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Circumnavigation of sal island on a stand up paddle board

February 27th, 2013

My name is Michael Forbes and I have been living near and working with the ocean for 20 years. I arrived in Sal as the captain of a sailboat and sailed between the islands of Sal and Boa Vista regularly. I was lucky enough to experience the deep ocean and soon found hidden treasure.

I moved on and started working with whales and dolphins here on the island of Sal on various boats. Very rewarding work in an environment which still does not suffer from commercial whale and dolphin watching. I was becoming more a part of the ocean than the land and I was becoming more aware of the damage caused to the ocean by human impact.

I started to stand up paddle only a year ago. It appealed to me for so many reasons. I leave no pollution behind. I was tired of the noise and needed to spend the time alone with the ocean. I was happy I had found my own “vessel”. Standing up gives you a far clearer vision of not only your surroundings but also the ability to see into the water.

I snorkel with my stand up, I fish off my stand up, I windsurf off my stand up, but most importantly it gives me the freedom to be me and go and explore this beautiful ocean.

This is the story of my circumnavigation around Sal on a stand up paddle to raise money for Castelos do Sal which is a charitable organisation created by volunteers which aims to promote the rights of vulnerable children, help meet their basic needs and contribute to their overall development.

Castelos do Sal collaborates with state-owned projects in order to complement the work being done and stimulates various development programmes in education, health and nutrition. The association particularly targets the area of Santa Maria, the principal tourist town of the island of Sal as the main point of intervention.

So here is the story of my trip…

circumnavigation of sal island on a stand up paddle board

DEPARTURE: 21ST SEPTEMBER 2011 (International Peace Day)

Forecast: Southerly wind with a chance of showers.

Route for the day: Angulo Centre to Mt Leon.

I started the day nice and early with a clear head, I had still not made the decision to leave. I picked up my board and gear and walked down the beach and to my surprise saw a friend of mine, Adrian. If he could make it to the beach at 6.30am, I could paddle around the island! Slowly but surely more figures appeared and I knew it was time.

At 7am I was off. Head down knowing full well the weatherman was telling stories again, I tried to fall into a rhythm.

Ponta Sino was the first test and did not fail to impress. I was 20 minutes from home and Ponta Sino was nasty, current and swell as well as a 10 knot northerly all straight into my face. I took around an hour to get around the corner and already she was playing games with my head.

I stopped off at Ponta Preta and had some breakfast where the folks from C-Riders met up with me to wish me luck. I was recharged and ready. The paddle from Ponta Preta passed all the new hotels and was beautiful. Clean water and very interesting reef structures made for entertaining paddling with lots of fish and even the odd wave to be had.

I was meeting my good friend Marie at Caletha Funda for lunch and was feeling good and getting ready for the next few days. My plans had changed as I knew the southerly wind was not going to happen. Marie was great, I heard what was to become a famous line of hers,” Don’t you think you should just push on as far as possible?” I did.

It was the first leg where I knew I was going offshore. The bay of Murdeira is fairly wide and I decided to paddle straight across about 1 mile to 1.5 miles offshore. It was a hard but good paddle. Mt Leon was my next stop and my night rest point.

I was surprised not to see Marie on her quad when I arrived. I waited around for a while and then the thought occurred that perhaps she had broken down. I called her and heard a relieved voice on the other side. She then told me the funniest story about how she could no longer see me so she had gathered all the fishermen to count buoys and try to spot me. First day and she wanted to call the coast guard. Yeah right!

Mt Leon is a very special place on this planet and an amazing dinner and great night’s sleep was had at the foot of the mountain.

Day 2

Forecast: North north east 10-12 knots.

Route: Mt Leon up to Burracona.

The shortest day’s paddle. Welcome to the north of the island.

The paddle past the cliffs at Mt Leon is one of the most special experiences anyone on Sal can have. The size, the splendour and the shadows mixed with crystal clear water with abundant fish and bird life is very peaceful. I made a decision to cut through the island, which was very interesting with currents and waves breaking in both directions.

I stopped off at Alibaba for a short water break and paddled around the corner to Palmeira where I hooked up with Marie again who was off to buy supplies. We parted ways and planned to meet up at Buracona.

As soon as I paddled past Palmeira I started to notice the changes.
One bay had plenty of Ridleys turtles and 100m further something large circled around me, a tiger shark I think. I did not pay much attention and neither did it; we both had things to do. The landscape started to change and the coastline became pretty jagged. I was watching out for a keyhole (a place to enter and exit the water), but could not see anything that wouldn’t send you or your board to the clinic. I will never forget paddling around a point only to find 3 seagulls sitting on a rock staring at me wondering what the crazy South African guy was doing!

For some reason I stopped and that was when I noticed the lines of swell heading my way. I paddled up to Buracona but there was no way of exiting the water so I had to make a decision. I had no choice, I knew there was no way out for 20 kilometres ahead of me, I turned around. In my head I knew I had to do something special. This was it; this was what the north was about.

I held up next to a cliff and watched the surge swell rise and fall. One second I was level with the cliff the next second I was admiring the shellfish living on the walls. I looked up and I was level with the land, I made a decision and I jumped. I threw my paddle on to the rocks and grabbed my leash. My board was hanging 25ft over the cliff. With every swell I managed to get it closer and on the third swell my board was back in my arms. I managed to walk up the rocks and about 300 metres to Buracona (what a relief) and Luciano and his great team of workers who made us feel really welcome – a big thank you goes out to them. I can’t wait to sit in the new restaurant in winter and admire the power of the swell!

The wind was getting fresher and the swell was building.

Day 3

Woke up to the sound of crashing waves and a fresh breeze. There was no way it was going to happen.

My good friend Dag from Norway came to join me as he was walking the north while I paddled around. We chatted to Luciano and a couple of the staff and their advice was that I actually go look at what I am going to try paddle.

Dag and I walked up the slope of Monte Leste to try and get a bigger picture. I wish we hadn’t, the big picture was nasty. The wind was doing at least 25 – 30 knots and we could make out current lines all over the place. With the heat up north a lot of thermal wind is created and it certainly has a micro climate of its own. It was hot, really hot and the conditions were starting to play mind games with me. It was time to chill, rest up and eat more than I have eaten in months.

