Diving on Sal, Cape Verde
Reef diving, cave diving, wreck divingReef diving, cave divingand wreck diving are best from Santa Maria Padi course are from £300 and there is free diving training in the pool for beginners who book on a charter flight. There are diving 25 sites on the island including wrecks at a depth of 10m. Fish include grouper, tuna, mackerel, and tropical reef fish but shark are rare. A decompression centre at Murdeira is one of the few in tropical waters. After the diving tragedies in the Red Sea, this is the sensible, sane alternative at a very modest price (we do not mean shark attacks).
There are dives every day of the year, but the least wind is from April to November, when the water is very clear, except in plankton build-up. Visibility for diving is up to 40m except during the September equinox. October to December are best for seeing shark in dawn dives.
There are 25 diving sites on Sal island, Cape Verde including wrecks at a depth of 10m. Fish include grouper, tuna and mackerel but shark are a rarity. Single dive cost £25 .Discounts for large groups reduce this to £20 . Ribs take 10 to 12 divers each and can provide drift dives in 1 knot of current. Night dives are made at most inshore locations. Plenty of reef fish and occasionally tuna and wahoo, can be seen. Late summer brings mantas,.morays, barracudas, nurse sharks and more rarely sand, tiger, sting rays and small grouper. Whale shark are rare visitors.
Deep water dives Cape Verde
The deep Cape Verde waters offer volcanic lava shoals falling sheer away to revealcaves and cracks full of tropical fish.There are morays and lobster, shark and manta. There are many wrecks, since Sir Francis Drake accounted for many Spanish galleons in these waters. Italy's own Titanic, the Cecile also lies within diving depth in the Cape Verdes. At Burracona in the North, there are caves at 22m, with two entrances, which one can swim through. This natural grotto is made out of black basalt so the lighting efffects are fantastic to behold. Even if you do not want to godiving, it is worth the trip . The Tchucklasa reef diving shoal with a mushroom shaped head is at 13m.It is important to check that your diving instuctor speaks fluent English before you start to dive as P from Devon e discovered. But he liked the variety
"The diving is great. Really beautiful sites ranging from wrecks and caves to some stunning shallow reef dives. We managed to see rays, shark and turtles alongside schools of beautiful fish - Damsel , Parrot , Soldier etc. Wonderful! There are quite strong currents so that some sites are quite strenuous. This should not put anyone off as there is a range to choose from. There are ample dive sites for beginners and novices. The water is fantastic for temperature and visibility. I have dived all over the world and these are amongst the best that I have ever seen. Most diving is from Ribs. As dive sites are close to shore, trips are short. Teaching is in hotel pools or the shallows. Dives cost £30 and equipment hire £11 a day. My instuctor was not fluent in English which was a hazard as I was doing a course. I struggled on occasion to understand the safety briefing"
Shallow diving sitesThe Three Caves complex can be seen by day or night, in most diving conditions. The Bera Coral reef can be visited in settled conditions, mostly during the summer. Pontinha offers a vertical laval rock face, with grottoes that shelter morays. Farol is a terrace of volcanic rock at moderate depth harbouring many tropical fish. R from Kent saw a lot of fish whilst scuba diving.
"I could only do a shore dive while I was there but I saw more in twenty minutes than I have done on much lengthier dives elsewhere, sea snails, sea snakes, moray - both species - sea spider, and all of the other usual inhabitants of warmer waters."
Diving in Sao Vicente
There is also good diving from the beach at the Hotel Foya Branca near the airport. This is organised by Frederick a Frenchman from Paris who speaks perfect english and is very safety conscious. He has a dive centre with fully modern equipment to hire and offers PADI courses. There is also diving from a large catamaran with 8 double cabins operated by Austrians who will take divers on a live-aboard basis for one week at a time. Food is typically Italian/Austrian and is reputed to be good, but we prefer Frederick. Sometimes whales can be heard when diving and occasionally even seen at a modest distance.wrecks around the coast including the Santas Maria, a steamship whose rusting hulk can be seen on the beach at low tide.
