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Boa Vista Cape Verde - Things to see - Boa Vista Experience


Things to see on Boa Vista

The Wreck of the Santa Maria

picture of the Wreck of the Santa Maria Boa Vista Cape Verde

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!

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Ilheu de Sal Rei

picture of the Wreck of the Santa Maria Boa Vista Cape Verde

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.

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Morro Negro

picture of the Morro Negro Boa Vista Cape Verde

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.

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Deserto de Viana

picture of Deserto de Viana Boa Vista Cape Verde

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.

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The Jewish Cemetery

picture of The Jewish Cemetery Boa Vista Cape Verde

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.

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