Island Sal from Cape Verde. An oasis of cinematic places and smart property investment hot venues.
A never ending desert filled with sand brought from Sahara by the Northern winds, wild white beaches and property investment luxury venues located directly on the beach, surrounded by the turquoise waters of the Atlantic Ocean and a mesmerising light. A perfect fusion of opulence and a stunning nothingness where you find the everything and feel complete.
Maybe also because they are Cesaria Evora's home.
A week ago it was still February when I found myself in the Islands of Cape Verde, on Island Sal to be more precise.
The Resort Group, a global developer specialised in building and developing luxury tourist resorts on prime locations in emerging markets with warm climate all year around, offered me and my business partner Bianca a great ride there, with the occasion of a business trip.
We had an early flight from Bucharest, Romania to Milan, Italy (about 2.5 hours) with a stop of 2 hours, and then we travelled 6.5 hours to Island Sal in Cabo Verde, landing on Amílcar Cabral International Airport around noon.
We stayed to process a visa tax of about 30 Euros, thing that took about an hour, simply because we paid online. At the queue with online payers there was everybody, at the one to pay on spot, there was nobody. A shuttle under the form of a Toyota pickup truck with some improvised chairs in the open-back waited to take us to our hotel, Melia Llana Beach and Spa Resort.
It was -10 degrees when I left. Ten hours later there was +27 Celsius degrees and I was 3 hours behind my home country, Romania, in a place with a totally different vibe and energy than anything I experienced before.
The road from airport to hotel is a film location on its own rights, a great choice for driving scenes requiring highly cinematic desert-like landscapes, powerful natural contrasts and a mesmerizing natural light.
From the first breath you take on this peculiar island, you feel its different soul. Different than Spanish islands and different than Greek islands. It is simply something else. Something else that makes you understand that Cesaria Evora's talent was coming from a very special and unusual place. While she was from San Vicente, another island of Cape Verde, known also for its famous Carnival, the third in the world after Rio de Janeiro of Brazil and Tenerife of Canary Islands, you see and hear Evora everywhere, from airport to taxi cars and restaurant food menus, as if she is everything these places inherited, their salvation. And she is. She is the eternal queen of Cabo Verde Islands.
The sound of these places' name, Cabo Verde...isn't it beautiful? How could you not be an artist in a place with such resonance? How could you not start thinking instantly at the most beautiful things life has to offer? It comes naturally.
Hearing Evora pushed me back in my student years, the time when I discovered her and listened her songs from all her albums continuously. I was in my early 20s. Half my age now. What a ride!
I've seen the 1962 masterpiece "Lawrence of Arabia" by director David Lean and featuring the titans Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn many times, but I never quite understood the desert fever that Lawrence was such obsessed about. I could not understand how come a place made of sandy nothingness could create such addiction. I couldn't. Until I found Island Sal, my first contact with the desert, because this island is a small desert in the midst of the turquoise waters of this side of Atlantic Ocean, thing that makes it very particular and peculiar at the same time.
After 15 minutes of driving, we arrived at Melia Llana, a magnificent resort on the beach where we came also to see the tourist units, apartments of all sorts (standard hotel rooms, duplex, penthouse) and villas we are selling to Romanian and international clients, clients we also accompany during the entire buying process, including going there together.
The paradox of this small island is that despite its desert flat look, it is very diverse in cinematic locations and places, it has a good infrastructure, steady climate and a very young and friendly population.
Overview of Cape Verde Archipelago
The archipelago consists of 10 islands (an 5 islets) that are spatially divided into two groups:
- The Barlavento Islands (windward islands): Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista;
- The Sotavento Islands (leeward): Maio, Santiago, Fogo, Brava.
The largest island, both in size and population, is Santiago, which hosts the nation's capital, Praia, the principal urban agglomeration in the archipelago. Three of the Cape Verde islands, Sal, Boa Vista and Maio, are fairly flat, sandy, and dry; the others are generally rockier with more vegetation.
Cape Verde's climate is milder than that of the African mainland, because the surrounding sea moderates temperatures on the islands and cold Atlantic currents produce an arid atmosphere around the archipelago. Conversely, the islands do not receive the upwellings (cold streams) that affect the West African coast, so the air temperature is cooler than in Senegal, but the sea is warmer.
Average daily high temperatures range from 26 °C (79 °F) in February to 31 °C (87.8 °F) in September. Cape Verde is part of the Sahelian arid belt, with nothing like the rainfall levels of nearby West Africa. Because of their proximity to the Sahara, most of the Cape Verde islands are dry, but on islands with high mountains and farther away from the coast, by orography, the humidity is much higher, providing a rainforest habitat.
Western Hemisphere-bound hurricanes often have their early beginnings near the Cape Verde Islands. These are referred to as Cape Verde-type hurricanes. These hurricanes can become very intense as they cross warm Atlantic waters away from Cape Verde. The islands themselves have only been struck by hurricanes twice in recorded history (since 1851): once in 1892, and again in 2015 by Hurricane Fred, the easternmost hurricane ever to form in the Atlantic.