Great night’s sleep with awesome stars.

Day 4

We awoke to exactly the same conditions and made the decision to sit for another day.

Emma, Karen and Duncan (local friends) came up with breakfast which was fantastic. Thanks guys. That evening we had a wonderful gathering and everyone hit the road. Cheryl, Laura, Marie and Linda (the girls and my support team) came up and we had a wonderful BBQ. A few beers later and it was time for everyone to get back to Santa Maria.

Another beautiful night sky.

Day 5

circumnavigation of sal island on a stand up paddle board

Woke really early and went and had a good look at the conditions. It was on. I could not launch at Buracona due to some serious swell so I went back around the corner and jumped off the cliff. We had all planned to meet up on the northern tip Fiura.

Dag was walking with his dog and Laura was meeting Marie and driving around. I was a little nervous about the weather and was just hoping the wind would stay down for a few hours. I was so happy just to be back on the water, I had not paddled for 2 full days.

The landscape from the ocean is stunning. The whole North West coast is surrounded by reef which makes for some pretty awesome waves. It is an amazing feeling paddling on top of the reef which in some cases is less than a metre deep. The water drops off the reef to some incredible depths and I found myself staring into the blue watching shoals of fish feeding and being eaten.

The ocean over time teaches many lessons and awareness is one of the most important. You have to be aware of your position on the reef up north, it is really important. The ocean does not form waves but is rather just a huge mass of unbroken water that moves with great speed over the reef. At one stage I stopped for a water break and found myself being swept over the reef before the water bottle had even touched my lips. The wind was up and doing about 12 knots but the current was the true test.

I made my way around what I thought was the northern tip only to find another point. I was getting confused as what I had seen from land I could now not place from the ocean. I was looking for the lighthouse but could not see it. I carried on…and on… and on. I knew I must have overshot the meeting point but there was no way I was turning back.

At the next bay I decided to paddle to shore to try and figure out where I was. I eventually realised I was staring at Monte Grande 406 metres above sea level and I was on the wrong side of the mountain. I remembered doing a calculation before the trip and figured I had about 7km to go before I reached Pedra Lume so I re-launched and had a fantastic paddle past some pretty jagged reef and cliffs. Families were out fishing and I could see their reactions to seeing a paddle board going by!

It was done, I had made the north but I knew that Dag was walking and with me overshooting the meeting point I started to worry about him. I pulled my board further up the beach and looked up the road to see Laura, Marie and Dag on the way down. Everyone was good and all in one piece. Needless to say, we had a couple of beers and a fantastic chicken BBQ.

Slept like a log!

Day 6

Forecast: Who cares!

Route: Pedra Lume to Angulo

Set off fairly early knowing I had 25 km to do. Had been told that there were a lot of sharks off the wreck but did not come across any. I paddled further down admiring the beautiful little bays and coves along the way. I stopped at one of my favourites and had a good swim.

I carried on down towards Sera Negra. The sharks were all sitting just north, I could not tell how many there were but when I looked out in front of me they were all swimming on the surface almost leading the way. I rounded the corner and saw Santa Maria.

I had been away for 6 days and the realisation that this was soon going to be over hit home. I paddled past the turtle camp and decided to hit land to relax. It was still early and I was only 8km from the end. I decided to press on and rest up at Grijinha before the final leg.

At 4 that afternoon I put the board in the water for the last time. I sat off the point for a while and gave my own personal thanks to the ocean. As I rounded Ponta Leme I noticed a 4×4 speed up and a man with a very large camera get out and start filming. I then started hearing drums. I am an African, born and bred and the sound of the drums gave me instant goose bumps.

As I came within 200 metres of the beach I started to notice the people waiting for my arrival. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect what was about to come my way. Children, beautiful children from the charity rushed up to greet me, friends were shaking my hand and all around me people were smiling. I was pulled away from the crowd and before I knew it we were doing a live radio broadcast and then a TV crew did their thing.

It was an unbelievable vibe and the support from the community was fantastic, you can all be very proud of yourselves. I will never forget that afternoon as long as I live. We had done what we set out to do but what we had achieved in the way of bringing everyone together was also incredible.

circumnavigation of sal island on a stand up paddle board

I would like to thank each and every person for sponsoring me; the money that was raised will go to such an important project.

Cheryl, Linda, Peter, Laura, Dag and especially Marie have to be mentioned. Without these people this trip would not have happened, well maybe it would have, but one thing is for sure, I would not have gained weight along the way! It is amazing knowing that we are all part of a community that cares.

I would also like to thank Maria for giving me a SUP board for my 40th birthday; little did she know the monster she was creating! Also thank you to Josh Angulo for his support, as well as Ed Angulo for designing a great board. Thank you to a great friend of mine, a lion from Zimbabwe, Muche for all the hard paddle time, next time he will be by my side.

To everyone involved thank you and well done.

Now any ideas for what next? If anyone is interested I would love to paddle around all the Islands in Cape Verde!


Castelos do Sal is supported solely through donations: money, food, clothing and educational materials are always very welcome and are distributed accordingly to the families and children in need.

To send money, here are the details you will need:

National transfers NIB: 000500000459547310197

International transfers: Swift Code (BIC) CGDI PT PL

IBAN/NIB cv64 000500000459547310197


Mariana ramos by anne-marie dias borges

February 27th, 2013
Mariana ramos by anne-marie dias borges

Half way between Ella Fitzgerald and Césaria Evora, there is Mariana

Sensuality, originality and spirit, this is what Mariana Ramos brings to an already impressive pantheon of Cape Verdean singers. Over the years, she has reinvented herself and kept her fans more enthusiastic than ever.

Mariana is eclectic too, easily gliding from one rhythm to the next. Her soulful voice effortlessly adapts from a robust “cola sanjõn” from the island of São Vicente, to a suave “coladeira”, and even an invigorating “funana” the most upbeat form of Cape Verdean music and a genre exclusive to the island of Santiago. This adaptability is a direct result of her upbringing, an upbringing which took her way beyond the archipelago.

Born in Dakar, in neighbouring Senegal, Mariana’s first encounters with music were with her father’s, the famous Cape Verdean musician Toy Ramos, aka Tony de Bibia, and with the varied Senegalese music she grew up with. Today, one can still hear the poignant Senegalese drums in some of her compositions.

