Travels with SACCO by Deborah Bell
In October 2018 I paid a flying visit to the island of Sal, one of the 10 islands comprising Cape Verde, and the largest and most “developed."
Sal is Portuguese for salt. The islands were Portuguese colonies from the late 1400s until 1951, gaining full independence in 1975. The national symbol is the turtle, and there are numerous projects around the islands dedicated to their preservation.
These days Sal is mostly for beach lovers and their associated pursuits. It is an island in development, and there is evidence of construction everywhere. It is easy to see that for the majority of the populace, living standards are basic, if not rustic.
The landscapes are not lush but flat, lunar in landscape, and devoid of tropical effects such as rainforest, palm trees and rolling verdant hills. It is NOT the Caribbean! Instead it has lovely beaches, a green oasis in the form of a botanical garden, and salt lakes where you can bathe.
The people living and working there are mostly from West Africa – for example from Guinea Bissau, Mali, and Senegal - and employment is mostly limited to the tourist industry. According to official statistics, 70% of Cape Verde islanders are of mixed African and European descent, and there is also evidence of a burgeoning Chinese community.
Is Sal worth a visit? I still think so, especially if you enjoy island-hopping, which you can do to Boa Vista, Fogo, Sao Vincente, Brava, and Santiago by ferry or aeroplane. Each has its own particular characteristics.
At a 5-hour flight, for sun and relaxation and a place where you can be part of the visual African majority, you can do much worse than Sal. As a destination it is becoming increasingly popular, but be warned…if you need more stimulation than the beaches offered on Sal, look for a different destination.