Cape Verde water sports: Top five activities

Following our introduction to Cape Verde, we're taking a closer look at the variety of water sports available. Located on the fringe of the Atlantic means that the list of exciting Cape Verde water sports is a good and eclectic one, offering something for every age and ability. On shore, rainfall is rare and drinking water is precious, but when it comes to adventure and Cape Verde water sports, the ever-present ocean is just waiting to be explored.

Santa Maria bay Sal Island - photo courtesy of Cape Verde Tourism

Cape Verde water sports: Top five activities

Here's our pick of the top five water sports activities which add that something special to holidays for those seeking a memorable and active experience in the great outdoors of the archipelago, from swimming and fishing to surfing, whale watching, and more...

1. Swimming

If it's swimming you're after, you need to exercise some caution. The Atlantic rollers are powerful and can be unforgiving with a strong undertow, but don't be deterred: the golden rules are "ask if it's safe" and "swim where the locals swim".

Sal Island beach © Alex Dunkel - Flickr Creative Commons

The best beaches are on Sal, Boa Vista and Maio, and if you're staying at a large hotel on one of the first two islands, you'll probably have a luxury swimming pool to enjoy as well - perfect! On Sal's east coast, you can swim with nurse sharks (yes, they're harmless), and on all three of these islands you can find great spots for bathing.

On São Vicente, the town beach in Mindelo is small and lively with locals, but still a welcome escape from the city bustle. Swimming on the other five islands is possible, but depends heavily on sea conditions.

2. Fishing

Fishing is an activity which falls broadly into two categories when it comes to Cape Verde water sports: small, low key trips and big-game fishing excursions.

Across the islands, hardy fishermen fire up their outboards and set off daily, returning with a few dozen grouper, dorado, wahoo and skipjack, all line-caught. Some fish are kept, some go to market.

Cape Verde fisherman © Christian Åslund - Greenpeace

You can usually join the fishermen on their daily jaunt, marvelling as they effortlessly pull in wriggling creature after wriggling creature. Most boats are small, taking four to six passengers: fees are modest and negotiable. Back on shore, you should be able to find someone to cook your catch for you.

Then there's big-game fishing, São Nicolau is the favourite island, with giant marlin being the sought-after catch. São Vicente, Santo Antão, Sal, Boa Vista and Fogo also have big-game fishing operations. This type of fishing is definitely not cheap, and you really need at least six people to help spread the cost.

3. Diving & snorkelling

Given the location of Cape Verde water sports including diving and snorkelling are better at certain months of the year over others. Wind and conditions in winter can stir up the water, making visibility poor, but at other times the islands offer great opportunities for these activities. A sighting of a sea turtle, manta ray or dolphin would be a true highlight.

Underwater Cape Verde © Carlos Rincon - Flickr Creative Commons

In Tarrafal on Santiago island, and at Tarrafal de Monte Trigo on Santo Antão island, you will find well-equipped diving centres. For the widest range of facilities and dive sites, however, Sal and Boa Vista islands are once again the clear winners. Sal has five wreck dives, plus diving in lava caves in the island's north.

Novices are welcome at all the islands' dive centres. Those snorkellers who prefer to explore on their own, rather than as part of an organised trip, should take their own equipment, as the quality of masks and snorkels for sale in Cape Verde is, at best, dubious.

4. Surfing

Lovers of surfing (be it wind, kite or other), will find a little bit of paradise in Cape Verde. São Vicente island has rich potential yet remains largely undeveloped, while Sal and Boa Vista are top destinations with good facilities.

Cape Verde water sports © Alex Dunkel - Flickr Creative Commons

Wind is rarely in short supply: the gentler months of June to October are recommended for beginners, while breezes blow extra hard between November to May when intermediate and experienced surfers will find some challenging conditions. Ponta Preta beach on Sal is the iconic destination for hard-core windsurfers and has regularly hosted world championships. Surfers will enjoy the long, right-hand reef here, too.

Kitesurfing on Boa Vista - photo courtesy of Cape Verde Tourism

On Boa Vista, Cabral Beach is the top venue for surfers, while novice windsurfers should stick to the calm of Sal Rei Bay. Kite fanatics should choose the aptly-named Kite Beach on Sal: there are no schools there, but you can rent equipment in Santa Maria and pile into a taxi.

5. Marine life

If you prefer to stay dry while enjoying Cape Verde water sports there are plenty of water-based pleasures to enjoy, centred largely around the country's rich marine life. On Sal, a glass-bottomed boat will take you to see reefs, fish, shipwrecks, and even a bizarre statue of Christ which lies six metres down. Alternatively, take advantage of peak whale-watching season in March and April, when sightings of humpback whales off Boa Vista are virtually guaranteed.

Whale watching © etfoto -

If you simply can't bear to leave the shore, watching loggerhead turtles laying their eggs in the sands between July and October is a breath-taking sight. Go with one of the conservation groups on Boa Vista and Sal that organise visits - avoid unofficial, self-styled 'guides' who don't always have the turtles' best interests at heart.

If you feel inspired to try your hand at Cape Verde water sports, don't miss the first part of our guide, An introduction to Cape Verde, or the final instalment which takes a look at things to do in Cape Verde from hiking to history. You can also browse the latest holiday deals with the likes of Thomson and to ensure you get the best deal before booking.

Murray Stewart

Murray Stewart
Posted on Monday 28th April 2014 in: Adventure Africa Beach Winter sun

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