Sunday, 24 September 2017

Sal, Cape Verde | Trip Report, Hotel Review and Travel Tips



Before you go on holiday somewhere, you like to research it a lot, or at least I do. Usually my way of researching something is by reading blog posts about it or watching vlogs on YouTube. I found a severe lack of this for Sal in Cape Verde, so I thought I'd write my own travel guide about the island for anyone thinking about booking a holiday there. We decided on Cape Verde on a bit of a whim really, it looked gorgeous and so we booked to go there.

The Island and Weather
Sal is a very small island at 216km², but it is beautiful nonetheless. Their perfect white sandy beaches is what sold it to us. However, exploring the island a bit further you will find despite your 4/5* resorts, there is still a large amount of poverty surrounding you. There isn't a huge amount to do on the island, you could easily fill a week or 10 days, but I'd say 14 days would be a bit too long to stay.

The weather was amazing the whole time we were there, it was always between 26-31 degrees celsius. With hot weather comes lots of flies, which is to be expected as it is Africa and nothing can really be done about it. It didn't ruin our holiday at all, despite what I'd seen on TripAdvisor before we went. For the evenings and nights, I'd say it is essential that you take high repel spray and mosquito bands, which we used throughout our holiday. I was only bitten once using all of these! The final thing I would mention about Cape Verde is the currency. The country's currency is Escudos, but they are not available to exchange outside of Cape Verde, so we just used Euros. 

The Hotel - Oasis Salinas Sea
We stayed for 7 nights at the Oasis Salinas Sea on an all inclusive basis. On arrival, whilst waiting to check in we were given juice which was incredible after the long journey. When you're checking in you have to pay local tourist tax of 2€ per person per night, for up to 10 nights. Our bags were taken up to our room for us - I felt sorry for the man carrying my suitcase!

There is entertainment every evening which is either a show or live music. On the night we arrived, The Lion King was on but we were too tired from the travelling to watch. In the hotel reception there is a sign telling you what entertainment is on each evening.

At the beginning of the holiday we found it impossible to get a sunbed by the pool, but after a few days it got easier as the hotel was a bit quieter. You don't have to pack your own beach towel for this hotel, they are provided. You are given a card each to exchange for a pool towel and you can exchange them twice a day, which is great when they're wet and/or sandy! Because we had a late departure from the hotel, we asked to keep our towels until we left and we just had to pay a 10€ deposit each. The swimming pool itself was amazing and so clean - we loved the swim-up pool bar, it's great not even having to get out of the pool to get a drink. 

Everyday there is a cocktail of the day, one alcoholic and one non-alcoholic. A few they had to offer were Sex on the Beach, Pina Colada and Frozen Raspberry Daiquiri. We drank plenty of Sex on the Beach while we were there, they were so nice.

As I previously mentioned, we had a late departure from the hotel and spent all day in and by the pool. There is a left luggage room, which comes in very handy as you don't want to have to keep an eye on all of your stuff and lug it around with you. There are also two male and two female shower rooms so you can freshen up before your long flight home, it was lovely to be able to shower the pool water and suncream off.

Hotel Food
We played it quite safe on holiday with food, we wanted to avoid being ill at all costs. We ate at the hotel everyday, we only had one meal out which was on an excursion. There are five places to eat in the hotel, so we didn't feel like the food was too repetitive. We didn't actually try Restaurant Tradi├žon (a la Carte), Restaurant Sakura (Sushi) or Morna Beach Club for food during our stay, but we heard good things about the dinner at both Restaurant Tradi├žon and Morna Beach Club.

Restaurant Tabanka is the buffet restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Breakfast is served from 7-10am and there's a lot of choice. To name a few options there is cereal, pancakes, omelettes made-to-order, churros, waffles, bacon, egg, bread, croissants, fruit, juices and strange tasting sausage. There was also a door hanger with a breakfast form on in the hotel room in case you wanted breakfast in bed. Lunch is served from 12:30-3pm. We didn't notice much of what was available for lunch as we didn't have a big lunch at all, but there was always chips, pasta, chicken, pork and bread available. Dinner is served from 6:30-10pm and there were similar options to lunch as well as crispy chicken, tuna steaks and sweet potato. There was a bar inside this restaurant where you could get bottles of water, fizzy drinks and Strela, Cape Verdean beer, which is actually quite nice!

By the pool there's a restaurant that has two menus, Batuko and Pano di Terra. Batuko is a grill menu and you could get pork, chicken, lobster and more, this serves food from 12:30-3pm and 6:30-10pm. Pano di Terra is a pizza menu and as well as pizzas you could get toasties, this serves food from 12-3:30pm and 5:30-10pm. The bar by the restaurant is open from 8am-12am.

