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A lighthouse chapel in a salt mine where Moon and Mars meet on surrealistic landscapes

Old lighthouse chapel in surreal landscape

A cinematic ancient blue and white lighthouse chapel in the salinas of the almost secret tourist destination of Pedra de Lume, a magic spot where Moon and Mars meet on surrealistic landscapes

What do you feel when you look at this dreamlike chapel dressed in white and blue? What is the story you hear? For me it mirrors something missing or something that is no longer there. From the inside or from the world. It is the kind of place that pushes you to tell a story.

Why is this place forgotten? Who built it and why? How did s/he came here? Was it a local? Some Jesuit or other Christian priest? How many unique life stories are set in its stones? There are so many questions a place like this makes you wonder.

Isolated village with a chapel in volcano crater and salt mine

Some thoughts on location scouting

In film productions, we never choose locations randomly. At times, they complete the story, other times they uplift it and sometimes they tell a whole tale.

Film location scouting requires a certain set of skills. As a scouter, you need to be able to understand and build bridges between the minds of two people: the script writer and the director.

It’s a field of work that involves research, field investigations, preliminary discussions with authorities, property owners or managers and neighbours, and depending on the shortlisted locations for shooting, you'll revisit the locations at least two or three times for tech scouting with the director, producers and the rest of departments heads.

Besides the script, as a location scouter you also receive some references to guide you in the exploring process, but more often than not, directors don’t really know how to describe the location they want for their scenes, because in this adventure of turning invisible into something tangible, you often know what you want when you find it.

Many times you need to find more locations to make a whole, as if you are building a puzzle, and the shootings will take place in all of them resulting an image that makes you believe it’s one. That is often the case of science fiction, surreal and fantasy movies or of films taking place very long time ago, as it’s very hard to find all elements needed in one location in the modern world.

The same location tells different stories

White and blue dreamlike chapel in a lunar landscape

Even though I’ve been to Sal Island, time was too short to cover also a trip to the Salt Mine Pedra de Lume (Salinas Pedra de Lume). However I don’t really need to be there physically to be able to evaluate it reasonably. From the film locations perspective, even though you know the place, you still have to do the scouting, as places change all the time and producers need to have an updated overview about the potential issues that may arise during the making of the film, documentary, commercial or whatever you are shooting there.

When you scout a location you scout also its future problems, not only what you see when you are there, because you are going to shoot in the future (weeks or months away). For this reason you need to dig deeper in the area and find everything you can about the upcoming events and happenings, from tourists related things to infrastructure scheduled works and whatever else may come up and can influence your production quality (sound, strangers interference, etc).

Salt mine village in desert Mars scenery

Old chapel in a salt mine fishing village

Old salt mine beach village in a volcano crater

Pedra de Lume, a well kept secret among travellers and filmmakers.

Pedra Lume old salt mine funicular railway

Pedra de Lume is a place where the Moon and Mars meets the Earth and where the surreal intertwines with a beautiful painted place, a pittoresque traveling destination still hidden from mass tourism.

Farol de Pedra de Lume is a blue and white lighthouse and chapel dating from 1853 surrounded by the a very old salt mine, the volcano crater, a colorful fishing village and harbor and the turquoise waters of the ocean.

Mars and Moon location. Salt mine in a volcano crater.

Pedra de Lume is both a touristic and filmmaking location in Sal Island from Cape Verde archipelago, so from a film production perspective it is not quite a comfortable location to shoot in, as you practically have to ‘shut down’ all tourists tours, thing that might prove quite expensive and difficult from the operational point of view. You’ll need quite a good location manager for that, one who knows how to present your project, who has multicultural experience and a talent for negotiations.

Luckily, even though the island is very popular among the English, French, Germans and Northern Europeans, it is still not a mainstream touristic destination. Being also very wild and rustic, inhabited by very open and friendly people, it is a very generous place and with a huge potential for cinematography, video, photo and media projects.

This beautiful cinematic old church is located in an area occupied by the old salt mines of Pedra de Lume on the East coast of this beautiful desert-like flat island.

Shooting location for a science fiction movie

Salt scenery

Salt mine tunnel with opening to a canyon landscape

This is an overview of the salt mines sourced from the organization Cape Verde Islands:

“In a moon like crater of an old volcano seawater turns into salt. The colors of the salt pans are surrealistic. The white and bright pink salt pans contrast with the snow-white salt mountains and the blue sky. The crater – where the salt pans are situated – has a radius of no less than 900 meters. The crater is an old extinct volcano. The highest point of the crater (the edge) is 39 meters above sea level, while the lowest point is far below sea level. The salt lake has formed naturally in the crater by infiltration of water from the nearby ocean and it is divided into salt pans (basins), so that the sun can easily evaporate the water. Eventually the natural product salt remains. Because of the natural conditions the water is 27 times saltier than seawater. If you are going to swim, you will automatically stay afloat.

Surreal Mars scenery at Pedra Lume salinas.

Origin of Pedra de Lume Salt Mines & Surroundings

The salt pans are dated to 1833 when an old mineral salt was discovered at Sal. The challenge was to transport the salt from the high crater to the boats in the port of Pedra de Lume.

First, transport via animals was used. In 1921, eventually a cable car served as a solution. This cable car was 1,100 meters long and had a capacity of 25 tons of salt per hour. Old parts of the wooden frame of the cable car are still visible. Later a tunnel was made through the wall of the old crater, which facilitated access. The production of salt on this scale has not been active since 1985.

In addition to the salt pans, there are still a few old houses of workers, a salt production factory and storage places to admire. Currently there is still salt mining but to a very limited extent. This is mainly intended for the manufacture of beauty products, for therapeutic purposes and the crater is a tourist attraction. The uniqueness of these salt pans in an extinct volcano crater has put Pedra de Lume on the list of nominees for the UNESCO World Heritage List.”

