Sal Rei Things to Do
A small fish market operates on Avenida dos Pescadores, just behind Praia de Diante beach, in the town of Sal Rei.
We paid a brief visit to this market as part of a tour of Sal Rei in May 2011.
I understand that a modern fish market building was opened in the town in recent years but this simple, traditional outdoor market still survives.
A small group of local women and girls display the fishermen's catch (including lots of tuna) in plastic bowls on a wall just behind the beach. They have knives and weighing scales to cut and weigh the fish for their customers.
We only saw fish for sale (there were no shrimps or crabs for example), although one of the fish for sale was possibly the largest tuna fish that I have ever seen! The fact that the fish were crawling with flies meant that they didn't look very appetising, and I'd have been very reluctant to purchase anything.
Our guide informed us that we were fine to take photos of the fish, but asked us to avoid photographing the women as they have been known to react angrily to this in the past.
Immediately behind the fish market is Praia de Diante beach; you'll see small wooden fishing boats laying on the sands and bobbing up and down in the shallow sea, and if you arrive at the right time you'll see the fishermen delivering their fresh catch to the market.
Praia de Diante is a small sandy beach in Sal Rei, the capital of Boa Vista.
It is located in front of Avenida dos Pescadores where the town's fish market is held and a number of small colourful fishing boats can be seen bobbing up and down in the shallow, gentle sea.
Compared to the other beaches we visited on the island (Lacacao, Curral Velho, Ervatao and Santa Maria), the sea at Praia de Diante was much calmer with no large waves breaking on the shore. However, it was also far less unspoilt than those other beaches due to its proximity to the town and the pollution created by the boats and the nearby population.
We didn't swim in the sea during our visit to the beach in May 2011 but enjoyed a brief stroll along it during a tour of the town. There are great views from the beach across to the small islet of Ilheu de Sal Rei.
1 Hotels in Sal Rei
Sal Rei Hotels
Avenida 4 de Julho, Sal Rei, 74000, Cape Verde
Sal Rei Restaurants
We finished our tour of Sal Rei in May 2011 with a drink at Cafe Esplanade Municipal Silves.
This laid back, outdoor cafe is located on Largo Santa Isabel, the main square of the town. A dozen or so tables, most of them emblazoned with the logo of Cape Verde's Strela beer, sit in front of the cafe below a roof which provides much needed shelter from the hot sunshine.
There is a small menu card on the bar which lists the drinks and snacks that are offered. These include a variety of cocktails (including caipirinhas, cuba libres and mojitos) for 300 CVE (3 Euros) each, spirits (although I didn't see the local "grogue" listed amongst them), beer, soft drinks and hot beverages. Snacks include sandwiches and toasties.
I enjoyed a couple of cold bottles of Strela beer (100 CVE / 1 Euro) and Emma enjoyed a couple of glasses of fruit juice at a similar price.
There are quite a few touts hanging around near the cafe, some trying to persuade you to take a taxi and others trying to sell you souvenirs. They can be quite persistent, but are fairly easily brushed off with a firm but friendly "no thank you". There are also a number of souvenir shops and Chinese general stores located around the cafe.
A nice outdoor cafe in which to enjoy a cold Strela beer in the heart of Sal Rei.
Sal Rei Shopping
Mercado Municipal is a modern two storey market building in Sal Rei.
It is located on the edge of Largo Santa Isabel, Sal Rei's main square, just inland from the beach. We made a brief visit to the market building during a tour of Sal Rei in May 2011.
The ground floor of the market is devoted to food, and in particular fruit and vegetables. You will find trays and boxes piled high with oranges, apples, bananas, pears, potatoes, carrots, cabbages and such like. There are also bags of nuts and corn for sale, the latter being a key ingredient in Cape Verde's national dish, Cachupa Rica, a stew of corn, beans, vegetables and fish or meat.
The inside of the market building is open plan, so our guide took us up to the first floor where we could get the best view of the fruit and veg market below.
