The holiday island which is hot all year round – and it's just a few hours from the UK
AS we paddled in the shallow waters, baby lemon sharks swam around our feet, brushing against the rocks below.
The creatures are harmless to humans, but this doesn’t make them any less frightening when their fins break the sea’s surface.
We were at Shark Bay, on the east coast of the island of Sal in Cape Verde, where my boyfriend, son and I had come in search of sun, blue skies and (most importantly) reliably HOT weather.
Cape Verde is certainly the place for those seeking winter sun, with the average highs reaching 24C in December.
And the best part is, unlike the far-flung sunny favourites, like Florida, this collection of ten islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean can be reached in less than six hours from the UK.
Skin-scorching sun isn’t the only reason to pay a visit to the Portuguese-speaking country, though.
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For those who like a bit of adrenaline, there’s kite-surfing along the aptly named Kite Beach (you’ll need strong arms), plus quad-biking on the desert landscape that makes up the bulk of the inner island.
But for us, our break was all about relaxing — and we did just that on a four-hour catamaran cruise along the coast of Sal, where away from the shore the waters were calm enough for a dip.
These beautiful beaches, as well as adventure activities and watersports, were all within a short drive of our hotel, the Riu Palace Santa Maria, south of the island of Sal and near the idyllic beach town of Santa Maria.
The 5-star all-inclusive hotel is only one year old and as a result, our room — with a double bed and sofa bed, plus spacious balcony — felt brand-spanking new.
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There are six pools, including a waterpark with several impressive slides, and five restaurants, two cocktail bars, a sports bar, a cafe, spa, gym and kids’ club — enough to keep any fly-and-flop holidaymaker supremely happy for weeks on end.
And even those wanting more of an active trip won’t need to stray too far from the sunlounger, with hotel staff laying on everything from water polo and painting to yoga and shuffleboard.
When you fancy a change of scenery, though, take the leisurely half-hour stroll along the uninterrupted beach, directly behind the hotel, to the seaside town of Santa Maria where there’s a strip of lively cafes and bars.
We enjoyed the best caipirinhas I’ve ever drunk — for the bargain price of £2.50 — at beach bar Ola Brasil next to the pier.
And right next door is the popular LobStar restaurant, which is perfectly placed to receive the best of the daily catch brought in by the local fishermen every afternoon.
Or, if Italian grub is more to your taste, head to Leonardo’s nearby, which is run by a brilliant chef from Sardinia.
We ventured out to eat on only two of our seven nights in Cape Verde, simply because the food at Riu Palace had enough variation to keep us all happy for the week.
The buffet restaurant, which also houses the breakfast and lunch offerings, had everything from fresh fish cooked to order, to Asian-inspired dishes, local cuisine, a selection of international cheeses and two dessert stations. And I must have counted at least ten different types of eggs at breakfast.
There was also a snack bar for poolside grub at lunch, and four sit-down restaurants in the evening, specialising in steak, Italian, fusion and Japanese.
Mealtime drinks are generally house white, red or rose wine, or bottled beer, but a wide range of cocktails is available from the bars during the daytime and evening.
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And the most surprising thing I discovered as a newbie to all-inclusive holidays? The full-size spirits optics in our bedroom, along with a limitless range of mixers.
Not that we made much of a dent in them — by 9pm we were too exhausted from all that fun and food.
GO: CAPE VERDE
COVID: All travellers must complete an International Travel Form. Fully-vaccinated arrivals or anyone who has a Covid recovery certificate need not take any tests. Unvaccinated travellers must provide proof of either a negative PCR test, taken within 72 hours of departure, or a negative lateral flow, taken within 48 hours of departure. There are no rules for children aged 11 and under.
GETTING THERE: Tui customers can save £100 per booking when they spend £750 on holidays departing from May 1 to June 30, 2022. with code RELAX.
STAYING THERE: Seven nights’ all-inclusive at the 5H Hotel Riu Palace Santa Maria is from £770pp, including flights from Birmingham on June 7, plus transfers. Price includes £100 discount. See tui.co.uk or visit your local Tui store.
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