Cape Verdean influence

A few years later, she travelled to Cape Verde to live with “Bibia”, her beloved grandmother. The years spent in the popular district of “Monte Sossego”, on the island of São Vicente, had a profound impact on young Mariana, as this was where she got her first taste of Cape Verde’s impressive folklore and wide musical range. But it was in Europe, especially in Paris, where she later travelled to join her parents that Mariana performed for the first time. As soon as she was old enough, she joined a rock band, then a pop group before singing in a jazz quintet.

She is an avid learner of new sounds and styles and learnt with ease the repertoires of the greatest, from Edith Piaf to Rickie Lee Jones. Her early love affair with jazz has left a deep and soulful imprint on her singing style.

Mariana ramos by anne-marie dias borges

Recording with Morabeza Records

“Di Dor Em Or” or “From Pain To Gold” marked the debut of her recording career in 2000. The album, released under the distinguished label “Morabeza Records” comprises ten tracks and was an instant hit. Of “Di Dor Em Or” Mariana says that she was very proud to be singing on such a prestigious label, which was started in the 1960s by her uncle and owned at the time by her brother. Indeed, many great names of African music have found worldwide recognition under “Morabeza Records” such as Bana, Bonga and Voz de Cabo Verde.

It was also during this time, that Mariana decided to explore her musical heritage and affirm her love for her country and its music. Acclaimed composers Téofilo Chantre and Nazalio Fortes became her collaborators as she eagerly embarked on this journey of self-discovery.

Europe and Africa opened their arms to the Cape Verdean diva’s debut and soon a successful tour followed. Thanks to her charm and stage presence she quickly caught the eye of the famous French stage director, Richard Demarcy, who offered her a singing and acting role in “Oyé Lunan”, an Afro-Latino play which had tremendous success with over 600 shows throughout the world.

Further albums released

“Bibia”, her second album released in 2004, is a tribute to her grandmothers who both carry this nickname and by the same token to her father, Tony de Bibia, with whom she had the opportunity to collaborate for the first time. The famous guitarist wrote four of the songs on the album which was more intimate and traditional than its predecessor.

Her journey towards her origins led Mariana to her third album “Mornador”, which came out in 2008 and, according to the artist “best represents her universe”. Indeed, it was a labour of love and reflection. Six of the fifteen tracks were written by her, which proved that she was not only a voice to be reckoned with amongst other Cape Verdean singers but also an excellent song writer. “Mornador” was also the opportunity for Mariana to express herself in the many languages she speaks, demonstrating her multiculturalism and capacity to relate to different cultures and people. A bold move which was acclaimed by the media and finally granted Mariana worldwide recognition.

Angolan influences

It was Mariana’s love of dancing which was the inspiration for her latest album, “Suavidança” released in February 2011, a more upbeat style of music, which comprises subtle arrangements and more intricate compositions.

Her passion for her country and Africa in general is obvious with the song “Nzinga Mbandi”, dedicated to the Angolan queen – which she sings with Benin superstar Angelique Kidjo. When those two powerful African voices meet on this catchy track, magic happens and one feels oneself travelling back to the times of this Angolan heroine.

Over the years, Mariana Ramos has successfully established herself as one of the most interesting Cape Verdean artists. Her music represents her roots, her travels, her passions. It is refreshing, sassy and captivating, enriched by all the influences that have seduced her and which will undoubtedly seduce many listeners too.

For more information on Mariana Ramos visit: www.mariana-ramos.com

Mariana ramos by anne-marie dias borges

São vicente – heart and soul of cape verdean music by orlando rodrigues

February 27th, 2013
São vicente – heart and soul of cape verdean music by orlando rodrigues

Inspiring its musicians, São Vicente is known for its popular music that glorifies the land of peace and morabeza – a traditional word that describes the welcoming way in which the Cape Verdeans receive their visitors. Through the melodic voices of its musicians such as Cesaria Evora, Bana, Tito Paris and Titina Rodrigues, the Cape Verdean name resonates around the world with the rhythms of Morna and Coladeira that the world has grown to love.

There is no better way to get to know São Vicente, the island of Porto Grande, than through its relationship with music. Mindelo, São Vicente’s main city, is more than just the home of an outgoing and welcoming people, it is also a big stage where the melody of a great love of the land permanently flows, where the joy of living a carefree existence connects its residents to the island with love and affection.

Some say that São Vicente, or “Soncente”, the phonetic simplification of the Creole language, is the place that has inspired more songs than anywhere else in the world.

Although no one has tried, until now to quantify this statement, it is not hard to confirm this as there have been many times where the most cultural island of Cape Verde has served as a muse to the great musicians of the archipelago.

Sometimes treated as a mother and others as Cretcheu, (an expression of the Cape Verdean language that refers to a beloved woman), São Vicente influences Cape Verdean music in two specific ways, either treating the island as a goddess or humanising it, depending on the way the senses of the poet and composer are challenged.

Mindelo is a cosmopolitan city par excellence, because its heart, the immense and majestic Porto Grande, has always been an open door to the Atlantic, where the nations of the world have constantly passed through, bringing echoes and influences from distant lands.

Because of the experience of those who leave the island and end up coming back, sharing these experiences and absorbing new values from those who remain, a social melting pot exists along with a world view that contributes to make the inhabitants of Mindelo a versatile and deeply welcoming people.

São vicente – heart and soul of cape verdean music by orlando rodrigues

It is this characteristic that makes a visitor feel at ease when arriving at São Vicente, a place where you can easily meet a longshoreman, a fisherman or a labourer.

English and French, Dutch, German, Greek and Korean are languages spoken by many of the people that learned them while interacting directly with the sailors whose ships of many nationalities visit Porto Grande, and because many inhabitants emigrated and then returned to São Vicente.

The city of Mindelo which is beautiful, clean and airy, invites you to walk along its wide streets and suburbs near its historic centre or climb the gentle slopes of the hills of Fonte Filipe, Cruz de João Évora, Madeiralzinho and Monte Sossego, or even spread out onto the plains of Chã de Cemitério, Ribeira das Vinhas or Ribeira de Julião.

In São Vicente, culture, including music, theatre and visual arts, is present at all times.