Cape Verde is a stable semi-presidential representative democratic republic. It is among the most democratic nations in Africa, ranking 26th in the world, according to the 2018 Democracy Index. The constitution — adopted in 1980 and revised in 1992, 1995 and 1999 — defines the basic principles of its government. The president is the head of state and is elected by popular vote for a 5-year term.
In the area of foreign relations, Cape Verde follows a policy of nonalignment and seeks cooperative relations with all friendly states. Angola, Brazil, China, Libya, Cuba, France, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Senegal, Russia, Luxembourg, and the United States maintain embassies in Praia.
Since 2007, Cape Verde has a special partnership status with the EU, under the Cotonou Agreement, and might apply for special membership, even because the Cape Verdean escudo, the country's currency, is indexed to the Euro.
Cape Verde is often praised as an example among African nations for its stability and developmental growth despite its lack of natural resources.
Cape Verde's strategic location at the crossroads of mid-Atlantic air and sea lanes has been enhanced by significant improvements at Mindelo's harbour (Porto Grande) and at Sal's and Praia's international airports. A new international airport was opened in Boa Vista in December 2007, and on the island of São Vicente, the newest international airport (Cesária Évora Airport) in Cape Verde, was opened in late 2009. Ship repair facilities at Mindelo were opened in 1983.
The major ports are Mindelo and Praia, but all other islands have smaller port facilities. In addition to the international airport on Sal, airports have been built on all of the inhabited islands. All but the airports on Brava and Santo Antão enjoy scheduled air service. The archipelago has 3,050 km (1,895 mi) of roads, of which 1,010 km (628 mi) are paved.
The tourism development rate increased significantly over the last decade, especially since foreign investors were welcomed to develop the tourism facilities, today we assist at about 7-10% anual constant increase in the number of international tourists. The main tourists coming here are from United Kingdom, Germany, France and the Northern Europe.
Overview Island Sal, Cape Verde
Cape Verde or Cabo Verde, officially the Republic of Cabo Verde, is an island country spanning an archipelago of 10 volcanic islands in the central Atlantic Ocean. It forms part of the Macaronesia ecoregion, along with the Azores, Canary Islands, Madeira, and the Savage Isles. In ancient times these islands were referred to as "the Islands of the Blessed" or the "Fortunate Isles". Located 570 kilometres (350 mi) west of the Cape Verde Peninsula off the coast of Northwest Africa, the islands cover a combined area of slightly over 4,000 square kilometres (1,500 sq mi).
The Island Sal is part of the northern group of islands, called Barlavento ("windwards"), and comprises a single administrative division, the municipality of Sal. Its seat is the city of Espargos.
The island was discovered on December 3, 1460 and named Llana ("flat"). This name was changed into the current "Sal" when the two large salt ponds (Pedra de Lume and Santa Maria) were discovered. The first three centuries after its discovery, the island was only sparsely inhabited; in 1720 there was a small fishing village near present Palmeira. This changed when the salt industry was developed at the end of the 18th century, starting in Pedra de Lume. Santa Maria was founded in the south of the island in 1830 by Manuel António Martins. During this time the salt industry thrived, with 30,000 tons of salt being exported in the early years. Most of the salt was exported to Brazil until its nationalization in 1887, Portuguese and French salt investors resumed salt production until 1984.
In 1939 Italy started constructing an airport to receive flights from Europe and South America. Construction was halted and ceased around World War II. The Portuguese bought the airport from the Italians and finished it in 1949. Northeast of the airport, workers from São Nicolau Island settled in a village named Preguiça, now part of Espargos. Hurricane Fred struck the island of Sal in late summer 2015, causing damage to houses, tourist facilities and ships.
The island is 29.7 km long and 11.8 km wide. Its area is 219.8 km2. It is one of the three sandy eastern islands (Sal, Boa Vista and Maio) of the archipelago, with white sandy beaches. The island is fairly flat; its highest point is Monte Grande, at 406 m elevation. The uninhabited islet Ilhéu Rabo de Junco lies near the west coast of Sal.
Sal Island has on average 350 days of sunshine a year. Winds mainly blow from the northeast.
The wild beauty of Island Sal amplifies curiosity and passion for life
Sal is a wild beauty in all its details, from people, food and places. The time feels different, the chaos and crazy rhythm from the continents haven't reached this place. You can breath here and you can catch your soul.
You can meet a very pure essence of culture, very unique artists and people who learned to be 'Jack of all Trades' to survive, very open, friendly and ready to help. In my case, after six years of living in Tenerife, in the Canary Islands, I can say the main difference between the two archipelagos is what they do to you: Canaries brought me 'home', while Cape Verde made me feel like missing something I've never lived, awakening in me the thirst for Africa. You can hear Africa's calling from here, a place I don't know yet, but one that is already marked in my future. It amplified my curiosity and my passion for living life.
This first post about the Sal island is meant to introduce it to you, to give you an overview over its cinematic and business potential, over its vibe, energy and potential for your projects and endeavors that may find a home there.
I will come back with particular locations from Island Sal in future posts (beaches, buildings, resorts etc), in the meantime I'll leave you here a short video with me and Bianca since our last visit there (for more photos you can visit my Shutterstock and my National Geographic profiles, or my Facebook album).