The island´s location on the extreme south-western corner of the Western Palaearctic region makes it the only place in the region where certain species of mainly Africa or tropical can be found to breed regularly.
The Cape Verde Islands have at least 4 species of bird that are unique to the islands— the Cape Verde sparrow (Passer iagoensis), the Cape Verde swift (Apus alexandri), the endangered raso lark (Alauda razae) (see picture), and the Cape Verde warbler (Acrocephalus brevipennis). Among the other birds that can be seen regularly are magnificent frigatebird, The Cape Verdean petrel, the grey headed kingfisher, the helmeted guineafowl, the brown booby bird and the beautiful white tailed, red billed tropicbird.
The many islets that dot the coastline of Boa Vista are the main nesting places for most of the sea birds on the island. Among the most popular places to visit is the islet of Curral Velho just south of the spectacular beach and the llhéu das Pássaros a tiny island off the east coast near Baia das Gatas. A trip to the islands is best arranged through speaking to a local fisherman, most are very prepared to help if the price is right! Tours of Boa Vista, focusing on the best locations for bird watching, can also be arranged through Morena Travel Agency , with English speaking guides.
A quote from Olivier van Bogaert of the World Wildlife Foundation
"Slowly dragging its shell onto the beach, a turtle emerges from the ocean. It is midnight and the moon is casting its shadow over the remote, white-sandy coastline of Boa Vista.
The strong sea breeze does not seem to bother the turtles as it slowly, but determinedly, finds its way among the dunes in search of a safe spot to lay its eggs. Once found, a two-hour ritual then begins as the prehistoric sea creature meticulously digs a 30cm hole with its rear flippers. This exhausting exercise will provide a nest for more than 40 whitish, golf ball-sized eggs. After covering the hole with its hidden treasures, the turtle will slowly return to the sea, never to know what becomes of her offspring.
Later that night and further on down the beach, dozens of turtle hatchlings break through another nest after days of digging, only to begin their frenzied and chaotic rush towards the waves.
Every year, from late May to September, more than 3,000 loggerhead turtles (Caretta) come ashore on Cape Verde´s beaches, particularly at Ervatao beach, the third most important loggerhead nesting site in the world. Amazingly enough, the Boa Vista site was discovered only a few years ago."
Dr Luis Felipe Lopez, a 64-year-old Spanish biology professor from Las Palmas University is leading a local conservation group, Natura 2000, to protect the turtles´ nesting habitat at Ervatao. Natura 2000 is currently working on a project that assesses the status, distribution, and abundance of marine turtles in Cape Verde. To date, the team of scientists and volunteers has tagged thousands of loggerheads on the beaches of Boa Vista. Some turtles are being equipped with satellite transmitters that will enable researchers to track their migratory routes and feeding areas. Natura 2000 also regularly offers training to turtle specialists from Cape Verde and other West African countries, and is partnering with WWF on an ecotourism programme based on turtle watching.
"We will employ guides from the local communities," says Dr Lopez. "If locals can be directly involved in, and benefit from, turtle protection, the beach will remain a paradise for the endangered loggerhead."
It is dawn on Ervatao and Dr Lopez, helped by a couple of young volunteers, is counting, weighing and measuring loggerhead hatchlings recently born at a protected hatchery set up on the beach. Volunteers and project staff alike bring eggs taken from nests likely to be destroyed by the tide. Once examined and documented, the hatchlings are released to the sea.
"What happens at sea is anyone´s guess," Lopez says, "but here on land we are doing everything we can to ensure their survival."
Disco Bambu: This newly opened Disco is situated behind Estoril Beach on the road from Sal Rei to the Airport. Disco Bambu is open on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights from around 11pm until 5am. Being situated so close to Sal Rei, Disco Bambu is bound to become Boa Vista’s hottest nightclub.
Mazurca: On the road between Sal Rei and Rabil, Mazurca opens on Wednesday and Saturday the club caters for both locals and tourists with a mixture of Cape Verdean, disco, rap and hip-hop music. Opening hours are midnight to 5:30am and beer costs 150cve a bottle.
Crystal: The club is in Rabil (see relevant map) and only opens on a Sunday from 10pm to 2am. The music is a mixture of American disco and Cape Verdean. Entry costs 200cve and a bottle of beer costs 100cve.
Tuff Goin: In the town of Joao Galego (see relevant map), it is presumed from the name that the club pays homage to the music of Bob Marley, no details available yet on opening hours or prices.
Football is almost a religion for the people of Boa Vista, every village on the island has at least one full size football pitch. There is a local league which currently has 8 teams that represent different towns and villages on Boa Vista.
The football season lasts from late October until late April and includes a league where each team plays each other twice during the season, and there is also a cup competition.
