If you want to hire a car or jeep and drive around – you need cash! Despite putting VISA Electron symbols all over their signs, the fuel stations only take cash for fuel! I learned the hard way after fuelling my car and then offering a Visa card. I then had to run about 200 meters to an ATM to get the cash. The realy stupid thing is that I could still have bought a chocolate bar and a cold drink inside for considerably less using my Visa card. Bizarre!
So get your cash together before you drive off!
Between the islands you will probaply end up using planes at least once since the ferrys are very iregular and it's also a very rough ride.
Cape Verde does have a very well functioning domestic airline system though, even if it is not the cheapest.
As we neared Furna – the small port on Brava – the sea would get a lot calmer. I could again stand up and even take some photos. The welcoming committee didn’t look too friendly though: five armed policemen lined up facing the boat. Is this the entire police force in Brava? I could see the pick-ups and taxis arriving at the dock gates, but they were not allowed to enter the dock area until the police had done their inspections. I was am not sure what they were looking for – they didn’t open any boxes or bags, more of a cursory glance. They stayed in that position during the whole time we were at the dock.
Kristiana carefully untangled herself from the downpipe and got ready to disembark. Unlike when we boarded the ferry at Fogo, where there was a nice gangplank, here you just stepped on the railings and jumped. I have never been any good at jumping. Despite a couple of burly local lads helping me, I still seemed to miss the ground. I was sure I had reached dry land, but there must have been at least another foot to go, so it was more of a splat than an elegant leap. Once I’d finished laughing, I managed to pick myself up from the floor. I had arrived – ungracefully – at Brava!
There was an awful lot of hassle getting the cases off the boat, with people everywhere and generally an organised chaos. Obviously the ‘porters’ (boat crew) who help you get the cases off would like a little something in return. It is only fair to give then a few coins for their trouble.
The boat was small and obviously intended as a cargo ship – there were no seats anywhere. We clambered around the back of the lower deck and found a couple of packing cases to sit on. There were three Germans and a small baby goat on that deck, apart from a few sacks of rice, tins of tuna and a huge bag of onions. The locals were sitting on the next deck up, on top of the luggage, or balanced on the railings. I couldn’t understand why they would want to be up there when there were plenty of boxes to sit on down on the lower aft deck. Little did I know. The weather was sunny and we were looking forward to a pleasant crossing. In the harbour was a couple of sailing ships, and the whole scene was very idyllic.
We left the harbour and immediately started to be shaken about by the waves. The calm waters of the harbour were replaced by angry waves topped with sparkling white horses, and the boat was buffeted by 10ft high swells. As we went up to the peaks of the surf, we could see nothing but sky. We would lean forward to try and counteract the tilt of the boat, but weren’t always successful, and we both ended up flat on our backs on the deck behind us at one stage. It was good exercise for the back – leaning forward, then backwards. The further away from land we got, the rougher the seas. Water would splash over the railings and totally cover us with spray. I desperately wanted to take photos, but didn’t want to risk drowning my camera this early on in the holiday. Anyway, I needed all my strength just holding on.
One of the German girls, Kristiana, was clinging on for dear life. She was looking a very unbecoming shade of green and was hugging a down pipe as if her life depended on it. The baby goat was also obviously very frightened and was bleating his little heart out. He got extremely wet and did not like it much. The rest of us were sort of enjoying it – a little like you’d enjoy a fairground ride: it is terrifyingly thrilling. Except this ride had no safety rails and no panic button; just miles of angry open sea. An hour was enough.
David’s case looked very precarious stashed on top of all the luggage on the next ‘deck’ up, but there was no way either of us was going to move an inch away from where we were. Fortunately a young lad spotted its predicament and moved it to a safer position. Phew.
Qualitur had arranged to pick us up from the Belavista at 14:00 to take us to the port for the 15:00 sailing to Brava (from Fogo). By 14:15 we decided that maybe they’d forgotten us, so decided to phone them. The mobile phones didn’t appear to work (although I’d been texting England regularly), so we asked the lady in the hotel to ring for us. A few minutes later a representative turned up in a taxi, appearing a little flustered. She made many phone calls during the short journey – we later found out that it was to the ferry company to ensure they didn’t leave without us. We were blissfully unaware of the situation at the time and just sat back and enjoyed the ride. From the approach road we could see a ship waiting to enter the port, so we weren’t unduly worried about the timing. The ship looked quite large and comfortable, and as it hadn’t even arrived yet, we would obviously not miss it.
The dock area was closed off to vehicles, and as soon as we got out of the taxi, someone shouted “Ferry to Brava?” grabbed our bags and ran. We followed as best as we could - running has never been my strong point. The Qualitur rep asked me for the tickets, and I explained that they were pre-paid for from the UK and she should have them. She obviously didn’t. The port official asked me for the tickets. I referred him to the Qualitur rep. She again asked me for the tickets. I again explained that they were already paid for and she should have them.
I still didn’t grasp the urgency, as the ship wasn’t even in dock yet. Then I saw it. The small cargo boat that was to carry us across to Brava. Oh. OK. I hesitated as I was still unsure that this was the right boat, but the luggage had already gone on board and the Qualitur rep had gone off to buy tickets. The captain urged us to get on board. I shouted “No Bileta” but he gestured that we should still get on board and leave it to Qualitur to sort out the tickets. So we did and the crew cast off the anchor. We obviously had to get out of the harbour so that the larger ship could enter.
