The only way to be able to write as much as possible about the island of Sal is to break it down into smaller chunks. This article will be about Santa Maria the village on the south coast which most of the tourists will visit. Santa Maria is family friendly and colourful. Think laid back Caribbean vibe meets Africa.
As Santa Maria is the main tourist town I will be writing several articles. This article will be an overview of a walk around the town and what I saw. Future articles will go into greater depth with links to more information and reviews.
The first hotel on the island was the Morabeza which means laid back vibe. It was built by a Belgium civil engineer called George Vynckier. George’s wife Jennifer was suffering from asthma. George being the gentleman that he was brought Jennifer to Cape Verde for the climate. They settled on the island of Sal and George contributed greatly to the development of the island.The original house he built is the reception area in this beautiful hotel. The interior has a colonial feel and incorporates lots of hardwood and tile. George and Jennifer were both civil engineers and keen gardeners. However as Sal has no rivers, streams or lakes George had to come up with a solution to water his flowers and plants. After many painstaking attempts George finally invented a 30 gallon desalination device which he used to convert sea water into usable water for his plants. The rest of the islanders still relied on water being supplied by other Cape Verde islands and had to get it from a watering hole in the village.
George spent a few years developing his desalination technology until eventually he built a plant for the village of Santa Maria. I would recommend visiting the Morabeza hotel and sitting in the lounge whilst enjoying a coffee.Take a walk through what remains of George’s garden as you head towards Santa Maria beach. Turning left at the beach club you can walk along the cobbled promenade towards Santa Maria pier.Along the cobbled pathway you’ll have some of the local artists carving sandstone. There’ll be a few stalls selling colourful trinkets and a little tourist tack. There are not many industries on the island of Sal and you are the local economy. You will be approach by lots of people trying to sell you a souvenir of Cape Verde. The locals are polite and a little shy so if you’re not in the purchasing mood, a polite no usually does the trick.
In fact the Cape Verdeans are some of the nicest people I’ve ever met and will wish you a polite cheerio as you continue exploring the promenade. You will however come across the over friendly and slightly more pushy street sellers who are not locals, they have just come to the island to make as much money as they can from the tourists. This unfortunately is causing some problems for visitors who are unable to distinguish between them and a true Cape Verdean. Just be on your guard and unless you are wishing to make a purchase do not go with them.
I know I’m going a little off the subject of Santa Maria but crime in Sal is very low. In fact your home town more than likely has far more incidents. Just take the same precautions you would do at home.Just after the dive school with the jet ski’s outside, no jet ski’s, then they’ll be in the sea of course. You’ll have a couple of steps and a ramp. Unfortunately Santa Maria is not wheelchair friendly and I’ll write an article soon on how the less mobile can get to enjoy this wonderful village. You will now have arrived at a brick building on the side of the beach. This is Ristorante Cretcheu Santa Maria’s famous lobster restaurant.Venture upstairs for a drink and a view that’ll take your breath away. Stood at the balcony overlooking the Atlantic and Santa Maria beach. Looking right, in the distance you’ll see the new Hilton hotel being tidied up for the guests who arrive in September. Along the turquoise waters will no doubt be some kite surfers and along the white sand will be sun worshipers and hand-built colourful fishing boats.
Looking left, you’ll see the famous pier where the fishermen land their catch every morning around 10:30. Along the coast Odjo D Aqua, the eye of the sea juts out into the bay.Head back down the steps and inland passing a bust of George on your left. This cobbled Street leads directly from the pier and will have artists and street vendors on, all touting for your money.Once you reach the road pause for a moment. In front of you is the taxi rank and in the distance on the next block is the minibus rank. The minibuses will take you to the capital Espargos for €1. However they only depart when full, you could be waiting a while. You will see the CV Mobile shop on the corner, more on communication later.
Turning right, you can see the church tower in the distance. This is the main street with shops, bars and restaurants. Just remember you are in Cape Verde, think laid back Caribbean vibe meets Africa. The chill out bar is a good place to stop for a cold drink and observe Sal life.Once rested continue to the ice cream parlour and cross over to the church. If it’s 11:30 on Sunday you are in for a treat as the church will be overflowing and extremely lively. The church was built in 1852 the year timanfaya erupted.Strolling along the main street you’ll see some of the venues that come to life at night. Buddy’s bar is a gin cocktail bar, across the square is Ocean Cafe and then Reggae bar.
Navarro is the latest addition to Santa Maria a Spanish company who specialises in shoes, clothes and luggage.
Make a point of stopping at Kaza d Artista and learn all about Kiki Lima Sal’s famous artist. Taste some of the local tipple, Grogg which is made of sugar cane. (Kaza d’ Artists has now closed)
Leaving Kiki Lima behind cross over and turn right. Here you’ll find the charity school feel free to donate colouring books and pencils etc. These kids come from extreme poverty and the school takes them off the street so they don’t develop a career in begging.
Once you’ve wiped the tears from your eyes in the school turn left at the end of the street and then right to Hotel Odjo D Aqua. The eye of the sea is a mystical place made up of individual apartments and the best location in Santa Maria. Walk through the hotel enjoying the views and you’ll end up at the old port. Now a private beach an ideal venue for snorkeling.
Once you have walked through the archway turn left and head back through the entrance Odjo D Aqua and along the beach. Soon I’ll be posting more in depth articles about some of the business in Santa Maria and the surrounding area.
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