The games are all played at the weekend in the main stadium in Sal Rei. Two games are played on Saturday and two games on Sunday, usually at 14:00 and 16:00 and The current price to get into a game is 150CVE or 1.5 Euros.
The football games are always competitive and are played to a high standard. The crowd is often as entertaining as the match with the local supporters tending to become very animated and very vocal during each game.
The Wreck of the Santa Maria
The wreck is 8km North East of Sal Rei and is well worth a visit The easiest way is to go by 4WD vehicle, however it is possible to walk to the wreck but you will need to be properly equipped and carry plenty of water for the journey, the walkers we witnessed were certainly working up a good sweat. The round trip is about 14kms or 4 ½ hours on foot.
The Spanish freighter ran aground in 1968, and has been rusting ever since. At present there are 2 distinct "halves". The freighter had a cargo of car-parts, garlic, rosemary + pornographic magazines. The island has many stories of ship wrecks and these were usually plundered by the islanders for anything useful. Rumour has it that when times were particularly hard the islanders would send out a donkey along the shore with a lamp tied to its tail in order to lure boats onto the rocks.
To get to the wreck you travel north out of Sal Rei, along Praia Cabral, just before Marine Club turn right, heading east across country, following a track for a few hundred metres until you reach a church in a large white-walled plot. You then head uphill over the crest until you reach the northern coast of Boavista. You should have a clear view of the wreck about 2kms away. A driveable track takes you down to the beach. Of interest along the track is the dry-stone walling laid out to prevent sand blowing onto the island. This walling is broken in places.
Observing the wreck is very peaceful, the waves continuously crashing against the wreck. It is peaceful now, we suppose in the future there could be bus-loads of tourists in a car-park, depends if the wreck collapses completely from corrosion/force of the waves, or the road comes 1st!
Click this link for further information on The Wreck of the Santa Maria
Ilheu de Sal Rei
The Ilheu de Sal Rei is to be found some 1,000m off the coast of the town of Sal Rei, right in front of the port. The islet is a protected area + thus uninhabited. On the southern tip of the islet is the Duque de Braganca Fort, built to withstand pirate attacks in the 1800´s. You can get to the islet by convincing a fisherman to take you across, using a windsurfer, or swimming across, the water depth apparently never exceeds 1.5m. The islet has a very calming effect on the waves in the Bay of Sal Rei, making the Estoril Beach area ideal for windsurfing and kitesurfing. We paid a local fisherman CVE 1,500 to take us across in his little boat with a 15hp Suzuki motor. The trip could not have been more than 10minutes. It is easy to beach on one of the small sandy beaches to the south of the islet. It is recommended that strong footwear is worn, unfortunately some picnickers have left broken glass.
Little remains of the fort today, however you can still see the iron structures of the old cannons, and the stonework of the fort. You have a spectacular view of the town of Sal Rei, as well as Chaves Beach in the background, with the new Riu Hotel in an advanced stage of development, and supposedly opening November 2008.
The islet is much larger than you anticipate when you look at it from the pier in Sal Rei. At its longest length it is 1,945m. At its widest width it is 700m.The highest point is 20m above sea-level. The islet is of volcanic origin. The islet contains dry grasslands and features bushes and grass. Most of the island is filled with beach sand or rocky soil. We found no large creatures on the island, there were however many crabs, lizards and some birds of prey. It was not possible to get up close to these birds. The west coast, walking north is very beautiful, with numerous sandy coves, interspersed with rocky outcrops, with the waves crashing against them. Quite spectacular shells are to be seen. The lack of human activity has resulted in the presence of many shells.
To the north of the islet is a lighthouse, similar to that at Ponta da Sol, to the north of the main island. There are some deserted buildings with their rooves missing around the lighthouse, and various areas where dry-stone walling has been erected. The waves are also larger.
Along the east coast are numerous recreational vessels anchored out at sea. On the day of our visit the tri-maran from the Morabeza Hotel on Sal Island was there. The east coast is more rocky, there are however a number of deep gorges that would be ideal for harbouring small vessels. Inland are various pan-like depressions of sand, and some succulent like ground cover. Unfortunately there has been some littering on the east coast where visitors have not cleaned up after themselves.
All in all a pleasant visit to make while in Sal Rei.
Click this link for further information on The Ilheu de Sal Rei
Morro Negro is the site of, or shall I say the name given to the region of Boa Vista which houses the disused light house on top of a huge rocky hill which is quite a climb!
