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Information on and about Cape Verde that has been archived for reference purposes

Maio Island - May 2009 - Day 1

Cheryl Thomas - Sunday, May 03, 2009
Maio Island - May 2009 - Day 1

As there weren't any direct flights from Sal, I took a flight from Sal to Santiago before flying on to the island of Maio. I had some business to see to in Praia, so I spent a few days there before flying on to Maio.

The flight to Maio from Praia, Santiago was short and sweet, a full 10mins. It was a cloudy morning but on approach and looking through the right side window of the plane I could see some small cliffs which supported a number of properties along the coastline, maybe a bit too close to the edge I thought at first, but the sea views from some of them would have been fantastic and the views would never be blocked by other properties.

The plane landed and immediately began to brake, I understood why as we reached the end of the runway quite quickly. The small airport building is old, with posters up on the walls promoting a few hotels or restaurants. I noticed a lady with a sign with a picture of a house on it and heard her speak some English so I approached her to inquire what the sign was, she informed me it was a picture of her Pensao with rooms that would cost 25euros a night for one person, breakfast, dinner and transfers were extra. Her name was Elizabete and she said the Pensao was situated on the edge of the village (Vila Do Maio) and that she had a room available which she could show me and then I could decide if I wanted to stay there or not, so I accepted.

The ride to the Pensao was bumpy in an old pickup truck, but the driver took it slowly to save the suspension and passengers from any further squeaks and jolts.

The house looked homely, the garden well looked after and the room with its own separate entrance was clean with its own bathroom. It was also only a 7min walk along the main road to the centre of village of Vila do Maio, so it was well situated so I decided to stay there. The Pensao is situated in an area known locally as Fontana, and it was within a small development of villas built for investors some years ago.


As I'd arrived early in the morning on the 6.30a.m. flight from Santiago, I was glad to be asked if I wanted to join her for breakfast, bread, humus, jams and a piece of fruit set me up for the morning. Elizabete originated from Europe, having moved to Maio some years earlier she had a good understanding of the island and was very informative.

My host had arranged to take some other guests to do a 'small' shop, because you can't do a 'big' shop on Maio. I tagged along for the ride and was able to have a quick look around the village. I was also taken out towards the other side of the village and the coastline. One development of villas had already established itself on a plot of land which over looked the ocean some 15-20metres below the top of the cliff. From here you could look back towards the coastline of Vila do Maio and its beach in the distance.


After dropping off the other guests, my host offered to show me around the village and suggested a dip in the ocean. A quick change and a short walk brought us back to the Coca Cola Van in the village which had seating from where you could view the beach and activities on the street. After a few soft cold drinks we wandered around the streets and up stairs and paths. I was introduced to a number of people and families who were happy to chat in Creole to my host, about what they were doing and about general daily things. Some on request were willing to have their photos taken, but I realise this isn't something that the older generation would generally welcome from tourists, most of these photos and movies I intended leaving with the lady of the Pensao, who would find a way to show her friends the photos I had taken of them. I hope they can obtain and keep a copy of individual photos of themselves.

One invite from a local lady was to enter her family home and meet a lovely older lady who welcomed us to sit down for a moment, I felt very humble. The pictures that stood proudly on a small table were carefully brought over to us by a younger member of the family, he was about 8yrs of age, he pointed out his grandmother in the black and white photo which was taken quite a few years ago. They had very little, but everything was in its place and well cared for.

I remembered that Maio had been called the forgotten island, something I reminded myself of on a few other occasions during my two day stay. The people of the island have very little, although there are some in a better financial position than most, but that's the way of the world.


I knew that there has been a problem with the island obtaining fresh produce. Recent times saw the sinking of an inter-island boat which resulted in fewer boats travelling between the islands. Those that could afford to, travelled by plane to Praia, which is a lot more expensive than travelling by boat. The island had a further blow when problems were discovered with the landing strip and the small airport was officially shut down as the cracks in the tarmac proved to be too dangerous for planes to land.

Since the airport re-opened, flights to and from Maio operated three times a week, Monday, Wednesday and Fridays, but this may change in the future.