Together with the mountain Cagarral, the salinas and the crater form a protected landscape, covering 8.02 km2.

Salinas Pedra Lume 1805 salt mine

Tunnel in a salt mine from 1800

In the middle of nowhere

Ghost village in a volcano crater

Salt lake surreal landscape

Salt mine on a flat island in a volcano crater wide view

From a production point of view, you will find in the location electricity, food and drinks for your crew, there’s a small cafe-restaurant at the crater right near the set, but there are also better food and drinks places near the coast. However, if you have a bigger crew, you’ll probably want to organize differently the catering chapter by preparing or contracting it in advance (for budget reasons).

If you shoot for more days in raw, then you need to think about your basecamp, as there are no accommodation options in proximity, so you either consider tents with mobile eco toilets for your crew or a security team for your base.

The salt mines are 5 kilometers away from Espargos, the capital of the island and about 25 kilometers from Santa Maria, another location that has its cinematic charm, but I’ll talk about it in a different post as I deeply fell in love with it. So, you’ll have to book accommodation in the closest city, depending on the capacity you need.

Pass by Espargos on the way to Pedra de Lume salt mines

Desert windmills on the way to Pedra Lume salinas

Less than 1 kilometer away there’s also Pedra de Lume very colorful and inspiring fishing village and harbor with opening to the Atlantic Ocean.

Fishing village harbor near Pedra Lume salt mine in the volcano crater

Colorful wooden fishing boats in Pedra Lume harbor

Pedra Lume salt mine fishing harbor

Colorful fishing boats on Pedra Lume beach

Pedra Lume fishing harbor in a volcano crater

Pittoresque fishing island harbor in Pedra Lume

If you have a big crew or stars and crew members for which you need to provide more refined accommodation options, there are great options like Hilton, Melia Resorts or Riu Hotel, all 5* all inclusive establishments in prime locations right on the beach. Operationally, you need to take into account about 30 minutes to Palma de Lume where your set is (one way).

Being a location far from supermarkets and stuff like that, you also need to prepare logistically and operationally very well, to be able to anticipate all possible things that may come up, maybe leave a crew member in the city and communicate with him/her to bring in the stuff you may unexpectedly need, or contract a local fixer or a taxi driver to help you cover the gaps.

You’ll also need to pre-arrange the communication means for your crew both on set and outside it, as the costs with phone calls and internet data on your mobile may prove quite a cost problem as foreigner.

Colonial style beach hotel in the African island Sal

Modern beach hotel in African island Sal

A unique tourist destination and a great option for travelers passionate about wellness tourism.

As a tourist, there are a number of activities that you can undertake in Pedra de Lume.

Float in the very salty water It is a unique experience to float on water in one of the salt pans with a special view of the volcano crater. The salt pan has a maximum depth of about half a meter. Bring swimsuits and water shoes! Showers are available and can be used upon payment.

Salt and mud cure The minerals and salt water have a beneficial effect. The treatment is very relaxing and cleanses the skin intensively. It also activates the blood circulation and gives a fresh appearance. Treatments and massages are possible in a small relax spa.

Hiking You can take a nice walk around the crater of about 4.5 kilometers. Enjoy the moonlike landscape. Put on good walking shoes and do not forget to take your camera with you. You can also walk to the fishing village Pedra de Lume (1 km).

Fishing & having a ride with fishermen boats on the ocean. I don’t know about you, but I always wanted to live their lives for at least a day or two, to get up very early in the morning, go out in the ocean and come back with a big fish in my hand.

I’ve seen also ‘crazy’ kiters on the salty waters!

Kite surf in salt mine Pedra Lume

Buggy tour in salt mine volcano crater Pedra Lume

African island souvenir shops

History of Pedra de Lume Salinas

Pedra de Lume was founded by Manuel António Martins, who started the exploitation of the salt ponds in 1796. A tunnel to the salt ponds was constructed in 1804, and a port in 1805. Salt production flourished in most of the 19th century, but went into decline after 1887, when Brazil, the main export destination, imposed a ban on imported salt. Salt production was revived by the French company Salins du Cabo Verde, that installed an 1100 m aerial tramway for salt transport in 1921. Current production is small, and mainly intended for beauty products and thalassotherapy.

Wreck boats on island beach in Pedra Lume

Business Opportunities

Sal Island and Cape Verde in general are becoming more and more popular in the international tourism circuit. With over 2500 accommodation units in 5* all-inclusive tourism resorts like Melia Hotels operating in the island, there is good business investment potential in this location.

Whether you want to invest from 200,000 Euros to 700,000 Euros in a resort residence apartment or villa in prime location tourist developments like Melia that brings you fix guaranteed revenue of 5-7% a year, or open a new small business to serve the growing influx of worldwide tourists, the island has a diverse potential for entrepreneurs and small business owners.

Initiate yourself in the beautiful world of Cabo Verde and read more stats and facts about the island, while if you’re interested to buy a revenue generating property in Melia Resorts on Sal or Boa Vista Islands from Cabo Verde Archipelago, you can download the brochure and watch some great videos here.

Hotel room in Melia Resorts in Island Sal

If you want to suggest a stunning cinematic location for shooting, living, traveling or investing at the intersection of film, tourism and real estate; to advertise your location on Property Fanatic or, to collaborate with Georgia in your projects, write her at georgia[@]propertyfanatic.com

Other sources: https://www.madhouseheaven.com/sal-island-tour

Map of Iglesia Pedra de Lume salt mines on Island Sal

#secretdestinations #surreal #filmlocation #salinasPedraLume

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