On Tuesday evening we touched down in the UK following a family holiday on the island of Sal in Cape Verde. Going away at this time of year has become somewhat of a tradition for us, as Mr M’s work is a lot quieter than during the summer months, and personally I love escaping that whole ‘back to reality’ period which follows the Christmas and New Year festivities.
I hadn’t heard all that much about Cape Verde before we booked, only that it’s a good place for some winter sun, which was exactly what we were after. It’s a fairly untouched region and is mostly made up of large all-inclusive resorts – the population of Sal is just 35,000 and there isn’t a whole lot of places to explore (the island is only 21 miles long). So to be honest, it’s exactly the opposite to the kind of holiday we normally go for, but with Taylor now one, we were after somewhere that would be easy and fairly hassle-free.
I haven’t stayed in an all-inclusive resort since I was a teenager, so I was looking forward to the experience. We (I of course) decided on the Melia Dunas, a short ride out of the town of Santa Maria. As with a lot of resorts in Cape Verde it’s very new (been open for one year), which had its benefits, but also a couple of downsides. The benefits were the modern, comfortable rooms, the pristine pool and beach areas, and the ample facilities. On the downside, the service was below the level you’d expect for a 5* and I think the resort was understaffed for its sheer size. Unfortunately they didn’t have a travel cot for us on arrival (they’d made up a sofa bed for Taylor!) and we had to ask 4 times and wait until 11pm for one to arrive. The A La Carte restaurants (of which there are four) were also all booked up until our final two nights so we had to eat in the buffet every night until that which did get a little repetitive and wasn’t outstanding. There was also nowhere to get food between 5pm – 6.30, which was a little inconvenient on some days with a little one.
But now this is starting to sound like a Trip Advisor review…so on to our experience!
The climate was exactly as we would’ve asked – hot enough for shorts and bikinis, but with a nice breeze so we weren’t left sweltering, or worried about Taylor overheating. It was lovely to spend some quality time together as a family of three which we haven’t done much of since Taylor was born. We were lucky enough to take Taylor abroad twice last year, but this time it really felt like she was old enough to be a part of the experience, discovering new activities, enjoying new foods and meeting lots of new people. On the downside, she is also a lot more independent now and refused to nap in the day times, which resulted in a very grumpy baby on some days. Pushing the buggy around the pools became a regular daily activity – only for us to give up an hour later, baby still awake. Not hungry. Not thirsty. Not going to sleep. But grumpy.
But it certainly wasn’t always like that and we did manage to have lots of fun with her in the pool – she absolutely loved going down the slide with Dadda and was fascinated by the jets in the baby pool. In contrast, she absolutely hated the sea and despite our best efforts, we couldn’t get her to stop howling whenever we took her near it. Did I mention we were after a relaxing holiday when we chose Cape Verde?
Mr M and I did get to spend some great evenings together whilst Taylor slept in her buggy – we had an ongoing tally of card games (wild!) which to my distress ended with me being two down on the final night. It’s funny how you go from wanting to find the best bars and dance the nights away in your twenties, to just being content enjoying a game of cards and the chance to have ‘decent conversation’ with your other half once you have kids.
One of the highlights of the holiday was the island tour which was by truck. We had our own private car and tour guide (we didn’t book it as private, but nobody else booked on the same day!) We got to visit the colourful towns of the island, swim in the salt lakes and photograph lemon sharks off the coast. When you leave the hotel it really strikes you how unpopulated the island is and how little Cape Verde has been developed – something you don’t really see much of in the world today. At times I felt as though I’d gone back in time, before mankind descended.
The towns however are very colourful, Santa Maria the main tourist attraction with its colurful buildings, cobbled streets, a handful of lively restaurants and bars, and a beautiful beach. I think if we ever return to Cape Verde we will stay in one of the hotels situated on the Santa Maria beach front.
I’m not sure if I’m a little odd, but I always find that by the end of a holiday I’m ready to get home. We had a lovely time, but now I feel revived and raring to take on the year ahead.