Trip Report: Cape Verde Islands

From 1st Nov. to 5th Dec. 2001

By Paul Carter

This trip report covers birding done whilst sailing in the Cape Verde (1st Nov. – 5th Dec.), having sailed there from the Canary Islands. Some sightings of the Canaries to Cape Verde crossing are mentioned at the end. I sailed with a friend, Peter Lennox, on his 31 ft. yacht, Nira. Birding was occasional and not always a priority.

Abbreviation used in the text: nm = nautical mile = 1.82 km. GPS Datum used was WGS84.

References and Statistics

For site references I used "A Birder’s Guide to the Cape Verde Islands" by Dave Sargeant, 1997. It is in ringbound photocopy format, 40 pages, with hand-drawn maps. It lists 156 species; which includes 69 vagrants and 14 endemics. I saw 54 species, including 5 vagrants and one bird supposedly extinct on Cape Verde according to Sargeant (1997), this being a Common Moorhen. As a country guide I had only the Cape Verde section of Lonely Planet’s West Africa guide, but there is a more detailed Bradt guide to Cape Verde.

Travel in Cape Verde

The islands are volcanic, mostly mountainous and rugged and generally arid but is quite green in places e.g. central Santiago Island and various valleys within the arid zones. Roads outside the towns are mostly of lava bricks, in good condition but slow (40-60 km/hr), fortunately with little traffic. Scenery can be very good and some islands are known for their trekking. There are not that many tourists away from Sal Island and personal safety is not a problem. The local people are very friendly and there is no significant hassling. There was some theft at Mindelo off yachts (from cabins left open or loose items on deck), but no violent break-ins. Whilst I was in the area, one tourist died after being bitten by a shark whilst diving from a charter boat at Branco Island, but swimming is safe at the beaches. A trip to Cape Verde is highly recommended.

Some miscellaneous expenses

Money: 1 US$ - 122 CV escudos (Nov.,2001). Bank charged a 1000 esc fee for VISA card withdrawal. No commissions on US$ cash exchange.

Transport costs: Generally about 10 esc./km per person on Aluguer (open van) whilst taxis were about 50 esc./km regardless of number of people. For an example of minibus taxi fares on Santiago, I paid 300esc. from Praia to Tarrafal de Santiago. The ferry from Mindelo to Praia took 11 hours and cost 2600 esc. Ferries are often late. My one-way flight from Praia to Sal and onto Amsterdam was 60 000 esc, (I was quoted 70 000 for the round trip). The Praia to Sal section was around 8000 esc. Car hire was 3000 esc/day for 4 days on Santiago Isl., including insurance. The Ecotours minibus trip taken for the day from Sao Felipe, Fogo, was 9500 esc. (split equally by the group of 7 in total). It dropped us in Portela and the driver waited whilst the group had lunch and wandered around; I climbed Pico Novo.

Accommodation: Single/Double Rooms were generally about 1000-2500 esc., often with breakfast.


Notes on the Common Moorhen, Gallinula chloropus:

The Dave Sargeant guide (1997) notes that the Common Moorhen is "no longer extant on Cape Verde" and that it "Formerly bred on Santiago and Boa Vista". However, I observed one juvenile, midday and evening, 2/12/01, at a pond just off the road one third of the way (about 1 km.) from Chao Bom to Tarrafal de Santiago. I would be interested to hear of any other recent records.

Birdlist – 54 species seen, 1 heard:

In the list below I have not mentioned all site records for the more common species.

The above list includes the following vagrants: Birdlist: Sailing from La Gomera (Canary Islands) to Cape Verde, records of interest: Mammal List: Cape Verde and sailing from La Gomera to Cape Verde

GPS waypoints for climbing Pico Novo, Fogo Island

Start the walk up Pico Novo from the village of Portela, where there are a couple of places to stay and eat. To get to Portelo from Sao Felipe you can take a collective taxi/minibus. It costs 350-500 esc. one way from Sao Felipe but they only leave late morning and return the next day. This is obviously inconvenient for day-trips so I joined a Ecotours minibus tour (their office in Sao Felipe, opposite the hospital), which went up in the morning and returned mid-afternoon, the 7 passengers dividing the total cost of 9500 esc. The driver spoke English.

Locals at Portela and elsewhere insist that a guide is necessary to get up Pico Novo, charging from 2500 esc. I found this unnecessary, finding the track and walking up alone, the base in thick cloud and mist with only 100m visibility. Because of the mist I took GPS readings every 500m in case conditions worsened and I had to come down with poor visibility. At times coming down I had only 30m visibility. It took me (mid-30’s, reasonably fit) 2 hours up and an hour down.

The Waypoints and Directions, on Map Datum WGS84 and to be used at your own risk, are:

WP1: 140 58.019’N, 0240 22.016’W, about 1650m elev. - is the start of the track leading off from the main road in Portela. This track starts on the opposite side of the road to the Fogo cooperative winery (left-hand side of the road when coming from Sao Felipe). Follow this track for just over one km. to WP2.

WP2: 140 58.032’N, 0240 21.284’W - is the start of the path heading off right from the main track and up the volcano. Follow the path of most footprints. On a clear day it should be obvious. It is about 1.1 km to WP4.

WP4: 140 57.712’N, 0240 20.781’W, about 2000m elev. - is at foot of some ragged rocks on the right. Follow the path, up the ridge to WP9.

WP9: 140 57.058’N, 0240 20.508’W, about 2800m elev. - marks the rim of the volcano. Great views

To descend you walk/run down through the loose black clinker/gravel to the left of the track up as you look back down the slope. This is immense fun. I rejoined the up-path at WP4, again in thick mist.

Paul Carter


Feb. 2002