Cape Verde is a little known pocket of islands off the coast of Senegal, Africa. Portuguese owned, they strike an amazing balance of Caribbean vibes and volcanic island like the kind you would find in Lanzarote or Tenerife. A dive buddy and I had been looking for a long time for a week’s dive holiday and were torn looking at Jordan or Egypt, but eventually stumbled upon Sal in Cape Verde. The sleepy fishing village of Santa Maria seemed idyllic, and after a lot of researching we decided to dive with Cabo Diving.
The first thing you’ll notice about Santa Maria is the colour of the ocean. It is that kind of blue that makes your heart sing, hugging the white sand on the long beach that stretches off into the distance. The second is the pier! It’s a real hub of the area with always something going on. Diving from Santa Maria means departing from the pier in the morning where you can see the day’s catch that has been landed; huge marlin, tuna and endless smaller fish all being deftly cleaned and prepared to be served in local restaurants that evening.
Cabo Verde diving is tucked away a little outside the main village of Santa Maria next to the resort of Villa do Farol. The dive centre does pick-ups from around town and were really punctual, welcoming us into the truck with big smiles when they collected us and our equipment on the first day. The small office leads through to a huge kit room with benches along one wall where you can take a seat whilst gearing up or during your pre-dive briefing. A screen on the wall is used to share detailed dive site maps as part of dive briefings and the wall behind you features a map of Sal with all of the dive sites you can visit dotted around the coast line and out to sea. There are racks and racks of equipment in all sizes, all well kept, and the wetsuits are 5/6mm with hoods to help you stay cosy in the low season when the water temperature can drop a little.
Prior to our first dive we both sat down for a very thorough dive briefing where one of the instructors told us what to expect: from gearing up to getting in the water. Once our gear was prepared and wetsuits half on we all piled into the truck to get to the pier for our first dive. The first dive site was a 50m long wreck sitting shallow at about 10-12m with a big split in the middle. I love wrecks – there is always so much to hunt out around the wreckage and this was no different! What was amazing about this dive site was the number of puffer fish! I’ve never seen so many in my life, let alone schools of puffer fish! The site also gave us nudibranch, a big ray, and a huge eel (around 2m in length!).
Subsequent days in the water afforded us another big wreck (Boris), stretches of reef with overhangs ranging in depth from 24m up to 8m where we spotted juvenile turtles, octopus hiding in plain sight, eels of all sizes, spindly arrowhead crabs and teeny tiny nudibranch! But the best dive site we were able to get to was Choclassa: situated about 20minutes out from shore and tough to find when the swell was high, Choclassa was a beautiful reef shaped like a wave ranging from 30m up to about 12m in depth. The underside of the “crest” of the wave was covered in bright orange sun coral, and the strong current we encountered there brought in a huge wall of jack fish off the drop-off. We were lucky enough to get back to Choclassa for our one and only night dive of the trip where it took our breath away. Within minutes of hitting the reef we happened upon a loggerhead turtle that circled us twice to check us out. A hunting octopus darted across the reef bottom, and the orange sun coral we had glimpsed during the day, glowed neon in the light of our torches at night. Two more loggerheads (one over a metre in width) graced us with their presence that night, and resting just at the buoy line before we began our ascent was a sleeping nurse shark! It was truly one of the best dives of my career, let alone night dive!
We loved our time in Cape Verde, the people were warm and the diving was exciting! We’re both looking at where next in this little archipelago we can visit!