From small bars and restaurants in the Cape-Verdean suburbs, local musicians became famous and popular and bring their music to the big hotels downtown especially on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.

Another musical event offered on the Mindelo cultural tour in August is the Festival Baia das Gatas, that takes place on the beach of the same name, located a few kilometres from the city.

For three days, the entire population of São Vicente is to be found here, watching the performances of many Cape Verdean and foreign artists, that bring to Baía das Gatas an unprecedented variety of music characterised by a rich and eclectic mix of rhythms and sounds from different sources.
From the Caribbean to Brazil, from Angola to Portugal, through France and Spain, there are many groups and international artists who, over nearly thirty years of the festival, have performed on stage at the Baia das Gatas. Most notably at the 2011 festival, São Vicente enjoyed the presence of the star of the MPB (Braziian Pop Music), Brazilian Alcyone.

The event is organized by the Municipality of São Vicente and is hugely popular given the large involvement of the population of the island along with the thousands of immigrants and tourists that travel to Cape Verde to attend the event, not just because of the music but also because of the great ambience and sense of camaraderie that the festival produces.

The theatre also has status on the island, most notably because of the annual Festival Mindelact that features the performances of many existing companies in São Vicente and a large number from various countries outside Cape Verde.

The Carnival is the other great popular party held in February or March, depending on the calendar, which transforms the city of Mindelo into a real court of King Momo, which can be compared to the Rio de Janeiro party, albeit on a far smaller scale.

Paul, the place of the singing waters by orlando rodrigues

For weeks, the people of São Vicente go out on to the streets with an unrestrained joy that enlivens the city of Mindelo. The party culminates on the weekend prior to the Carnival week, with the parade of the Tropical Samba School and on Shrove Tuesday there is the official parade, with hundreds of participants with floats, music and lots of drumming.


The city of Mindelo was born around the port, where there is a former coal warehouse of one of the large British companies, which in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries supplied the steamboats that did the shipping between Europe and South America.

The memories of an era of prosperity from those times remain today and the inhabitants are trying to recreate this wealth through a new economic means which is tourism.

The urban area of São Vicente extends from the Port to the villages of Ribeira de Craquinha and Passarão, covering Morada, the historic city centre, with its interesting colonial architecture. The area of Chã de Cemitério e Madeiralzinho has new developments, along with the expansion zone of Ribeira de Julião, the popular district of Monte Sossego, and the popular suburbs of Ribeira Mote, Bela Vista, Fonte Francês, Fonte Cónego, Fonte Filipe, Fonte de Inês, Ribeirinha and Cruz de João Évora, to name just a few.

It is in these places that true island life is lived, and where one can witness, in all its essence, the experiences of local people.

The metropolis is surrounded by a mountainous belt. To the east side is Monte Verde, the main elevation of São Vicente, and on the west side the Monte Cara is visible, a landscape that is shaped like a human face with its eye facing the sky and an elegant profile.

On a map of São Vicente, one can see around half a dozen settlements, one of which is the fishing area of São Pedro, which houses the new international airport which has direct flights from Europe, the United States and many more countries throughout the world.

Paul, the place of the singing waters by orlando rodrigues

Calhau is another place to visit, only 20 minutes away by car, where one can enjoy the healthy sea air.

It is a coastal resort where many people from Mindelo have weekend homes, but for the seasonal visitor Calhau already has a tourist infrastructure, with low-cost accommodation, cafes, bars and restaurants with typical good quality food and cultural activities which include typical Cape Verdean music.

Further north, the Baia das Gatas, neighbour of the fishing village of Salamana, is another place of great interest. The vast plain by the sea offers lovely small beaches, as well as a large natural swimming pool with water that is renewed every day by the tides.

Small in size, São Vicente is one of the most interesting and striking islands of the archipelago of Cape Verde. The late Manuel de Novas, one of its most emblematic composers was right when he wrote “quem ca conchê Mindelo, ca conchê Cabo Verde“, or in English this means “those who do not know Mindelo, do not know Cape Verde.”


Cape Verde is held up as an example to Africa.

January 31st, 2012
One of only a few countries ever to be promoted from the United Nations’ “Least developed nation” category to “Middle income country” status, Cape Verde can be justifiably proud as it is quite an achievement for a group of islands barely heard of a decade ago.

Cape Verde has a well functioning democracy where constitutionally the president steps down after two terms and in fact former president Pedro Verona Pires, won last year’s $5 million Ibrahim prize for excellence in African leadership. The award, created by Sudanese billionaire Mo Ibrahim, has been given out to three other former African presidents. But there were no winners for the last two years, because the committee could not find a suitable candidate.

Cape Verde is held up as an example to Africa

The head of the Ibrahim Prize Committee, Salim Ahmed Salim, said Pires was chosen for transforming Cape Verde into a model of democracy. He added that it was not just how Pires came to power, but how he left, that made him an exceptional leader.

“President Pires’ democratic credentials were further enhanced when he announced he was stepping down at the end of his second term, dismissing outright that the constitution could be altered to allow him to stand again,” said Salim. “He said, this is a simple matter of faithfulness to the documents that guide a state of law.”

The Ibrahim committee credited him with transforming the country’s economy and improving the lives of its 500,000 citizens. With its strong economic growth and almost universal literacy, Cape Verde is certainly a fine example of what a successful democracy can do for its population.


Wind farm in Praia, Cape Verde, to start operating in August

June 14th, 2011

The Monte São Filipe wind farm in the Cape Verdean capital, Praia, which has an installed capacity of 10 megawatts (MW) is expected to start operating in August, Cape Verde’s director-general for Energy said Saturday.

Abraão Lopes said that the essential tool to assemble the wind farm, which represents an investment of 16 million euros, were already in the country. He added that the wind farm would account for around 25 percent of the country’s power production.

Lopes, who was speaking on the sidelines of a visit to the port of Praia to receive the 11 new generators, noted that the farm would produce around 110 gigawatts (GW) of power per year.

“The aero-generators will provide an installed capacity of 10 megawatts of nominal power in the city, which means a very large composition in terms of installed capacity,” he said noting that project also included building identical wind farms on the islands of Sal (8 MW), Sao Vicente (6 MW) and Boavista (2.4 MW).

