Cape Verde 5th-12th May 2008
Well I know old BJ has just done an article in Diver Magazine re Cape Verde, but here are my thoughts on this location.
We travelled as a group of six; we booked off the Thompson (TUI) Internet site and booked to stay at the “Hotel Riu Funana” located at Santa Maria in Sal. This was a Five Star all inclusive package and we paid £550 each. I will cover the hotel later in the report.
We booked our diving with Cabo Verde Diving over the internet. Cabo Verde Diving.
We paid 200 Euro for three days diving at two dives per day; this included a 12 litre or a 15 litre tank (steel) weights, BCD and regulator.
So let’s start with flights and hotels first. We arrived at Gatwick North Terminal nice and early for our 0940 hours flight with First Choice Airways, they include an extra 10KG of baggage allowance for divers, which is printed on their website, so I printed that page off and took it with me to the airport. We had 7 bags between six of us to check in weighing a total of 146KG, so we were just over normal baggage allowance but on stating that we had dive kit, the check in was fine. Unfortunately our flight was delayed by nine hours so we did not arrive at our hotel till 2330 local time. Cape Verde is two hours behind UK time. Check in at the hotel was smooth and we had our bags in our rooms and were at the bar for a well earned Gin and Tonic by 2345.
I chose the Riu Funana all inclusive 5 star package as I was not sure on what eating out and bars and restaurants would be like in Santa Maria. I have to say the hotel was excellent. The staff were very friendly, the food was some of the best I have eaten at a hotel abroad. We ate one night in the Cape Verde Speciality restaurant at the hotel. Fresh fish, prawns, mussels were all on the menu and eat as much as you want. Which I did!!! Fortunately the hotel has a gym and a running machine, so I managed to do three 5 mile runs whilst staying at the hotel, so hopefully I burnt off some excess!!
We did venture out into the bars of Santa Maria, you can walk in from the hotel in 25 minutes along the road or it takes an hour along a very sandy and empty beach next to the bluest ocean I have ever seen. Or you can take a taxi which costs 3 euro. The taxis are easily recognised as blue with a yellow horizontal stripe along both sides, they are in better condition than the ones in Egypt, just!!
I would recommend a bar called Tam Tam, this does a great pint of Guinness at 4 euro or the local beer at 3 euro. Also there food is good and they have big screen TV showing all the football.
I suppose now comes the important bit, the diving. As I said I arranged 3 days diving at two dives per day with Cabo Verde Diving. I corresponded with Romina via e-mail from the e-mail address on the Cabo Verde Diving web site, however email@example.com is their e-mail address. Romina offered a good discount to us and she sent some very good info re the diving. Other centres wanted money up front and would not offer any discount.
We dived on our first full day, which was Tuesday 6th May. Romina picked us up from our hotel at 0815 in the morning and drove us too the dive centre. This is similar to other dive destinations, where there was a changing room with wet kit hanging space and a big freshwater rinse tank in the middle of this changing room. As I said we had decided to use the dive centres BCD’s and Regulators to save us taking our own. The jackets were all SEAC-SUB and the regulators were a mixture of Scubapro and Coltri-Sub. We had the option of 12 litre or 15 litre steel tanks, as only one of us was a guzzler we only needed one 15 litre, the rest took 12’s. After a short brief we jumped into the dive centres pick up truck and drove a short 5-10 minute drive down to the wooden jetty, where we boarded the dive centres 9.5M RIB which is powered by two Yamaha 150HP four stroke engines. The dive centre crew do everything for you, load your kit, change your tanks between dives and help you kit up. Our first dive was on a small wreck, which sits upright and fully intact in 28M of water. Visibility was excellent, the water was 23 degrees, so I was fine in a 5mm wetsuit. The wreck was teeming with lots of life and some of the biggest Box Puffer fish I have ever seen. After surfacing we had between 45-55 minute surface interval before jumping into a wall dive which basically has 3 caves along it. You can swim quite easily into the first two caves, these were packed with schools of yellow tailed Guinea Grunts and Squirrel Fish. It was fun to swim in amongst these big schools that were barely spooked by our presence.
We took the Wednesday off and dived again on the Thursday and the Saturday. We dived walls and one more wreck, which was in only 12 metres of water an again was teaming with all sorts of life, including a small Nurse Shark hiding under a lump of wreckage. There were loads of Moray eels and Mrs B filmed one eating a shrimp it had just caught.
All in all I feel six dives were enough to get a feel for Cape Verde, there were deeper dives to be done and there were a number of pinnacle dives that start at 35M and drop away to 300M+. However do remember that there are no chambers in Cape Verde and Nitrox has also not reached Cape Verde. Also there are some Caves to be dived in the North of the Island at a place called Buracona, which Cabo Verde Diving will organise if you request them too, we visited them by road, but did not dive them. I would suggest that Cape Verde is a little like diving Sharm around 20 years ago.
There are definitely sharks to be seen, as one of the fishing boats had recently caught a Tiger, and unfortunately the Tourist shops in Santa Maria were selling whole Sharks Jaws as souvenirs. Even our hotel was offering shark fishing from the beach at night, but at least the sharks are returned after being caught.
Would I return to Cape Verde, in short “yes”. I think it is still in its infancy and there is a lot of diving still to be done. My thanks go to Romina and Kush at Cabo Verde diving and all the staff at the Riu Funana, for a very enjoyable trip.
Take Euros as cash. All places accept euros, however you will get Cape Verde Escudo’s as change. 1 euro is roughly 100CVE. The dive centre was paid for in cash. Credit Cards can attract a high per cent charge.
Taxis are cheap and easy to get around.
In May the air temperature during the day was around 26 degrees, however there was always a strong breeze, so you get burnt without knowing it.
The water was 23 degrees on some days and 24 degrees on others. I had a 5mm wetsuit and was fine. Two of my group had 3mm on and one was fine and one was cold.
There is a lot of building work going on in Cape Verde, not near our hotel, but if you stay at the hotels nearer to the centre of town, then be prepared to be near a building site.
Sal is a small island and we toured the island in an Aguila, which is like a mini bus. We arranged this through our hotel reception which cost us 20 euro each. We visited the disused Salt Mine at Pedra de Lume. This was like a mini Dead Sea, where you could float in the very salty water of the salt flats, and it does not stink like the Dead Sea. We also visited the Capital, Espargos with a population of only 7000. We also drove out into the sandy desert at Terra Boa to see the mirage. This tour took only four hours so you can see how small Sal is as an Island.
We did meet an English trio of husband and wife and wife’s mum, they ran a PADI school near Southampton. They were touring three islands, and when we met them they had just come from diving on one of the other Islands called Boa Vista. They stated the visibility was not as good as on Sal, but they had seen humpback wales and turtles. Although they did say they got very upset stomachs on Boa Vista. Which none of our group got in Sal.
Both myself and Mrs B took loads of underwater photos and video, which I do not know how to post on YD, but if anyone who is going or thinking of going wants to mail me I will gladly send a few via e-mail, once I have downloaded them from the cameras.
If anyone wants any more info, please mail me and I will try to answer any questions I can