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Circumnavigation of sal island on a stand up paddle board

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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

Wednesday, 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.”