WHILE we paddled in the shallows, baby lemon sharks swam around our feet and brushed the rocks below.
The creatures are harmless to humans, but that doesn’t make them any less scary when their fins break through the sea’s surface.
We were staying in Shark Bay on the east coast of Sal Island, Cape Verde, where my boyfriend, son and I were looking for sun, blue skies and (most importantly) reliably hot weather.
Cape Verde is certainly the place for those seeking winter sun, with average highs of 24°C in December.
Best of all, unlike far-flung sunny favorites like Florida, this cluster of ten islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is less than six hours from the UK.
However, the scorching sun is not the only reason to visit the Portuguese-speaking country.
For those who like a bit of adrenaline, there’s kite surfing along the aptly named Kite Beach (you’ll need strong arms), as well as quad biking in the desert landscape that makes up most of the inner island.
But for us, our break was all about relaxation — and that’s exactly what we did on a four-hour catamaran cruise along the coast of Sal, where off-shore the waters were calm enough for a swim.
These beautiful beaches as well as adventure activities and water sports were all just a short drive from our hotel, the Riu Palace Santa Maria, south of Sal Island and close to the idyllic beach town of Santa Maria.
The 5-star, all-inclusive hotel is only a year old, so our room – with a double bed and sofa bed and a large balcony – felt brand new.
There are six pools, including a water park with several impressive slides, and five restaurants, two cocktail bars, a sports bar, cafe, spa, gym, and kids’ club — enough to keep any fast-and-flop vacationer happy for weeks at the end.
And even those wanting a more active outing needn’t stray too far from the lounger, as the hotel staff offers everything from water polo and painting to yoga and shuffleboard.
However, if you fancy a change of scenery, take a leisurely half-hour stroll along the uninterrupted beach just behind the hotel to the seaside town of Santa Maria, where there are a number of lively cafes and bars.
We enjoyed the best caipirinhas I’ve ever had – for the bargain price of £2.50 – at Ola Brasil beach bar next to the pier.
And right next door is the popular LobStar restaurant, perfectly located for enjoying the best of the local fishermen’s daily catch each afternoon.
Or, if Italian food is more your thing, visit Leonardo’s nearby, run by a brilliant Sardinian chef.
We only ventured out to eat on two of our seven nights in Cape Verde, simply because the food at the Riu Palace offered enough variety to keep us all satisfied for the week.
The buffet restaurant, which also houses the breakfast and lunch menu, 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 poolside snack bar for lunch and four restaurants in the evenings specializing in steak, Italian, fusion, and Japanese.
Drinks with meals are generally house white, red, or rose wine or bottled beer, but a wide range of cocktails are available from the bars throughout the day and evening.
And the most surprising thing I’ve discovered as a newbie to all-inclusive vacations? The full-size liquor look in our bedroom, along with a limitless blender selection.
Not that we did them much harm – by 9pm we were too exhausted from all the fun and food.
GO: CAPE VERDE
COVID: All travelers must complete an International Travel Form. Fully vaccinated arrivals or those with a Covid recovery certificate will not be required to undergo testing. Unvaccinated travelers must provide either a negative PCR test within 72 hours of departure or a negative lateral flow test within 48 hours of departure. There are no rules for children under the age of 11.
RECEIVE THERE: TUI customers can save £100 per booking when they spend £750 on Bank Holidays 1 May – 30 June 2022. with the code RELAX.
STAY THERE: All inclusive for seven nights at the 5H Hotel Riu Palace Santa Maria is from £770 per person, including flights departing Birmingham on 7th June, plus transfers. The price includes a £100 discount. Visit tui.co.uk or visit your local Tui store.
https://www.thesun.ie/travel/8757842/holiday-island-always-hot/ The year-round hot holiday island