Maio Cape Verde is the perfect ‘away from it all’ destination. You can expect to find sleepy towns with colourful little houses, hilly landscapes, limestone valleys, acacia forests and coconut palms and tranquility in abundance. There are long stretches of perfect white sandy beaches, warm clear waters with very little commercialism. Despite its isolation Maio is a beautiful island and the perfect place to enjoy long uninterrupted walks along deserted beaches. If you want to get away from it all this is the place for you…
Maio is the closest island to the capital city Praia, but the transport links are not as good as they are for other islands in the archipelago. Transport is via Praia, which has an international airport. There are then domestic flights and ferries to Maio, but they do not operate every day. It may be a little hard to get to, but it is well worth the effort. Maio has a charm all of its own and the local people are some of the friendliest in the whole country. It is a relatively poor island, but the people are happy and the children happily play in the street or on the beach with very few toys.
The southern part of the island is largely desert, and in the north there are forests and a slightly more mountainous terrain. Cobbled roads connect all the small villages such as Morro, Calheta and Morrinho to the main town of Vila do Maio (also known as Porte Inglês). The roads are quiet and a guided tour of the island is a pleasant experience and will give the visitor an interesting day. A tour will take in the attractive little villages and the sand dunes at Morrinho, acacia forests (now the largest continuous wooded area within Cape Verde) and the charcoal pits.
The main town of Vila do Maio is located in the south west of the island. It is on the coast and is where the airport and the ferry jetty are located. It is an attractive little town with quiet streets with very few cars. The quaint streets offer glimpses of the sea as they slope down the hillside. At the centre of the town is the Town Square, recently re-designed with attractive planting and places to site. The square is watched over by the Catholic church, which is Portuguese in style. Close by is the market hall where you can purchase fresh fruit, vegetables and on certain days meat.
There are a few bars and restaurants dotted around the town, including bars on the beach. Close by Vila do Maio there is a Salinas, or salt pan. Here salt is collected from sea water by evaporation. It is worth a visit by walking along the beach beyond the pier. Here bird lovers will find ospreys, swallows and waders.
The beaches are lovely. In Vila do Maio Bitxe Rotxa (the main beach) is a long stretch of soft white sand, very often almost deserted, but with bars where you can enjoy a meal or a drink while sitting on the sands. It is also where the fishermen bring in their daily catch, and where you can buy the fresh fish. A short walk to the east of the town takes you to yet another lovely, almost deserted beach at Ponta Preta. This is a long beach stretching many kilometres and is somewhere to watch the sunset.
There is a diversity of flora and fauna on Maio Cape Verde and protected marine areas and sand dunes. The deserted beaches are an attraction to a variety of sea birds and turtles are found in the waters. At the right time of year (June to October) you may be lucky to see the turtles laying their eggs in nests in the sand dunes. Then see the babies making their way into the sea. Organised trips can be arranged, as it is important not to endanger these beautiful creatures. In addition to the acacia forests, there are coconut and date palms and fig trees. In the streets of Vila do Maio you will see the beautiful flame trees with their fern-like leaves and stunning red flowers. Don’t be surprised to see chickens, cows or pigs in the streets or even on the beach.
Music is an important aspect of Cape Verdean life and local bars often have live music, perhaps on a Saturday night. A local guitarist and composer, Tibau Tavares is prominent in the music life of Cape Verde. He is identified in what has become known as new Cape Verdean music, which includes a combination of modern and traditional dance. The local music is infectious and you may well find yourself dancing with the locals in one of the bars, or even outside in the street.
So what does Maio Cape Verde offer? In our view it offers a perfect, destination for that quiet, ‘get away from it all’ holiday. The stunning beaches, warm clear seas and friendly locals will all add to your enjoyment. This is a lovely, forgotten island. If you enjoy long walks, or just sitting and relaxing, this is the place for you.