Tarrafal, Cabo Verde

Photo: CorreiaPM (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Photo: CorreiaPM (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
It’s been a perfect morning. You weren’t awoken by a buzzing alarm clock, loud street noise, or a screaming child. For once, you woke up slowly and naturally. Sunlight started streaming through the sheer turquoise curtains in your mostly white room. Two waxbills began singing in harmony out on your patio. Plus the smell of sweet Cape Verdean bread wafted from the nearby kitchen. You should probably get out of bed.

You make your way to the terrace, where breakfast is being served. You forgo your usual black coffee for freshly squeezed apple juice. Yogurt and cheese, smoked beef and homemade sausages, oranges and bananas are spread out on the table. You make a beeline for that still-warm bread and the homemade mango marmalade. Then you find a shady seat and keep an eye on the grey-headed kingfisher, who has his own eye on your plate from the branch of a neem tree.

This little oasis is Villa Botanico, a small guesthouse on Santiago in Cabo Verde. Need a quick geography lesson? Cabo Verde sits in the Atlantic Ocean, 500 kilometers off the west coast of Africa. The Sotavento islands, the archipelago’s southern island group, are volcanic and rocky, unlike the rest of the islands, which are dry and desert-like. Santiago is the largest and most densely populated of all the islands. But Tarrafal, the little fishing village where you’re staying on the northwest coast, feels anything but overrun.

Photo: Villa Botanico
Photo: Villa Botanico

Tarrafal is far from the craziness of Praia, the island nation’s capital. After landing on Cradle Island, you drove an hour-and-a-half north up steep inclines, around high mountains, and by large plantations. You found soft-sand beaches, small fishing boats, and a dramatic coastline at the end of the drive. A blue-and-white church stands on Tarrafal’s central square. Stalls overflow with fresh fruit and vegetables in the market hall. Stone streets lead to the water. The Tarrafal Light guards the coast. While Monte Graciosa looms in the distance.

After checking out the town and finding your hotel, you’re ready to explore. The beaches are first, of course. Baia Verde, the main beach, is lined with palm trees and, at the end of the day, those little fishing boats. President Bay is smaller and almost always empty. Go hiking on the island’s rocky peaks. Pico da Antónia and Serra da Malagueta are the highest, while Monte Graciosa is right in front of you. Learn about the birds you’ll surely see along the way. Then visit the museum at the old secret prison, where revolutionaries were kept under Communist rule.

End the day on a higher note on Villa Botanico’s rooftop terrace. Sink into a soft cushion on the white furniture. Sip a glass of green—yes, green—wine. And stare at Serra da Malagueta, Fogo island, and the endless Atlantic. The day ends just as it began. Perfectly.

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