There are a lot of great attractions for tourists wishing to explore Boa Vista and Morro Negro could come under such a heading "Great Attractions." The reason for this is that after a gentle (taxing for some no doubt!) stroll up the land mass, the scene which meets the eyes is wondrous. Unrivalled views of the whole East Coast of Boa Vista are the reward for the journey out to Morro Negro. The currently untouched Eastern coastline can be seen for miles upon miles and the joy of waves crashing down upon deserted beaches is fantastic, as is the breeze wrapping itself around you while you snap snap snap away with your camera. I now also know that the beaches of Punta do Roque and Praia dos Balejas beyond the lighthouse are, or once were, littered with the bones of dolphin and humpback whales blown ashore.
You understand on your return home when flipping through your photos, how excited the views made you feel because the amount of photos you take tends to be a tad over zealous! But remember, these views may well be totally different in one or two decades time, when these beaches could well be more accessible and could even one day have a permanent tourist presence.
Deserto de Viana
Deserto de Viana is a desert covering most of the north-western region, extending to the central region of the island of Boa Vista. Its length is approximately 15 km north to south. Its width is approximately 10km east to west. Deserto de Viana covers 20% to 35% of the island’s surface. The shoreline, Sal Rei and the mountains to the northwest are not affected by the desert. The desert is almost entirely uninhabited except for the northern part. There are no villages in Deserto de Viana. The road from Sal Rei to Norte crosses the southern part of the desert.
The soil varies from tan to red, interspersed with multicoloured rocks, creating a resemblance to Mars. Add to this the windswept sand from the Sahara, you get fascinating landscapes. The elevation varies from 15m in the north to 50m in the south.
The best access is with an aluguer from Rabil. You will then be able to walk across the numerous sand dunes, or just laze in the sun. Deserto Viana is well worth a visit, and should be included in any planned trip around the island.
The Jewish Cemetery
A Jewish Cemetery exists on the island of Boa Vista, containing the graves of the Ben’Oliel family. These graves can be seen in close proximity to The Marine Club, at the far end of Praia Cabral, to the north of Sal Rei, on the right, within the small Jewish Cemetery, isolated between the beach and the new property developments springing up. The graves are encompassed by low stone walls. Hebrew inscriptions are visible on the graves. This graveyard is to be preserved.
The Ben’Oliel family were wealthy Jewish merchants who fled Rabat in Morocco with the Moroccan persecution of the Jews in 1872. They settled in rua Amilcar Cabral, Sal Rei, in what today is known as the Migrante Guesthouse, a real colonial house. Today, one of the suites in Migrante is still known as the Ben’Oliel suite.
The Jewish community is heavily entwined in the early history of Cape Verde. The Jews had suffered for centuries under anti-semitic sentiment in Spain and Portugal. With the Spanish Inquisition in 1492, this sentiment spread to Portugal, and many Jews were expelled to Sao Tome and Principe and Cape Verde. These Jews had been very successful in Portuguese commerce, navigation, cartography etc.
In Cape Verde they were allowed to engage in trade as long as they did not compete with the Portuguese monopolies. On Boa Vista the Ben ’Oliel family traded in hides, salt and slaves. However it must be emphasized that they operated as brokers within a system endorsed by the Portuguese kings who made great fortunes.
Interestingly an Israel Ben’Oliel of Cape Verde ran in the Boa Vista Ultramarathon in 2004. It would appear that there are still many people of Jewish decent resident on the islands, probably not all practising Jews though.
Alongside these graves is the grave of Julia Maria Petingall, a 19 year old English woman, daughter of Charles Petingall, an administrator of the Luso-British Commission on slavery. Julia was a victim of Yellow Fever, which struck Boa Vista in the 1840s. She and her family left for another island to avoid the illness. However they returned to Boa Vista as her father believed the threat was over. Sadly it was not. Julia died in November 1845 at the age of 19. Then on the boat to Sao Nicolau, her father died, followed by her fiancé.
Beyond the Marine Club are the ruins of a chapel and a path leading up to it. There was once a house here, with steps leading down to the beach.
Click this link for further information on The Jewish Cemetery
The shallow waters around the island of Boa Vista have always caused havoc for seafarers; however these same waters are a haven for whales.
Humpbacks whales carry out seasonal migrations between their high-latitude feeding areas and their low-latitude breeding grounds. The Cape Verde Islands are one of the two breeding sites for the species in the North Atlantic. March and April is the peak of the breeding season and also the time when these acrobatic whales can be sighted off the W and SW coast of Boa Vista. Individuals can be identified from natural markings (ventral fluke pattern). Males sing songs, at least partly to attract females, and to maintain distance from other males.
Organised half day tours are available to view these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. For more information contact Naturalia.
NATURALIA contacts: Gabriella, Stravagante and Pedrin
Phone No.: 251 15 58 / 994 10 70 / 998 66 50 / 992 78 69