Chillin on the Cape

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Chillin on the Cape

From seeing sharks up close and floating on salt lakes, to sampling the local culture and sitting by the pool, Jack Mendel goes stress free in Sal

Jack Mendel is the former Online Editor at the Jewish News.

Santa Maria beach in Sal Island Cape Verde
Santa Maria beach in Sal Island Cape Verde

No stress’ is the motto for the tiny Cape Verdean Island of Sal, off the coast of West Africa, and it served as a fitting winter retreat from the Labour antisemitism row.

Flat, desert-like and named after the large salt deposits found on the island, at first glance this quiet sparse strip of land in the Atlantic may seem desolate,  but there is plenty to do if you know where to look.

One of ten islands in Cape Verde, Sal has two major attractions: Its natural sites and its sleepy cheap towns.

Staying with TUI at the Sol Dunas resort, one of the largest all inclusive sites in West Africa, myself and two friends got up early and travelled to Shark Bay, half-an-hour drive away.

After paying two euros for water shoes, we followed German marine biologist Tanya, and waded into shallow crystal clear, but very rocky sea, which didn’t go above my waist.

Juvenile Lemon Sharks

A few minutes in, and baby lemon sharks begin swimming around my ankles, and on the horizon, where the water is deeper, you can see their parents, circling fins visible; like a scene from a horror movie.

But Tanya was keen to stress that sharks kill very few humans, compared to the number of sharks which are killed by us annually; which she said is over 100 million.

As well as seeing beautiful lemon sharks up close, we toured the Island with TUI’s ‘Sal Secrets’ jeep excursion.

Jack with Espargos in background

The trip takes you from the first settlement  Murdeira Bay, to the small town of Palmeira where you try the local alcoholic brew, grogue, which we were told is so strong that it doesn’t have a percentage.

After trying it – it can only be described as a cross between vodka, whisky and out-of-date kiddish wine. I bought some – but I’m not sure I’ll drink it!

As well as stopping off in the capital of the island, Espargos, which hugs the hill of Monte Curral, and is surrounded by colourful houses; we saw more of Sal’s natural attractions; visiting the Buracona lagoon, also known as the blue eye cave, before finishing at the Salinas at Pedra de Lume.

The salinas is a near scaled down replica of the Dead Sea in Israel, and my friends took the opportunity to float on the water as a new experience.

Following the Sal Secrets tour, we ventured out in search of a spot to eat and somewhere to watch a football match, just 10 minutes and three Euros away from the Sol Dunas resort by cab.

Sunset from Santa Maria

The town of Santa Maria has a number of tempting places to have a drink, with my personal favourite being the Dubliner; a bar run by an Irish ex-pat.

It has a large food menu, including vegetarian options, and after hours of eating and drinking came to 50 Euros for three of us.

At night, I’d recommend paying a visit to the Buddy Bar, which has live jazz  inside, and a sociable atmosphere, as people spill out onto the street.

Many of the locals try to speak to tourists, often using phrases like ‘luvly jubbly’ and ‘fish and chips!’ to make conversation.

Sol Dunas at sunset

Sol Dunas as a resort is huge, with many restaurants, bars, pools, as well as tennis courts, table tennis, a gym, spa and a beach – not to mention a buffet for three meals a day.

Although visiting in late February was certainly warmer than London, Sal’s position in the Atlantic means it can be very windy, and its close proximity to the Sahara desert, means sand often blows in, making it hazy.

The sea is quite rough, and there were often lifeguards at the beach warning you not to enter, which is perhaps why many sat by the pool instead.

Sitting in Sal is not only nice alliteration. It is very enjoyable to do – particularly as an alternative to writing about Labour antisemitism in Blighty.

Jack’s travel tips:

Jack travelled to Sol Dunas with TUI Airlines. The all-inclusive package cost £664 (as of February 2019),included 4 Star accommodation,buffet meals and drinks, as well as transfers. Excursions Sal Secrets (£28) and Lemon Shark Experience (£21) can be booked at the resort


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