The wind farm that is due to be installed in Praia is co-funded by the Cape Verdean government, Electra, InfraCo, Finnfund, African Development Bank and the European Investment Bank.

The overall cost of the project for the islands of Santiago, São Vicente, Sal and Boavista is around 63 million euros and will have a totalled installed capacity of 28 MW, which means a penetration of renewable energy in the national grid of over 25 percent. (macauhub)



May 6th, 2011


Within the geographic parameters of Cape Verde, Santo Antão is considered the giant of the north of the archipelago, the Big Island.

The island’s origins are volcanic, of recent formation, as evidenced by its high and impressive mountains, cut by beautiful and fertile valleys, where every place, every village and every community is a paradise of peace and simplicity.

The island is divided into three administrative districts or counties, Porto Novo, Paul and Ribeira Grande, each area has its own unique beauty.

Paul is the place we are visiting today to present to you one of the most majestic places in Cape Verde, a small corner of pure natural beauty torn by deep valleys and lush fertile terrain, protected by mountains that lead to the open sea.



Squeezed between the ocean and the prodigious peaks, the city of Pombas, the county headquarters, is a small area of land which has been created to preserve the rural landscape where tranquility is something almost tangible.

For many years, Paul was the most inaccessible municipality of Santo Antão, but today it is the gateway to the interior of the island, via the modern new road that has been ingeniously built on the edge of huge cliffs, and offers the traveller views of dazzling beauty in each of its bends and counter-bends that show the ever-changing ocean down below. The journey from one extreme to another feels dangerous, but road accidents are rare in Santo Antão.

The mountains, designed by a generous Mother Nature, offer the eyes strange contours that resemble well-known figures and objects, in one place showing the Sphinx of Gizeh, and elsewhere, a giant phallus proudly pointing to the heavens.


Paul is one of the most luxuriant valleys of Cape Verde, and water flows in streams throughout the year, feeding rich vegetation that thrives even in the driest seasons.
Agriculture is rich and diverse, offering typical products that enrich the cuisine,
such as breadfruit, which also grows to a lesser extent elsewhere in the archipelago but is difficult to find in the markets of the other islands.

Corn, the main crop cultivated on Santo Antão, gives rise to a wide variety of foods such as maize porridge. Baked sweet potatoes in hot ashes have a delicacy of flavour unmatched by anything else, especially when eaten with fresh goat’s milk. The huge variety of cookery using traditional recipes, also contributes to the gastronomic wealth of Paul and the entire island of Santo Antão and the island’s goat’s cheese is, for some, the best in Cape Verde.


grogue (rum made from cane sugar)

The grogue (rum made from cane sugar) is one of Santo Antão’s most well known products, and in the streams of Paul, this is an industry that provides a quality product.

In January the cycle of production begins and all over the island, the “Trapiches” still largely driven by cattle, do not stop until the crunch of the last cane rod.

One of the most famous “Trapiches” of Santo Antão, being the oldest and the biggest, is located at the property of Ildo Benrós who also owns the largest sugar cane plantation in Paul.

Visiting Ildo Benrós during the month of manufacturing of “Grogue” is a mandatory stop for all of those who pass through the county as the new asphalted road that connects to Paul, Porto Novo and Ribeira Grande takes visitors past his land.

The visitor can taste various types of Grogue”, old, white, this year’s harvest or previous years, along with a traditional punch of molasses and liqueurs of different flavours that are also produced from sugar cane.

But the experience does not stop there: the visitor can also watch the operation of the ancient “Trapiche”, the fermentation of sugar cane and the distillation of “Grogue”, which is placed in twenty litre bottles which are then carefully stored for bottling and immediate marketing or for ageing.


One of the island’s greatest historical assets, the lighthouse Fontes Pereira de Melo, is popularly known as Farol de Boi (Lighthouse of Boi). Its name comes from its proximity to the islet of Ox, which is opposite.

Formerly an important navigational tool that marked the north entrance of the Canal de São Vicente, it is now a dilapidated structure which lives on in the memories of those old enough to remember it in its heyday.

Built by Royal Decree in April 1884, the lighthouse came into operation just two years later in May 1886, which illustrates how important this building was, as at this time in provinces as poor as Cape Verde few public buildings were erected so quickly.

For nearly a century, with its powerful light powered by oil and a range of about 30 miles, with its complex rotating mechanism of cables, pulleys and gears that operated the winch, the Lighthouse of Boi played an important role.

Despite the current state of the lighthouse, it still manages to show signs of its past grandeur, including the octagonal tower which is nearly 11 metres tall, the interior spiral staircase built in solid cast iron and the arched look outs. The rotating mechanism is still visible along with the crystal lens of the 4.5 metre flashlight inside the lighthouse, and externally one can see the metal dome with its windmill moving at the mercy of ocean breezes.

The rest of the parts of the building such as those made of bronze, wood and everything that could be disassembled and had some value were stolen sadly.


Paul is also the land of legends and mysteries. In the not too distant past, there were many stories of witchcraft.

One of the well known legends revolves around the so-called Stone Letters (Pedra de Letra), a boulder in the town of Lombo de Canequinha where there are mysterious and ancient inscriptions, their origins and meanings no one can explain. According to the people of the town, the boulder appeared one morning where it still stands, with its smooth face marked and embossed with unknown characters and symbols, some of which are religious and have fascinated people ever since.

According to the local people we contacted, many people, both local and foreign, throughout the ages have tried to decipher the meaning of the inscriptions, but without success.

The age of the stone inscriptions also remains an unsolved mystery. Nobody knows when they appeared, and those that saw them originally died long ago. Certainly centuries have passed since the boulder with its inscriptions first appeared.

The Carved Stone lies on the shores of the beautiful green river that is located in Lombo de Canequinha, a place where water is plentiful for much of the year.

It is fortunate that this is one piece of history that has never been subject to any act of vandalism, the inscriptions remain perfectly intact to this day.

Whether they are or are not an expression of the occult or even a description of historical assets or life in those days, the fact is that people are fascinated by this legend and have great fondness for the Stone Letters that continue to remain a mystery to this day.



May 4th, 2011


The wait is finally over! The Cape Verdean legends have been working on new material with a view to releasing their fifth album in the coming months.

