded a small airplane from Boa Vista to São Vicente, where we hopped on a boat to Santo Antão. The smaller island is only accessible by sea and we couldn’t wait to start exploring.
Getting Around the Island
There are different ways to visit the island. You’ll most likely be trekking and I highly recommend using the services of a local guide. You could decide to use roadbooks and trek on your own, but I feel that you would be missing on a local’s knowledge and all of the little extras. Our guide, born on São Vicente, knew pretty much everyone we met in the villages we crossed. He got us to try molasses, and gave us tours of local rum distilleries. He knew farmers who let us pick fresh fruits and veggies off of their fields during the treks, etc.
I definitely recommend using a local guide and letting him guide you through the island. They also know the weather, which can change quickly, and will decide on where to take you based on the forecast. They will also arrange for all transportations via aluguer (taxi) to the start of the treks, which we would have never been able to organize on our own. Local companies such as Cap-Vert Trekking offers many different circuits and can tailor your visit to your needs (physical and interests).
Day 1’s Adventures
Our wonderful guide was waiting for us as we disembarked at Porto Novo on Santo Antão and we immediately boarded the aluguer. With only 3 days on the island, we weren’t going to waste any time. We recommend spending 5 days on Santo Antão if possible!
We were told that the European Union built one street across the island. It is all paved and as you sit in the open back of the aluguer, you feel every little bump on the wooden benches. But the views…
The street essentially goes all the way up to one of the highest points on the island (pack a sweater, it actually gets really cold), before going back down to the sea. About halfway up, we witnessed a crazy climatic effect of the island. As we were enjoying the views of the crater of Paul, clouds came rushing in. Within seconds, in front of our amazed eyes, the crater filled up and we were surrounded by fog, which lasted us until we drove back down!
The foggy island top was fascinating. We felt as if we were part of a movie and we couldn’t stop ourselves from starring at the unexpected beautifulness.
Within minutes, we had gone from sunny sea side to a cold, foggy, and dry landscape.
Little by little, as we drove back down towards the northern side of the island, the fog gave place to a sunny and warm weather, with a beautiful backdrop of sea and dry land.
We were on Santo Antão to trek. As crazy as we were, with a 13-month old who did not know how to walk and a 5-month pregnant woman, people were sure to stare. We did not see a single family on this trip (neither did we see any tourists really…), and I hope that I can convince just one of you to go trek in Cape Verde with children. You will make memories of a lifetime and come back with wonderful stories and souvenirs!
One of the wonderful things about our guide was his knowledge of the island. He took us down the most beautiful roads and we felt extremely safe in knowing that he was a professional and intimately knew the trails. He asked our aluguer’s driver to drop us off at the start of a short trek since it was already the afternoon of our first day on the island.
After a quick lunch and meeting those wonderful school girls, we were off to our first trek!
As an introduction to the island, we were not disappointed. With very little information on Santo Antão on the web, we weren’t sure what to expect exactly.
We never thought we’d see agricultural fields reminding us of Asian rice paddies.
As we trekked and kept on walking up, we came across our first distillery. This would be the first of many local distilleries we’d walk by. The people of Santo Antão found ways to produce so much with the nature they were given. In an incredible way, they grow produce and sugar canes and use their harvest to make rum in the most improbable places, giving the entire valley a smell of fermenting vapors!
Reaching the top was worth all of our efforts.
On our way down, using a different route, we paused for a moment and soaked in all of the emotions and happiness surrounding us. We knew this trip would be very special and our first trek on Santo Antão, Cape Verde has surpassed our expectations.
En Route For Ponta Do Sol
Another great benefit of booking a local guide is the ability to leave your luggages with the aluguer driver while trekking, and finding them at your destination at night.
Our guide had decided that Ponta do Sol, on the northern side of the island, would be a great hub for our stay – close to the trails he wanted to have us explore. After greeting our hosts for the next 2 nights, we decided to pack the baby and explore the coast on our own. We spent our first evening trekking another 2 hours, up along the coast.
From that trail, Ponta do Sol seemed so little.
Back in town, we loved meeting some of the local children, who decided to follow us. It must have been one of the first times that they saw a tourist baby, and they just couldn’t get enough of her. Interacting with the local population would be one of the highlights of our trip. The people of Cape Verde are incredibly friendly and generous as you’ll discover on day 2 of our trekking adventure on Santo Antão, Cape Verde.
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