Maio is the least known desert/beach island of Cape Verde. We were quite curious to get to know the place, since few people, also Cape Verdeans have never visited Maio. We've noticed straight away that Sal & Boa Vista were given priority in developing their infrastructure, because of the rising tourist numbers. Maio has been left on the side for now. With it's location close to the capital island Santiago, many inhabintants moved there, because of the better future possibilities.
Maio, November 26 2018
All in all 5 planes land here, not daily, but weekly! We arrived from Praia, the only possible connection to Maio on a 15 minute long flight.
Once arrived we've noticed right away how primitive the island is. Two men used old, rusty carts to get the lugagge of the plane and to place them on the only carousel, with a 3 meter length.
The taxi picked us up and after a short ride we arrvied at our accommodation. We stayed in the capital, Vila do Maio, which is the only place with touristic facilities. Our appartment was surprisingly well decorated, very neat and well taken care of. We booked this appartment, partly because of the a-mazing infinity pool with views over the ocean, the harbour and Santiago island where the sun would set everyday.
Excited as we are, we went straight out to explore. According to the numbers, the amount of people living here is around 7.000, but I would have believed there were only a 1.000. The city seemed empty and abandoned, with more animals strolling around than humans.
We walked past some man made Christmas decorations, the old fortress where they used to fight and a group of people grilling fish and meat on a barbecue (this is a typical part of the Cape Verdian culture).
Once we got to the shore we saw the beautiful clear water, white sandy beach and a few rocks from where you can jump in the ocean. We continued on the beach and found Tortuga, a cosy beach bar (there are 2 in total) and grabbed a drink. After a colourful show in the sky, the sun set behind the mountains of Santiago.
We found an Italian restaurant in the main street that had just re-opened after a paintjob. The owner was a particular woman, very friendly and answered us all the time with 'yes baby'. In every restaurant we go to eat we ask for the spicy oil made of small red peppers, Malagueta. This time we asked for it, we didn't get a bottle of oil. Instead we got a pair of scissors with a red pepper on a plate. It was quite a funny situation.
On the way back to the appartment we met the delegation of a few ministers of Cape Verde. Social that we are, we started talking to them and sat down to their table. With some good will from both sides we had a fun conversation in our best Criol and English. They got the idea of organising a beach BBQ and we were invited.
That day we went to bed pleased after our new impressions, spicy Italian pasta and a few Coconut ponch.
The second day was quite relaxed. We've spent some time chilling by the pool next to the wild ocean, the sound of the waves crashing on the rocks and the passing of some fisherboats with the daily catch.
Around 5 pm we started walking towards one of the beaches in the South, Ponta Preta. A soothing walk, past some large houses under construction. On the beach we spotted a group of cows chilling on the sand, who probably came to enjoy the sunset like us as well.
That night the delegation invited us for the beach BBQ. For me as a vegetarian and Sanne who isn't fond of fish, dining occasions are often quite difficult here. Their hospitality and red wine created a cosy atmosphere and ofcourse we got a complete fresh, grilled fish called Bica on our plate. We gave eachother the same stupid look, but tried our best to eat the fish with a plastic fork. Looking back the fish was tasty, pure and we really enjoyed the evening.
The third day is still so clear in our travel memories. We rented a quad at the local excursion office in the main street. From looking online and in our travel guides we listed the best spots worth the visit. With the bike helmets we were given we started the tour going Southwards. Don't forget that Maio is about 10 km wide and 27 km long. With our speed and pace, we got back to our beginning point in no-time. We drove through small, primitive villages, rugged volcanic landscapes and along beautiful coastlines. There are many cows wandering around freely, also the ones with the big horns. At one point things got interesting when we blocked the way for a group of 20 of them passing. The beaches that we saw where extended, gorgeously white and empty. It was a special feeling to explore all of this beauty, without a stream of other tourists.
At one point we drove through a muddy area. Pay attention to not get stuck with the quad and to not wear your best sneakers (just like we did).
Our plan was to have lunch in a local village, but the restaurant that we found online was closed or none existing. Another hotel on the road was abandoned, so in the end we went back to our cosy beach bar and had some food over there.
A bit burnt from our tour we started the fourth day. We felt like we'd seen everything on the island, so decided to take another chilled day by the pool. We went out for dinner in the evening to one of the restaurants in the main street and I think we tried all of them in this short time. The 'golden hour' came and we sat by the pool with some Reggae beats, Radler beer and peanuts to enjoy the serenity, wonderful panoramas and the sun going down for the last time behind the mountains.
Maio in general:
- Wonderful, vacant white beaches
- Rugged moon- and volcanic landscapes
- You arrive in the middle of the local scene, with almost no other tourists
- Safe capital to stay, it's all very familiar
- Perfect sun, sea, sand holiday to find your inner peace, far away from the inhabited world
Do's on Maio:
- Discover the island and unknown beaches by quad
- See the salt pans on the beach past the harbour
- Watch the sunset from Ponta Preta beach
- Spot turtles on the beach (between July and October)
- Mingle with the locals by the social meeting point, the rocks near the fortress in town
- Stay in Stella Maris; neat clean appartments, friendly owner with good service and the best views over the ocean by the infinity pool.
Dont's on Maio:
- Dont expect luxury, Maio is an island in development and has got a lot to improve on many sides. Enjoy the simple, but rich local Cape Verdian life.
- Not many touristic facilities. This is not the island for boat tours or water sports.
- No possibility of paying with euros.