There was a lot of food available between and after meal times too. You could get ice cream, which was two scoops in a cup, we didn't actually have any but noticed vanilla, chocolate and strawberry. 
There was a hot & cold buffet in Restaurant Sakura during the hours of 10am-12pm and 3:30-5:30pm, which had pizza, chips, bread and juices. There was also a buffet at Bar Ponton (the 24/7 bar) between 12am-4am, which had sandwiches, yoghurt, cake, biscuits and fruit. Behind the bar there were also snacks available to purchase but they were quite expensive, it cost us 5,50€ for a lion bar and snack bag of crisps. I'd recommend visiting the mini supermarket across the road from the hotel where you could get Lays, Pringles and Oreos for a smaller price. 

Excursions (Thomas Cook)
We went on 3 out of 19 excursions Thomas Cook had to offer on the island, the Turtle Watch, Island Tour and Sunset Beach Dinner. They also had boat trips, shark watching, snorkelling, scuba diving, quad bike and buggy excursions. 

The Turtle Watch is held on Monday, Tuesday and Saturday and they pick you up from the hotel reception at 9pm. They take you on a mini bus as a small group, just a warning it's a very rocky drive to get there and back, which isn't pleasant! It was incredible to see turtles in 'the wild', we saw 3 going back into the water after they'd laid eggs, one of which we saw laying the eggs. I can't remember the name of the tour guide but he was great and seemed really enthusiastic! Earlier in the day we had walked to the Riu Funana hotel to see their turtle hatchery, my advice would be don't walk along the beach, it's a very hot and long walk.

The Island Tour is held on a Monday and they picked us up at 8:30am. We went to Palmeira (a fishing village), up a small mountain, to see the buracona and the blue eye, we also went to Espargos, to the Salinas at Pedra de Lune and to see a mirage. We had a buffet lunch whilst we were in Espargos at Restaurante Universo, there was some traditional Cape Verdean food, but also chicken, white rice, chips and salad. You also got one drink with your meal. It wasn't that tasty but it filled us up until we could get food back at the hotel.

We also went to the Sunset Beach Dinner at Odgo d'Agua which was fun and the food was good. There was fish, pork and chicken on the BBQ and then you could add to your meal with the buffet, which included sweet potato, rice, sausage, salad and bread. You got two drinks included with your meal. For dessert there were two types of cakes and some fruit. Whilst we were eating, there was live music which was a mixture of English and Cape Verdean songs. After our main, there was a fire eater which was really fun to watch. Afterwards, we watched Cape Verdean dancing and then had a go ourselves on the stage, which was enjoyable.

Trip Report
Thursday 7th September 2017 - The first day of our holiday! We got to the hotel quite late, so once we'd checked in and got into our room, we went for dinner in Restaurant Tabanka and then went back to the room to unpack.
Friday 8th September 2017 - We slept in as we were so tired from travelling the day before, so we spent the day by the pool before going to have a look at the pier. We had dinner in Restaurant Tabanka and then watched the live music outside. We went to the beach bar, danced and we may have had one too many.
Saturday 9th September 2017 - We chilled by the pool, before going to the hatchery at Riu Funana to see the baby turtles. We ate at the restaurant by the pool and then went on the turtle watch excursion, which was incredible to see. As it had been a long day we went to bed, but we were awoken by the carnival which was coming along the street, which we wish we would've known more about to get involved.
Sunday 10th September 2017 - I have a motto and belief that Sunday's are lazy Sundays. We spent the day by the pool and in the pool, we had food at the pool restaurant and then went to the beach bar, before heading on to the 24/7 bar. 
Monday 11th September 2017 - We went on the Island tour which we loved, it was amazing to see pretty much all of Sal island. When we got back and got ready, we ate at the pool restaurant then watched Grease. We then carried on the evening with the wonderful group of people that we met whilst on holiday, by dancing the YMCA on stage and then doing karaoke in the beach bar.
Tuesday 12th September 2017 - Woke up with a hangover so took persuading to get out of bed before going to chill by the pool. After getting ready we went to the sunset beach dinner, then we went to the Ocean bar in Santa Maria afterwards for a drink.
Wednesday 13th September 2017 - We spent the day by the pool and then went for dinner at the pool restaurant, sat with all the people we'd met. Then all of us went to the beach bar and some of us went to the 24/7 bar before heading into Santa Maria.
Thursday 14th September 2017 - We spent the day by the pool before travelling home later on in the day.

I hope this post has given you a bit of an insight into Sal and the Oasis Salinas Sea hotel. We had the most amazing time on our first holiday together in Cape Verde and loved the hotel we stayed in. We met incredible people on holiday, who made our holiday even better.

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