Unlike the ground floor, the upper floor is divided into small individual shops, although all of them were selling a similar variety of souvenirs, crafts and artwork. You can find a fairly extensive selection of rugs, jewellery, wooden ornaments, Cape Verde t-shirts and scarves, wooden masks, paintings and colourful pictures created from sand.
Sal Rei Warnings and Dangers
Prior to our visit to Boa Vista in May 2011, we had read a few stories of visitors being hassled by touts in the streets of the island's capital, Sal Rei.
We weren't sure how big a problem this would be; whether it was just a case of a few less experienced tourists feeling a bit uncomfortable being approached in the streets or whether it was more threatening. The stories pointed out (as did the Cape Verde forums that we were monitoring) that the touts were not locals but people who had moved over from the mainland, from the nearby countries of Senegal and Mauritania, specifically to target the tourist market in Cape Verde.
During a tour of Sal Rei, we had a little free time to explore the town independently. We decided to have a look through the souvenir shops and general stores that line the edge of Largo Santa Isabel, Sal Rei's main square and centre of commercial activity. Our guide warned us to be careful and not to stray too far away from the cafe where we had arranged to meet back. I suspected that he was just being protective and a little over-cautious.
We were clearly being monitored by the groups of touts that were standing around the square. No sooner had we left our guide behind, we were approached by young men beckoning us into their shops or asking if we'd like to take a taxi ride. Generally, a smile and a polite but firm "no thank you" was enough to ward them off, and we certainly didn't feel threatened. Some of the touts were more persistent; one young man followed me for a few hundred metres attempting to sell me a Cape Verde baseball cap. He was difficult to shake off, but again, we didn't feel threatened.
If you do choose to purchase anything from these touts, be sure to find out the actual value of the items in the shops and be prepared to haggle. We were approached by one man who was attempting to sell us a picture created from sand. It looked nice and we agreed that it would be an ideal souvenir to take home. He wanted 10 Euros for it. We declined and moved on. Had he asked for 5 Euros, we may have been tempted to buy it from him. Instead, we found the same picture in a souvenir shop for just 3 Euros and purchased it from there.
Maybe we were lucky. Maybe there have been serious incidents involving tourists in Sal Rei. However, the hassle we encountered was nothing more than slightly irritating. Nobody manhandled us and tried to force us into their stores – which has happened to me in several other countries! Likewise, nobody tried to sell us anything more questionable than souvenirs – again, this has happened to me in several other countries.
I understand that certain parts of Sal Rei, notably the Barraca shantytown area which houses poor workers from the African mainland, have a reputation for being more dangerous, but we didn't venture into any such areas.
Sal Rei Favorites
Favorite thing: We paid a short visit to Sal Rei's main school as part of a day trip to the island's capital. It was the school that our guide (the very knowledgable and friendly Tinh) had attended as a child, and I got the impression that he included a visit in all his city tours.
Hundreds of children in neatly pressed sky blue shirts and shorts were playing in the square outside the school as we arrived. Some were climbing up the signposts and walls, some were playing games of chase and others were using an empty water bottle as a makeshift football and a doorway as a makeshift goal. Others were encouraging us to take their photos.
We had read beforehand that the local children are grateful of any toys, pens and similar items that visitors bring with them, so Emma had taken along a bag full of rubber bouncy balls. The first one was gratefully received by a smiling little girl, but then word soon got out and Emma was mobbed by dozens of children desperately trying to get into her bag to get one of the prized possessions. Children descended upon her from all four corners of the playground! I was unsure whether to try to help disperse the children, or take lots of photos as Emma battled to distribute the colourful balls as best as she could. Needless to say, I opted for the latter! ;-) Our guide intervened and the swarm of children parted.
If you intend to take small gifts for the children, it is probably wise to hand them to the teacher to distribute amongst the children.
We were shown inside the classroom (it could have been a primary school classroom anywhere in the world, with children sitting obediently at their desks, colourful pencil cases in front of them and lots of their artwork hanging on the walls) as our guide told us a little about the school. The children seemed to be used to welcoming visitors and our visit didn't appear to cause too much disruption to their lessons.
Our short visit provided an interesting insight into the lives of Boa Vista's locals.