|Restaurants||Windsurf Centers||Club Mistral||Summary|
This page should be useful for anyone planning a windsurf or kitesurf holiday in Cape Verde.
Links to other information can be found on my page.
The information here is drawn from my own experience. I believe it to be accurate. Please let me know of any errors.
February is supposedly a good time for windsurfing in Cape Verde, thanks to fairly reliable NE trade winds. You can check the forecast winds for previous years on WindGuru.
I was in Cape Verde from 25 Jan 2007 to 8 Feb 2007.
The main windsurfing resort is Santa Maria on Sal. The airport code is SID. There are many hotels in Santa Maria at reasonable cost.
Many languages are widely spoken, including Portuguese, Italian, French, and English.
Daylight runs from about 07:00 to 19:00. The time zone is GMT-1, giving a one hour time difference in winter, and two hours in summer.
You can book your own holiday easily enough. Astraeus have weekly flights from Gatwick and Manchester. Tickets for these flights are not available through many normal ticket services, but can be obtained from Teleticket.
You will need a visa, which can be obtained from the Consul in Liverpool. You can also get a visa on arrival in Cape Verde.
I arranged my own holiday, at a very good price. The hotel arranged transfers to and from the airport. There are lots of taxis. A taxi transfer costs about 10€.
If you wish to stay in a high class hotel, it is worth asking for a quote from a travel organizer such as Sportif. They may be able to obtain discounts which are not available to you as an individual.
If you book a complete package, you will be covered by the organizer's insurance in case of anything going wrong with your holiday arrangements. It is important to know who to contact in case of problems.
These ATMs accept Visa, but not Master Card. I attempted to use my Nationwide Flex Account card, but the machine said it was not valid.
By Saturday at 17:00, the ATM at the bank had run out of money. None of the ATMs had money on the Sunday. Otherwise, they worked well. The maximum withdrawal in a single transaction is 20,000 Cape Verde Escudos, equivalent to about £120. You can make more than one withdrawal in a day.
As well as the bank, there is a Caixa office and the Cota Cambias money exchange office. They are together, not far from the bank and the NHA Terra hotel. Both are agents for Western Union.
I bought travellers cheques from American Express. The American Express website has no information about Cape Verde, other than a helpline number. The agent on the helpline had no idea where Cape Verde was, or whether I would be able to use my travellers cheques there. The Caixa has an American Express sign in the window.
Euro notes, and 1€ coins are widely accepted and regarded as interchangable with local currency. 1€ is supposedly worth 110 Cape Verde Escudos, less commission. In the restaurants, 1€ coins and 100 CVE coins are interchangable. It is a good idea to take some Euro currency for use on the last day or so of your holiday. Cape Verde Escudos are not officially allowed in or out of the country.
We stayed in a first floor room, with sea view, a balcony, TV and air conditioning.
We were very happy at the NHA Terra. The quiet, relaxed, friendly attitude of the owners certainly helped. They were happy to arrange an airport transfer. They did not ask for a deposit. I paid some money a few days after arrival, and the remainder the day before departure. They sent me confirmation of booking by e-mail, useful for my Visa application.
TV included BBC World Service, and CNN, so we could keep up to date with events at home.
The NHA Terra is very conveniently located for the bank and exchange offices, and the Club Mistral, CNS and Surfzone windsurf hire centres. It is about a mile to walk to the Ponta do Lème Bedj windsurf area.
We mostly ate at the restaurant of the NHA Terra. Grilled "Wahoo" fish steak was great, and tuna steak with onions. House wine was very reasonably priced. At times, they offered a "cheese pudding", which was very much like a tasty crème caramel.
We looked around town, but could not find anywhere which could compete with the hotel. On the days the hotel restaurant was closed, we ate at Americos, which is not far away. It is certainly very popular, and seems to have cornered the tourist market. Late arrivals climbed the stairs to find the restaurant full, looked for a table downstairs without success, and even came back half an hour later.
Catering for this number of people is difficult, and mistakes were beginning to happen. The downstairs area had a very bad smell of cooking fumes. Food was no better than the NHA Terra, and prices were slightly higher. The menu was certainly more varied.
There are many other small restaurants in town. You can find restaurants with local cooking, and expensive Italian restaurants too. We enjoyed some spaghetti at the Bar A Onda.
Some people complained about serious stomach upsets. We ourselves had no troubles with the local food. We even drank the tap water in the hotel, with no obvious ill effects. Bottled water is cheap, and tastes much better.
Santa Maria is situated on a large sandy bay at the south of the island of Sal. The bay runs from Ponta do Lème Bedj in the East, to Ponta Sinó in the west. The beach runs for miles, and consists of very soft white sand, though with some rocks in places at the Ponta do Lème Bedj end of the bay.
The road arrives in Santa Maria near the middle of the bay at the new Pier, or Jetty, which is being rebuilt. The Morabeza hotel is near here. Not far west from this is SurfZone, and 200 meters further are Club Mistral and Club Nathalie Simon, which are close together in the same building as the Atlantis restaurant.
Many of the large new hotels are to the west of this area. The town itself lies to the East. Near the middle of the town is Porto Antigo, the old port, now part of a hotel.
At the far end of the town, towards Ponta do Lème Bedj, are more windsurf centres. These are Planet windsurfing, Angulo, and Fun System. The wind here is probably stronger and cleaner, but more off-shore. There is a wavesailing area near here.