Indeed, after nearly ten years spent touring the world, Splash! rekindled its romance with the recording studio and promises an opus full of their recognizable catchy melodies and a few surprises, proving that the magic is still there.

One expects this coming album to set another milestone in the musical history of the islands, just like its 4 predecessors did. After all, this is the band that literally creates “musical tsunamis” with the release of each album, changing the course of contemporary African music.

To better understand the significance of Splash! and the influence it has on its contemporaries, we need to go back to the source, the beginning, the creation…

From the start, this band has set itself apart from the rest. When it was formed in 1990, in Holland (where the musicians reside and where there is a large Cape Verdean community), it was only as a back up band performing with recording artists.

Its members came from some of the most successful Cape Verdean bands of the time, namely Livity, Rabelados, Gil & the Perfects and Dragões. It was a match made in heaven. Never before had Portuguese Africa seen so much talent in a single formation. By fusing their various styles, ideas and experience, Splash! was able to offer the eager public a new sound and a new generation of Cape Verdean music was born.

Their first album, “Simplicidade” or “Simplicity”, was released in 1996, six years after their debut as a band and was an instant hit. Two years later, “Nha Terra K’chuva” came out, the success was phenomenal. The band was awarded a Silver Record and finally achieved international recognition. Moreover, the title of this album, which translates as “my country with rain” hit a sensitive cord amongst Cape Verdeans across the world. Indeed, the islands have been plagued with periods of drought throughout its history and inadequate rainfalls remain a constant worry and subject of discussion for islanders.

“Africana, the Best of Splash!” promptly followed in 1999, consolidating the band’s fan base, before their fourth opus “Contradição” came out in 2001 – an album which showcased the full range of their musical styles, from Zouk, to Morna, Marzurka and Funana.

Splash! has not only been evolving musically but also with its band members. Today the band is comprised of Djoy Delgado, Grace Evora, Danilo Tavares, Johnny Fonseca, Dina Medina, Manu Soares and Laise Sanches. But this is a band in constant evolution, just like its music, artists Johnny Ramos, Milena Tavares, José Azancoth and more recently Denis Graça have all been part of Splash! over the past years.

One thing is for sure, each member of the group is a superstar and musical virtuoso in his or her own right. And each one of them has brought to this formation something unique, which in turns sets this band apart, one can even argue, above the rest.

Behind every great idea there is a great man, in this instance his name is Djoy Delgado, the founder and one of the two keyboard players of the group. This creative genius has worked on over 500 albums and received various prizes, notably one for Best Music Producer. He is undoubtedly one of Africa’s most renowned music composers and not a day goes by in Cape Verde when at least one of his compositions is not played on the radio. Thanks to his vision, Splash! came to life and continues to flourish.

Grace Evora, plays the drums in the band whilst enjoying a thriving musical career as a solo artist. He is currently one of Cape Verde’s most popular and prolific singers, with numerous hit singles to date, such as “Lolita” and “Isolada”. Asking him how he is able to juggle between his experiences as a lead singer when he performs as a solo artist and a drum player when he is on stage with Splash!
Grace simply declares that “it all comes together naturally, without any conflicts, because after all these years playing together, Splash! feels like a big family in which everyone respects each other – every voice is heard”.

Splash! Band, capeverdean

Danilo Tavares, bassist, is an ex-member of the famous 80’s band Rabelados. Besides playing the bass guitar in Splash! Danilo has established himself as a highly regarded music producer. His Rotterdam studio, Music Pro, is very sought after amongst recording artists and Danilo has produced hundreds of successful albums, such as “Venus 1 & 2”. According to him, Splash’s upcoming album will once again put their talent on display. He says “the fact we have been playing together for so long and know each other so well shows in our music. Our experience shines through… We are ready to resume the dialogue with our fans and show them we are still here for them”.

Singer Dina Medina, is also a very successful solo artist. In fact Splash! debuted on stage as her band in 1991, when her first solo album, “Paixão e Coração” was released. Dina, who was a member of early 90’s pop sensation band Gil & the Perfects, has recently been performing in various productions featuring Cuban and European artists. Her latest solo album, “Mornamente” offers the public a more acoustic experience, with Dina following in the footsteps of Cesaria Evora. Still, regardless of her solo success, Dina refers to Splash! as “her roots” and reassures the fans she will carry on performing both with the band and as a solo artist.

Laise Sanches is the other female vocalist. She joined Splash! five years ago and has brought with her tremendous energy. Her distinctive vocal range and charm brings great uplift to the band. Originally from the island of Santiago, Laise is able to connect further with aficionados who appreciate funana and batuku, two music styles which are traditional to that island. She is currently working on her first solo album.

Manu Soares, the other keyboard player, is another musical veteran who has been seen on stage with numerous artists. Over the years, he has established himself as one of Cape Verde’s most talented and highly regarded musicians. This native of the island of São Nicolau also commented on what makes his band special. According to him, “the band always stays true to its essence” before adding “we are like a family, we understand each other and this is our strength”.

Last but, by no means least, is Johnny Fonseca, who has been with Splash! since its creation. Johnny is arguably Cape Verde’s number one guitar player. This virtuoso who started playing in a High School reggae band attributes his amazing success to the fact that having been born in Holland he is able to add a “European flair” to his repertoire. Indeed, Johnny has managed to develop his own distinctive style of playing his instrument of predilection. For Johnny, it is the fact that Splash! “still has soul, meaning that they still continue to record albums the old fashioned way, with real instruments and real musicians”, that keeps the fans coming back for more.

It is interesting to note that almost every island of the archipelago is represented within this band, making it unique in a country where age old ethnic rivalries remain rooted in popular culture. The islands are geographically divided in two groups, often referred to as the “Sotavento” islands or the” Leeward” islands, which is the southern island group and the “Barlavento” islands or the “windward islands”. This geographic distinction is coupled with distinct variations in the culture of each island, giving way to time-old stereotypes about the two main ethnic groups, the “Badius” from the southern islands and the “Sampadjudu” from the northern part of the country.

There are notable differences between both groups, especially in the different dialects of the national Krioulo and in the various musical genres. Yet, could this pioneer fusion be the reason for Splash’s success and mass appeal? This would certainly explain why Cape Verdeans from all backgrounds appreciate and identify with the band’s music. Why change a winning formula? Thousands of fans cannot be wrong… there is something captivating about Splash! that keeps on making the public asking for more twenty years on. And rest assured the release of Splash’s newest album is set to be one of the musical highlights of 2011!

