Cape Verde often is referred to as “Africa lite,’ but you can’t dismiss this island nation off the coast of Senegal that easily. While it may not be what most people envision when they conjure up stereotypical images of Africa and African nations—it’s unique appeal is what makes this destination even more intriguing.
Cape Verde is a former Portuguese African colony, and in fact it is a very young country at just 41 years independent. A mix of Africa, Europe, and even a touch of America, Cape Verdean culture is complex due to its multiple layers, the attractions are vast, the people are an interesting medley of ethnicities and customs.
There are 10 islands in all, 9 of them inhabited with every island having it’s unique charm. But one thing you will find on all of them is what locals refer to as ‘morabeza,’ aka a welcoming spirit. There is low crime, and while there is still a presence of machismo, men are generally respectful—even when “hollering” on the street. Though the country suffers from some big social-gender issues, it’s are more progressive than many other African countries and in some cases even when compared to America (In CV women get equal pay–though unemployment is high for women).
In all Cape Verde is regarded is a safer destination for solo women travelers, and here’s 10 reasons why:
1. You won’t be bored. CV likes to say it is “1 country, 10 destinations.” You can island hop and get the full Cape Verdean experience: from hiking up the active volcano on Fogo island to wandering through the vast nature of Santo Antão to pampering yourself at one of the mega all-inclusive beach resorts of Sal and Boa Vista islands or relishing the city life of Santiago Island. You can also jet off to the island of São Vicente, whose main city Mindelo is Cape Verde’s answer to the French Riviera.
2. Safety. Again, the crime rate is low and women can feel relatively safe on the streets and going out at night alone. Taxis are abundant, clean, and cheap when you don’t want to walk around solo. Though cat-calling from men is common (as in most countries), it’s generally more relaxed and less aggressive. Of course, like everywhere you should always be cautious about your surroundings when traveling alone. Speaking of men…
3. Beautiful People. This could easily be numbers 1 through 10! Cape Verdean men, while not model tall, are a wonder to behold and so are the women of Cape Verde. Even if you are attached and not looking for an island romance, you can still let your eyes roam—especially at the beach. It is rare to find a CV man out of shape, and even rarer to find one who is not friendly. Flirting is a major pastime here, so be prepared to get your tease on (with limits for safety!) starting with the taxi ride from the airport.
4. Go Au Natural! If there is ever a time you want to go fully makeup free and wear your hair natural with confidence, this is a great chance to do so. While you will see a portion of women wearing lipstick and eye makeup, it is rare to find a women in full-blown makeup. It’s just too darn hot for foundation! And as of late, CV women have fully embraced the natural hair movement—though you will see all sorts of hairdos here, from press and curls to Afros to natural curls galore.
5. Fitness Reboot. Cape Verde will also give you the opportunity to get your fitness regimen back on track. While they are not fitness fanatics, you will find Cape Verdeans either in the gym or running/walking/exercising on the beach in the early am or evening. Hiking trails (with amazing views) can be found across the islands and it’s also a great opportunity to change your diet. There’s loads of fresh fruits to have for breakfast and snacks, lunch tends to be grilled fish or chicken (though I’d skip the loads of rice and potatoes that are served with every meal, and pork–which is well liked here), and Cape Verdeans tend to eat late (8ish) but light (soup, etc.) for dinner. Though you must sample the national dish of cachupa (a stew of corn/hominy, beans, cassava, sweet potato, fish or meat), eaten mostly for breakfast, don’t make it an everyday dish as it can be heavy.
6. Dancing! Yes, dancing. Here, they favor couples dancing–zouk/pasada, kizomba, coladeira, funana. If you aren’t used to it, the hardest thing may be learning to let the man lead. Once you do you will float (literally and mentally) across the dance floor—a freeing experience with the right partner. But be prepared as most songs will have a break for a little bump and grind action, and some guys go in more heavily than others. If you are looking to break out of your shell a bit, take a turn on the dance floor. And they party hard here. Clubs don’t get going to around 1am, and they wrap up not until 6-7am. If you want to skip the club scene, there is live music to be had all over.
7. Anytime is a great time to visit. Though summer does tend to get a bit hot, the weather for the most part is great year round. Even during the rainy season (August and October ), it is a great time to visit because the most of the islands are so green and beautiful. It is during this time that Cape Verde lives up to its name, ‘The Green Cape.’
8. You will blend in. Since anyone truly can be Cape Verdean due to the mix of ethnicities that make up the population, Black women from all over the globe blend in easily. Most people will think you are Cape Verdean until of course you start to talk (the official language is Portuguese; the national language is Kriolu). It’s always an advantage to be seen as a local when you want to fully immerse yourself in a destination, a bonus for brown-skinned ladies!
9. Roots reconnection. There is the “door of no return” like Senegal’s Goreé but Cape Verde played a vital role in the Transatlantic Slave Trade as many slaves had to pass through the islands before being sold and shipped off to other parts of the world. It seems, at one point the Cape Verde Islands had exclusive rights to the trade in slaves from the West African coast. For history seekers, there are a number of historic sights and monuments in remembrance like Cidade Velha’s Pelourinho Square.
10. Custom Style! Although most of the African print fabric you will find in CV is from Senegal and other African countries and the tailors (found mainly on the streets) are from Senegal, Ghana and other African nations, you can get great outfits made just for you, fast in less than three days and inexpensively for under $30. Just pick the pattern, the fit and get that dream dress made in no time!