There are windsurf centers on Boavista, the island to the South of Sal.
All the windsurf centers have lots of large windsurf boards, suitable for beginners and intermediates. They do not have any 69L wave boards.
I booked windsurfing in advance through Club Mistral, as I was expecting reliable winds, and I was assured that Cape Verde would be very busy in February. Advance booking secured me a reduction in the fee from 320 € to 300 €, and allowed me to pay in advance by credit card.
As I usually sail a 69L wave board at home, and Cape Verde is known as a wave resort, I booked a 76L board from Club Mistral.
I soon discovered that there was hardly any wind. Worse still, the wind was badly offshore. Club Mistral assured me that my booked board was "somewhere else". I never did see it, and could not have sailed it anyhow.
Apparently, the wave spot was behind the boats moored near the pier which is being reconstructed. If I wanted to sail in the waves, I would need to be part of a group of at least 3 people sailing together. Otherwise, it was very important that I should stay within site of the Club Mistral center. Visibility was often poor, as the offshore wind sends clouds of dust into the air.
As it happened, there was never much wind for a wave board, and never much wave apart from the shore break.
You can tell people to stay within sight, but it is very difficult to enforce. The best wind was far out in the bay. I would sail out a mile or so, then look at the horizon and see more windsurf sails. Sometimes, I would sail out through the boats moored near the pier, and look ashore towards the Porto Antigo and the Ponta do Lème Bedj windsurf area.
Each center is supposed to have a safety boat, though I understand that Club Mistral was waiting for a replacement and sharing a boat with CNS meantime.
In any case, the safety boat was on the beach with a cover over it. If you lose your kit in an offshore wind miles from shore, the chances of making it back, or being found by the safety boat, are extremely slender.
In practice, winds were light, the sea was flat, and the sails and boards heavy. It is most unlikely you would lose your board in these conditions. As far as I know, no one was lost at sea.
I did not see any windsurfers rescued or assisted by safety boats. The boats were sometimes used for kitesurf instruction, or to rescue kiters.
I also once saw a kiter brought ashore on the back of a windsurf board, complete with his kite.
Apparently, the wind should normally have been more Easterly, and less off-shore. This would have given us stronger winds close to the shore, and also more waves in the bay. It would normally have been cooler, with more cloud.
This year, there was apparently a few days wind at the beginning of January, then nothing of note for well over 4 weeks.
When I arrived, the shorebreak was fierce, and looked very dangerous. All the centers offer a beach service. They will help you get the equipment in and out of the water without damage. In difficult conditions, they will sail it out for you, and you can swim after it. Conditions are very flat only 30 yards (say) offshore.
In practice, the shorebreak varied considerably according to the state of the tide and other factors. Low tide looked easy, but there was a tendency for you to come in fast, and trip as you grounded the skeg.
The centers generally keep the sails rigged without booms. Club Mistral allocates a boom for your use. You can then set the harness lines as necessary. They rig the sails and carry them down the beach for you. Unfortunately, they usually rig the boom in the middle position. If you require a lower boom height, you have to adjust the boom position, and also reduce the boom extension by a couple of notches.
Rigs are secured on the beach by the simple expedient of pushing the head of the sail into the soft sand! Don't try this at home folks.
Club Mistral have wetsuits and chest harnesses which you can borrow. I took my own shorty wetsuit. It was not too hot to wear it, but I could often have managed without.
They have lockers, and hooks and hangers so you can leave all your windsurf kit at the center. They have a hosepipe and a tank of water, so you can wash your kit and your feet if you wish.
On fine sand like this, it is very tempting to sail without boots, even if you do not normally do so. I tried sailing without boots, but found many of the boards extremely slippery. Wearing boots solved the problem. Most of the equipment seems to be very well used.
Kit does suffer terribly in these conditions, so the hire charge is quite reasonable.
Winds were light to non-existent on the first week, but picked up a bit on the second week of the holiday. In all, I managed to sail on 10 days out of 13. Counting morning and afternoon sessions separately, I managed 18 sessions out of 26. That is a lot of windsurfing.
At first, I sailed a 6.6m² sail with the Screamer 104L. Later, I changed to a 6.2m² sail with a Screamer 95L. The smaller Screamer was fitted with a 38cm skeg, so it went up wind easily, which made it easy for me to pick my way amongst the boats. I also tried the Syncro 90L. I found you had to put the mastfoot back - even with a 6.2m² sail - otherwise the board became very slow and difficult to sail. The Screamer coped much better with the conditions, and would sometimes fly off the chop offshore. I gybed on the waves offshore, but I found wave gybes impossible. The large skeg did not help. The waves also seemed to be travelling too fast relative to my board speed.
Club Mistral operates 09:00 to 17:00, which is a long day for the staff. In practice, no one was on the water before 10:00, and you did not go out after 16:00. They were putting things away at 16:30. Things may be different when it is windy.
In Cape Verde, they have an interesting way of teaching beginners. I saw the instructor standing on the board alongside the student. With warm water, one of them can easily get off the board at any time. Don't try this at home folks!
If winds were offshore at Club Mistral, they would have been even more offshore in the Ponta do Lème Bedj area. These centers probably attract more experienced windsurfers, and we often saw lots of sails on the water there.