An inter-island boat from Praia (Santiago)to Maio brings in fresh produce, other goods and people to Maio every 3 weeks. On occasions some business people and locals club together to hire an additional boat if there is a need for a fresh supply or goods, but the cost of the additional transportation has to be added onto the price of goods, which is an additional cost for the local people. Most locals have little money, so these goods can be expensive, some people go without and have to survive on the basics. Some small holdings manage to grow some fresh produce, but then transport is an issue to take the produce to the villages, as the cost of fuel is expensive to most and not many locals have vehicles. One lady from a small farm situated further up the coast travelled into Vila do Maio in an Aluger (local mini bus) to sell her produce. She stopped at the pensao and my host chose a number of items out of the bowl before phoning a friend, a local restaurant owner, who then cycled very quickly over to us try and catch the seller before all the produce was sold.

I had been told that there weren't that many people on Maio that spoke good English and, as my Portuguese was far from being reasonable, it was best to stick with someone who could provide me with information that I could pass on to readers of my website. My host was able to provide assistance with this, so I made arrangements with her to show me around the village that day and to organise a half day tour the next day.

The first day was spent walking around the village of small narrow streets, single level buildings and colonial houses. Most of the living accommodation for locals may include 2 rooms, some have more, many visitors will be surprised at how little people have, but the people are warm and very friendly.

Once again I was told that if tourists and investors came to the island and start giving change or items to adults and children, this would encourage them to start asking on the streets for sweets or money etc. I would like to think that this won't happen, but it has happened on other islands already.

A few newly built apartment blocks were dotted around, but in general it is 'the forgotten island' and the people live their lives as they have done, with little influence by Europeans who are looking to invest. However, there are a few developments currently underway or nearly finished, and more will follow. As far as I am aware there is little crime, as most have nothing worth stealing, however a few of the newly built properties owned by more affluent investors have been targeted, but again this is an island with little money, so it is only to be expected.

There isn't a great deal to do in Vila do Maio and opportunities for businesses will be a long time coming. However if you are prepared to wait, then some larger scale projects will eventually be built on the island. There is no guarantee that inter-island transportation and food supplies will improve over the next 5years, but the island should definitely 'not be forgotten'.

The beach at Vila do Maio was long and clean and other from the activities arranged for children on the beach for the school holidays there were very few tourists to be found sunbathing. The gentle slope into the water from the beach meant a safer swimming area for young children.


The village sat on rocks, up another level from the beach at different heights. It then extended up the hill, where some local houses in the village could still get a sea view. Further away from the main part of the village towards Fontana, the land that stretched out to meet the sea included the Salinas, where salt was gathered. Some areas are obviously below sea level, something that potential investors need to take into account as areas nearby on similar flat ground are identified for some building projects.

During or walk we stopped for a snack at another Coca Cola bar, this one was situated behind the Church. It was a converted container, nestled under a large tree which provided some welcome shade.

About an hour later we went to see the children playing in a football tournament on the beach while others played in the waves. A quick dip and more photographs and we headed back to rest and freshen up.

A few Restaurants had been recommended for evening meals, on this occasion we chose Sebastian’s. The choice in menu wasn't great as there was not much of fresh vegetables or fish, but the meal was enjoyable.

We returned to the pensao and I decided it was time for an early night, ready for another early start the next day.

 

There isn't a great deal to do in Vila do Maio and opportunities for businesses will be a long time coming. However if you are prepared to wait, then some larger scale projects will eventually be built on the island. There is no guarantee that inter-island transportation and food supplies will improve over the next 5years, but the island should definitely 'not be forgotten'.

The beach at Vila do Maio was long and clean and other from the activities arranged for children on the beach for the school holidays there were very few tourists to be found sunbathing. The gentle slope into the water from the beach meant a safer swimming area for young children.

The village sat on rocks, up another level from the beach at different heights. It then extended up the hill, where some local houses in the village could still get a sea view. Further away from the main part of the village towards Fontana, the land that stretched out to meet the sea included the Salinas, where salt was gathered. Some areas are obviously below sea level, something that potential investors need to take into account as areas nearby on similar flat ground are identified for some building projects.

During or walk we stopped for a snack at another Coca Cola bar, this one was situated behind the Church. It was a converted container, nestled under a large tree which provided some welcome shade.

About an hour later we went to see the children playing in a football tournament on the beach while others played in the waves. A quick dip and more photographs and we headed back to rest and freshen up.

A few Restaurants had been recommended for evening meals, on this occasion we chose Sebastian’s. The choice in menu wasn't great as there was not much of fresh vegetables or fish, but the meal was enjoyable.

We returned to the pensao and I decided it was time for an early night, ready for another early start the next day.

 



Accommodation

Vila Rental - Stella Maris - Maio Island


News

Maio News 2016


Inter Island Flights

Binter Cabo Verde

TACV



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