There are two ways of getting to Cape Verde from the UK – charter flight with Thompson or via Lisbon with TAP (Air Portugal) and/or TACV, Cape Verde Airlines. We chose the latter, mainly because of the cost. TACV have a bad reputation for reliability, something we would become extremely glad of on our outward journey.
We were able to check in on line for the first leg of the journey (from Heathrow to Lisbon on TAP) the day before our departure date, but for some reason TACV wasn’t able to issue boarding cards at that time. The situation was the same when we checked the luggage in at Heathrow, and we even tried again at the gate, but were still unable to print boarding cards.
We left Heathrow 90 minutes late, which despite gaining some time on the flight, meant we arrived 15 minutes prior to the departure time for the next flight, an impossible task without a boarding card. We were therefore very grateful to see that the onward flight was delayed by half an hour. Phew.
A Ground Staff member greeted us at the arrivals hall and directed us through security towards the gates. Security, however, would not let us through without a boarding pass. They sent us back to the Ground Staff, who by now had disappeared. We were then directed to the Green Phone to call TAP. No reply. When the Ground Staff arrived to meet the next delayed flight, we asked again. She said she couldn’t help us, but maybe the guys on Immigration could? Huh? Well, we gave it a try, but naturally they didn’t want to know. They sent us through passport control to the TAP Transfer Desk.
Finally, someone who could help. So we thought. Despite being a code share flight with a TAP flight number, the staff at the Transfer Desk were unable – or unwilling – to help, as the flight was “operated by TACV”. They sent us back through Security to the Departure Gate. Fortunately Security didn’t ask to see the boarding cards at this stage; they just asked where we were going. Phew once more.
By this time the flight was boarding, and there was a long queue at the gate. We joined the end. After a while I must admit that I queue jumped and went to a lady at the desk who wasn’t actually busy checking boarding cards. She was absolutely delightful and went to a great deal of trouble, making numerous phone calls and even walking out to the plane to talk to the crew. After a lot of hassle, we finally received our hand written boarding cards, having secured the last two seats on the plane, albeait not together. But at least we were on. We took our seats as they closed the doors and prepared for take off. Phew again.
We were the only non-locals on the flight, and it appeared that everyone knew everyone else on board. We felt like we were gate crashing a private party. The flight was just under four hours, and we were grateful to finally arrive in Praia Airport on Santiago Island.
During our visit to the Capeverdian islands, we also liked to visit Santo Antao. From Mindelo every day are 2 or 3 boats, departing to Santo Antao early in the morning.
It was not easy to get the right information about getting tickets, allthough we tried to find out the day before at the port and the hotel.
In the harbour we found out, that for the boat -we came for- we had to get the tickets in town. We had not enough time to go there, but we were lucky to catch another smaller boat for which one we could buy a ticket at the ticketoffice in the harbour.
At the moment of boarding we saw there was also an third boat, which one looked really old !
Most people arrive at the international near Espargos at Ilha do Sal. So we did.
With small planes of TACV you can fly between most of the islands. Sometimes the planes fly in time, sometimes they are a little late.
But from Santiago to Sal the plane once had a departure of three hours earlier. Because we didn't get the message, we missed that plane.
Except for the island of Sal (which receives by far the most tourists) almost all of the roads in Cape Verde are cobble-stone. Some say it is the longests network of such roads in the world, one thing is for sure - it makes driving S L O W and noisy.
Allow lots of time for excursions, especially if going by minibus. A road improvement program has been under way for a long time and things are slowly getting better!
When we left Santo Antao the busdriver drove us to the office in Porto Novo where we could buy the return tickets for the ferry to Mindelo.
A Capverdian man was very helpfull to get the tikets for us.
In the background of the port you can see the other island Sao Vicente.
On the islands are small busses to all towns and villages.
At Santo Antao many busses wait in the port of Porto Novo. The busses will depart when there are enough paying passengers.
At Santiago you take a taxi from the airport to Sucupira, the market in Praia. From there many busses depart to everwhere on the island.
The boat trip from Mindelo to Porto Novo takes one hour.
There was a warning that the sea could be rather rough.
Many capverdians had their plastic bags ready and the crew supplied a lot of buckets.
Without problems we arrived at Porto Novo.
Every day there 2 or 3 boats to Santo Antao early in the morning.
It was difficult to get the right information about getting tickets, allthough we tried to find out the day before at the port and the hotel.
For the boat -we came for- it was neccesary to get the tickets in town. We didn't know.
We were lucky to catch another (smaller) boat for which was the ticketoffice at the port.
There was also an third boat that morning.
Most people arrive at the international near Espargos at Ilha do Sal.
With small planes of TACV you can fly between most of the islands.
The planes fly sometimes in time, sometimes they are a little late.
From Santiago to Sal the plane once had a departure of three hours earlier.
We didn't get the message, so we missed that plane.
From London Heathrow via Lisbon with TAP Air Portugal
TACV fly regular inter island air services. Their scheduling can be prone to last minute changes however.
There are also regular ferry services between certain islands (e.g. Sao Vicente - Santo Antao .. see photo)
Ilha Do Sal, Caixa Postal 33, Santa Maria, 4111, Cape Verde
Good for: Solo
Lote HO 1, Urb. Morrinho de Baguincho, Praia de Salines, , Cape Verde
Good for: Business
Avenida 4 de Julho, Sal Rei, 74000, Cape Verde