JC from Divernet reports
"You know you're off the beaten track when the dive-centre owner says: 'Oh yes, I had some English people here before - about two years ago, I think.' Some people are hyping this as the next great dive destination. We had high hopes of some great diving. Not only are the many ships that have foundered on the rocky coast still lying undisturbed with cargoes and riches intact, but they are also on the migration route of a vast amount of marine life. The sea life is tropical, as Cape Verde islands do not get coldwater upwelling.
With few coral reefs, the Cape Verde underwater topography is mostly volcanic lava rocky ridges, pinnacles and boulders, and great arches and caves. The diving season is year-round with flat seas and the best visibility during summer in Cape Verde. Be ready for strong currents. There's nothing between Cape Verde islands and Brazil. During the winter the Harmattan, a hot, dry wind from the Sahara, brings big swells, making diving conditions a little less ideal. We went in March, recommended for humpback whale sightings in Cape Verde . Sal is the island with the most easily accessible diving.
Almost all the dive sites are a few minutes' boat-ride from the wide, sandy beach and a handful of well-organised dive centres. These use RIBs or hardboats, Our first dive provided a taste of things to come. Choclassa is a ridge with big overhangs, smothered in bright yellow polyps and populated with aggregations of surgeonfish, goatfish, parrotfish, Atlantic bigeyes and the largest scribbled filefish we had ever seen. The reef turns to sand at around 26m, where you can often see nurse sharks. Other sharks you may see include sand tigers, lemons and hammerheads, and at the north of the island is a bay where bull sharks come right in, sometimes as shallow as 1-2m.
In summer, the whale sharks arrive. Those interested in macro life won't be disappointed either - it would take forever to catalogue all the nudibranchs and the tiny coral eels. The following day saw a change of pace as we headed north to the caves at Buracona. The caves are wide and straightforward to navigate, with the bonus of being able to surface and see surprised land-based tourists looking down on you. Bizarrely, the caves are full of ammunition thrown in by retreating Portuguese soldiers. It's best to try to go on a day with strong sunshine, as you will get the classic view of divers swimming through a beam of light. Among the ledges and crevices we saw lobsters, catfish and lots of moray eels.
Over the next few days we visited more of the 20 or so mapped sites and particularly enjoyed seeing turtles. These were loggerheads, but Cape Verde is an important breeding site for many other species, including leatherbacks and hawksbills. The little-researched populations congregate on the beaches here in May, and it's easy to watch them come ashore to give birth. Unfortunately, a local festival leads to the death of many nesting turtles, whose shells litter some of the beaches. Their meat is believed to be an aphrodisiac. The worldwide decline of turtles means that this sort of practice shouldn't be allowed to continue much longer.
Typical Cape Verde marine life including a surgeonfish Typical Cape Verde marine life including a surgeonfish slipper lobster slipper lobster spotted triggerfish spotted triggerfish nudibranch nudibranch juvenile moral eel juvenile moral eel . Back on Sal, the wreck of the Santo Antao did not disappoint. It's a small trawler that sits in only 11m but could keep you occupied for hours, its a good job all the dive centres are laid back about maximum dive times. We saw many of the same fish, including the endemic Guinea grunts, but unafraid and much larger. Even the nudibranchs were the length of my finger, boldly running round in the sand. The wreck was also home to strange-looking lizardfish, as well as sting rays. In contrast, I saw the smallest soapfish (or dopefish as we call them), which could have fitted on my fingernail.
The newest wreck is the Kwarcit, sunk in January. An old Russian trawler, known by some as Boris, it is fully intact and sitting upright in 25m, providing great access to the holds and bridge, where Russian is visible on the instrument panels. After only a couple of months, it was covered in growth and full of fish. Our final dive, Cavala, was a case of saving the best till last. It's the deepest of the regular sites, with the wall starting at around 20m and going beyond 40m. Stunning, colourful topography is complemented by schools of guelly jacks, snappers and amberjacks, the large pelagics that so far had been missing. The most memorable thing about that day's diving, however, was being under water and hearing the strange, haunting sound of humpbacks singing, a sound so mesmerising it stops you in your tracks. I hope these rich seas will not end up as another sad tale of exploitation but one of conservation. There are many spots in Cape Verde that are pristine and many, many areas that have never been dived. If you have an adventurous spirit and like to dive where few others have been, Cape Verde's for you"