For more information on Splash! visit www.splashcvonline.com



April 5th, 2011

A guided turtle walk, Cape Verdean

Loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta) are now the only species of marine turtle nesting on Sal. Although in the past others, such as the leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea) and green (Chelonia mydas), reportedly nested, now they are only seen in offshore waters, mainly due to their numbers being decimated by hunting.

Although hunting is still a major issue with 43 turtles killed on Sal in 2010, habitat loss and light pollution are becoming a much more serious threat.  Construction sites, hotels, apartment buildings and restaurants close to beaches, bright lights and illegal removal of sand are contributing to a marked decrease in the total number of nesting turtles on beaches in Sal.

Further loss of habitat is caused by increased amounts of beach furniture, beach bars and restaurants, more lighting along the shore and people driving on beaches.

Cape Verdean Beaches

In 2009, compared to 2008, Sal experienced an average increase in nests of 200% while the beach most affected by construction, Algodoeiro (on the west coast of Sal) saw a decrease of 7.3%, most likely because turtles are moving from there to an undisturbed area.  This beach also recorded a much lower nesting ratio than normal.  Usually 30% of tracks seen would have nests while the others are what is known as ‘attempts’ or ‘false crawls’.  On Algodoeiro in 2009 only 17% of tracks were nests, indicating reluctance to nest due to light pollution and noise.

Although turtles will choose other places to nest, the possibility exists that they will choose inappropriate places such as areas that flood or beaches where they are more likely to be killed, such as Mont Leão which is unpatrolled.

Bright lighting not only deters turtles from nesting but disorientates hatchlings and over the last three seasons 50% of nests that been have left on Algodoeiro have been affected, with emergent hatchlings becoming confused and heading to construction sites, bars, hotels and restaurants instead of the sea.

Turtles may continue to nest in areas affected by light pollution but increasing amounts of intervention will be required by SOS Tartarugas & the Câmara Municipal (City Hall) of Sal since more nests will need to be relocated to hatcheries, creating strain on already limited amounts of finance and manpower.

Of course, Sal has few resources and must exploit the good weather and long, sandy beaches for tourism.  This has resulted in a dramatic increase in apartments and hotels on the south and south-western side of the island, which should, in turn, result in a stronger economy and increased prosperity for residents.

So the question is, are the two needs mutually exclusive or can turtles and tourism coexist peacefully?

Tourism on Sal is a necessity for economic growth and indeed it is a necessity for turtle conservation as well.  Since the national and local governments have very limited budgets for the protection of this natural resource, it falls on SOS Tartarugas to be entirely self-sufficient.

In fact, 70% of the money that pays for patrolling Rangers to protect nesting females and relocate and monitor nests is raised through contributions from visitors to the island. Turtle walks, hatchery visits to see turtles being born and symbolic adoptions of both adult and baby turtles are just a few of the ways tourists can participate in conservation activities. In fact, several Rangers initially came to Sal on holiday and came back later to make a more long-term commitment.

Not only is participation in conservation activities vital for funding, it also has a strong role to play in informing and educating people about the needs of turtles. Activities with children are especially valuable.

Girl kneeling at hatchery,  Cape Verdean

So for a non-profit organisation such as SOS Tartarugas it is important to understand the needs of the island, the people and the economy and to work with developers and the government to find compromises that protect the natural heritage of Sal but allows sustainable growth.

Easy solutions exist such as turtle friendly lighting – these emit a certain kind of light that turtles don’t see as well as humans or, even simpler, lights can be directed downwards and shaded so they can’t be seen from the beach.

Beach furniture can be removed at night and visitors can be given information about minimising disturbance to turtles by not going to the beach unaccompanied at night.

For developers & hotels it makes sense to preserve nesting beaches as an added attraction for visitors. Turtles are a ‘flagship’ species and many people pay a premium for their holiday if they have a chance to see either nesting turtles or hatchlings. Surveys conducted by SOS Tartarugas amongst tourists and residents have shown a clear indication that once they are aware of the issues, the majority of people will choose a turtle friendly business over one that contributes to the extinction of loggerheads on Sal.

A guided turtle walk

Case studies from other countries show clearly that the development of tourism does not have to be the end of the road for nesting turtles, all it takes is cooperation and some creative thinking. Preserving Sal’s natural heritage is of benefit to all.

For more information on turtle walks and other conservation activities visit

www.turtlesos.org or email info@turtlesos.org

For more information on the effects of tourism on turtles in Sal

For more information on turtle friendly solutions for lighting

Cape Verdean Turtles heading towards sea


Hernani Almeida has released a second album called “Caalma”

December 11th, 2010
A magical acoustic experience – this is what Cape-Verdean guitarist, Hernani Almeida, offers the listener of his second solo album – ingeniously entitled: “Caalma” or “Caalm” – the second “a” having been added to emphasize this invitation to unwind. The album was recorded at Le Studio Mindelo by Jorge Nunes and Hernani Almeida and consists of twelve songs; eleven by the guitarist and one by Biús, a simple tribute to the young Cape Verdean musician who died in 2009.

The journey starts with the first song, also entitled “Caalma”… The mood is set… Velvety, captivating and spellbinding, it displays from the start the virtuosity of Hernani.

One is bound to be surprised at first, after all this is not what you would expect from a young Cape Verdean guitarist! Very soon however, one is taken by what Hernani calls “music surrealism”. And surreal his music can be. Think of a musical Dali, Goya or Miro… A patchwork audio painting, mixing different sounds, atmospheres and rhythms. Away from Cape Verde’s traditional tocatinhas and high pinched guitar cords, Hernani’s music is like mittens for your ears and most definitely cutting edge!

Hernani Almeida

Further into the album, the track numbers four “Maskrinha” and seven “Espera Verde Djga” are like two exclamation marks!! Audacious and lilting, these songs remind us of Hernani’s origins and passion for his continent – Africa. Indeed, one can hear the African drums in the background; the traditional Cape Verdean rhythms take centre stage in a beautiful and harmonious way. Batuku, soul and jazz make friends on those tracks, a revolutionary concept!

