This archipelago off the west coast of Africa is a relative newcomer as a yacht charter destination, yet a very interesting one at that. Its ten volcanic islands have numerous secluded beaches and coves for sailors to discover. Coupled with a low crime rate and friendly locals that cherish their cultural heritage from both Africa and Portugal, Cape Verde offers great conditions for an interesting sailing holiday in the East Atlantic.
Probably the best known thing to come out of Cape Verde is the famous singer Cesaria Evora, who is a perfect illustration of the culture of the country that varies between the rhythmic African music and the mournful Portuguese melodies. But in order to understand what makes this country attractive, you’ll have to delve in deeper and closer.
Cape Verde, an archipelago of volcanic islands, is situated about 570 km off the coast of Senegal. Although it lies separate from mainland Africa and was colonized be the Portuguese in the 15th century, it still carries on its African legacy. It is its very isolation that has proved both a blessing and a curse for Cape Verde throughout its history. In any case, the main attraction for anyone coming here on a yacht charter is likely to be the stunning landscape.
From a sailing point of view, the position of Cape Verde is perfect for Atlantic crossings and so most of the traffic comes from the neighbouring Canaries and continues on to the Caribbean. The overall shape of the archipelago is that of a horseshoe and it is made up of ten islands and eight islets with a total land mass of ca. 4,033 sq km.
When coming here on a sailing holiday, you might notice a similarity of the islands to Ilhas de Barlavento and Ilhas de Sotavento which form part of the Leewards and Windwards in the Caribbean. The largest island is Santiago which also hosts the capital city of Praia, the main urban agglomeration of the country.
The archipelago´s landscape boasts volcanic relief with extensive salt flats and some large craters. When you come here on a sailing holiday, head to the beaches of Sal and Boas Vista and check out the hiking routes around the Fogo Volcano as well as the windsurfing opportunities along the shores.
The vegetation of Cape Verde is rather sparse and the isolated nature of the islands has created some endemic species of birds and reptiles, i.e. the Alexander’s Swift, the Bourne’s Heron, the Cape Verde Warbler and the Cape Verde Giant Gecko.
As far as the climate goes, this group of islands in the East Atlantic enjoys milder temperatures throughout the year than the countries on mainland Africa which is another reason why boat rental is quite popular here. Average temperatures range from 25 degrees Celsius in January to 29 degrees in September. The one thing missing in the archipelago though is rainfall, which is why the Cape Verdean Islands can be considered arid, or semi-arid, to be precise. The rainy season, if it can be called that, takes place between late August and October, although there have been years with no rain. The north-easterly trade winds blow strongest during the first months of the year, thus bringing significant quantities of sand from the Sahara with them. This coincides with a decrease in the number of charter yachts anchoring in Cape Verde.
Law & Order
Since the local government is looking to improve tourism, no visas are needed for yachts staying shorter periods of time. Overall, the formalities have been simplified in an effort to attract more boats to the archipelago. This means that only the ship’s papers will be retained by the authorities and the passports will simply be stamped and returned. Skippers should know that there is a leaving fee payable to the harbour master at any of the main ports.
You and your crew will need a passport that´s valid for at least 6 months as well as a visa (except citizens of South Africa). Those for yachts on short visits will be issued on the spot, but for a longer stay you should contact an embassy in any of the Western-European capitals or in Las Palmas on Gran Canaria.
The main ports in Cape Verde are Mindelo (on Sao Vicente island), Palmeira (Sal island), Tarrafel (Sao Nicolau), Boa Vista, Fogo, Furna (Brava), Maio and Praia (Sao Tiago). If you come here for a yacht charter, you should enter or leave the country only through one of these ports and respect the local laws vis-à-vis tobacco, firearms, pets and health regulations.