Hernani AlmeidaHernani has already experimented with mixing more traditional African rhythms and other sounds for his first “love child” as he likes to call it, his first album entitled “Afro na Mi”. A disc which shows according to him his Africaness, allowing him to “explore and expose” what he observes in Africa. Hernani the Afro-centrist touches a sensitive nerve in Cape Verde… Indeed one has to bear in mind that Cape Verde is a “mestizo” society, with seventy-eight percent of the population being Creole. The culture of the islands is a unique mixture of European and African elements and national identity is somewhat fragmented, mainly as a result of geographical division of the islands. Generally speaking, the northern, or barlavento islands tend to identify more with Portugal, whereas the southern or “sotavento” islands (Santiago in particular) have a strong sense of affiliation to Africa – a special fondness for everything that reminds them of the first African slaves who were shipped to their islands.

Hernani declared to the press a few days after the release of “Afro na Mi” that he simply chooses to identify with Africa and that he wants to explore that side of Africa that he has in him. Therefore, “Afro na Mi” he said is “like [his] Africaness put on disc”.

Hernani Almeida

Born and bred on the island of Sao Vicente, his first musical encounters were with local musicians. Aged seven, he was offered a little keyboard but very soon, young Hernani replaced it with a guitar, his instrument of choice.

In 1994, he formed a rock band “What”, immediately catching the attention of famous Cape Verdean artists, for instance the renowned Gerard Mendes (Boy G.),who invited him on his European tour, followed by artists Sara Tavares, Tcheka and Mayra Andrade .

In 1997 he recorded two albums with Bau – Cesaria Evora’s former guitarist – before playing alongside Malian super star Habib Koité. Other international collaborations have followed, further enriching his musical spectrum. Over the past few years, we saw Hernani sharing the stage with French DJ Frederic Galliano, hip-hop artists Switch and Tony from Paris, Modeste from Madagascar and Brazilian song smith Lenine. Hernani has more recently performed at Sao Vicente’s annual festival “Baia das Gatas” and has been featured on countless television interviews.

Still, when I asked him what his greatest source of inspiration was, he did not mention his past experiences or his country but Nature!

“Mother Nature inspires me. I want to share with people. Be as generous with them as Mother Nature is with us everyday. Let’s all become more appreciative. How can we be bitter, when Mother Nature is so sweet? We should wake up every morning, open our windows and let the sun illuminate our homes. We should never forget that the sand loves to feel our small feet walking all over its skin!”

Not an easy task trying to capture “Nature’s nature” with notes and instruments but this is the task Hernani has set for himself. The artist bids us “to listen to [his] music with [our] hearts”. Musical visualization, this is what we need to understand his music and appreciate all its subtleties!

So, sit back, relax and take in the full spectrum of Hernani’s musical creativity.

To find out more about Hernani Almeida, go to: www.hernanicv.com or www.myspace.com/hernani1978


Dolphin Rescue

November 10th, 2010
Lucky strike
Dolphins rescued from certain death on Santo Antão. Written by Annette Rieck and told by Bernd Helle.

Tarrafal de Monte Trigo, Island of Santo Antão.

On 31st of July, around 9:30am, I was just about to go down into the village, when Chitch, a young fisherman, came running into the “Mar Tranquilidade”, the cosy little hotel where I live. “Some dolphins have been stranded on the rocks!” he exclaimed breathlessly, “and they cannot get into open water again.”

I looked at the bay with its glimmering black sand and calm turquoise ocean. At this time of the day the sun was already very hot, heating up the sand and the air to uncomfortable temperatures for bare feet – or the bare, extremely vulnerable skin of sea mammals.

On the beach I saw two fishermen, Kata and Almeida, sitting in the shade of one of the coloured wooden fishing boats heatedly discussing some obviously important topics, probably football!


While Chitch asked them to come with us, I fetched my cap, a bucket and my camera, and off we went. We headed towards the many small rock pools to the left of the sandy part of the beach, one kilometre away.

When we reached the bay, we saw one calf and two adult dolphins trapped in one of the rock pools, bleeding from several wounds and cuts which were caused by the sharp volcanic rock. Unfortunately two of the three were already dead, only one of the adult dolphins was still alive.

We poured some fresh water over its dry, hot skin, and then started to move the heavy body into the deepest part of the pool, where the water was at least thirty centimetres deep. The dolphin weighed around a ton, so was very heavy. Not an easy task, especially if you consider that the ground was covered with sea urchins, and we were all barefoot! And the more difficult task was still to come, to carry the dolphin over the rocky barrier that separated the rock pool from the open sea.


How we finally managed, I have no idea. We were four men with a three metre long dolphin weighing a ton with slippery skin which was trying to escape from us. In addition, we were in the middle of these pools made of sharp volcanic rock full of sea urchins – not the easiest of tasks. But we succeeded. It took us a quarter of an hour, and when we watched the dolphin swim away, we were laughing with relief and joy.

Another task was yet to be done, we had to bury the two dead dolphins in the sea to prevent them rotting ashore. I was just on the way back to fetch a boat and some rope and was not even 50 metres away, when I heard Kata shouting. In another pool a bit further away there were more! Twelve in total, hurt and dry as well, and already some of them were dead. While my companions took care of the hurt animals, I went back to the fisherman’s place. With four new helpers, Manuel, Gonçalves, Ildo and Jeremia, a boat and some ropes I returned.

When we got back, Kata, Almeida and Chitch had already moved two of the dolphins back into the sea, as luckily the access to open water was easier here. Out of the twelve dolphins, eight were still alive, and now as there were eight people to handle the big and heavy mammals, we managed to move them all back into the sea by around 2pm.

But there was a problem, some of the animals came back to the shore two or three times, and we had to take them away from the rocky trap not just once, but several times.

Ultimately, we were able to rescue nine of the fifteen dolphins, but sadly for six of them, help came too late. These we could only bury in the ocean, the corpses tied together and carried to the ocean floor by two heavy stones. We watched as they sank into the deep blue water, feeling very sorry that we had been unable to save their lives. But we were more than happy with what we had managed to do, nine of the dolphins were rescued, and not one of us was hurt by the needles of the sea urchins – a small miracle, and a real lucky strike.