Ever been somewhere that feels slightly haunting? Turtles, Parrot Fish and Brown Boobies made our trip to Boa Vista spectacular, but I can’t put my finger on what I found ‘unsettling’

It’s not the architecture.

The architecture is new – I want to say mock Moorish.

We are in a hotel the size of a town. Not my thing, but definitely not creepy.

And it’s definitely not isolation….. That ‘Shining’ style madness that could hit you in a sprawling place like this if it were ever empty…… Then it would be creepy here: sand blowing through deserted bars and piling up in the finally quiet swimming pool.

But this town-sized hotel is almost always full of pink Europeans who have underestimated the strength of the sun (me included). The pool is packed and noisy, with banging music and fit locals employed to get tourists up and Zumbaing (at least I assume that’s what it is). It’s sunny and warm here all year from what I’ve read. Breezier at times, but always 23/24 degrees plus….. It’s always busy as a result. And actually, the pool is pretty much my idea of hell. If I was in the Netflix comedy ‘The Good Place’, Ted Danson’s demon character would have me stuck at a pool like this listening to bad dance music and people shouting Ole, Ole, Ole for no apparent reason.

Fortunately, my son also prefers the beach and is content with an hour, twice a day, of chucking himself into the pool and annoying people who sat right next to it, but didn’t want to get wet. I manage to tolerate those two hours, just about, by burying myself in a book.

So its not the isolation that makes Boa Vista haunting.

Perhaps then, it’s the landscape.

Stark desert sand dunes surrounded by the never ending Atlantic.

The power of the sea always draws me. I’m a watery person. So maybe its the polar oppositeness of desert. This is literally a desert island. The Sahara has blown here and made Boa Vista a giant sand dune. Arid is a great word and it describes Boa Vista perfectly.

Or, maybe it’s the harshness of the environment.

Very little colonises these dunes. Yet the few tough shrubs and coddled palm trees support a wealth of bird and marine life.

My son and I have spotted what we think were brown footed boobies (he would like to think they were frigate birds, but I’m sure they’re brown boobies) diving for fish just off the beach at the Riu Karamboa. (This photo is from wikimedia commons, I didn’t have my camera when we got close to some of these on our second snorkeling tour)

We’ve also seen lots of hoopoe larks and chattery Iago sparrows by the palm tree full.

And we saw some gorgeous fish when snorkelling during the Sail Away tour: a chilled drift around the port of Sal Rei and out to an island just offshore, which houses the ruins of an old Portuguese fort.

The island and Sal Rei port were disappointingly plastic strewn. Not something that could be said about the bay by Riu Karamboa where we are staying, which is almost pristine. Almost, because thoughtless tourists leave water bottles and straws for the hotel staff to clean up and the coastline is a building site. New tourist installments are going up next to our pristine(ish) hotel. The building works are out of sight and you can’t hear it, but it can’t help the turtles that do come ashore to nest here.

I Just wonder how many of the eggs laid on the Karamboa beach get crushed, or dug up. Probably the Ghost Crabs get them first…. (Photo borrowed from wikimedia commons again)

Only 1% of loggerhead turtle hatchlings survive to sexual maturity (18 years). We went on an amazing tour to the turtle conservation area, organised by Naturalia Ecotours, a local company set up to try to promote conservation through ecotourism. On the tour, a conservation biologist told us all about the biology and the plight of the Loggerhead turtles before we watched a turtle lay her eggs less than a metre in front of us. My son and the other kids got to help another conservation biologist collect the eggs to take to the hatchery so that they would not be predated by crabs, feral dogs and cats and brown ravens. They counted 108 eggs laid by the turtle we had the privilege to watch. She then covered the hole, oblivious to us and the fact her eggs had been transferred to a bag, and trundle back to the sea. It was full moon so we got an excellent view of her throughout, and saw another turtle returning to the water and one coming in. The waves crashing on the shore in the light made if worth the trip alone.

So maybe it’s that which makes Boa Vista a bit unsettling, or haunting: How we are making a harsh environment harder for the animals and plants native or migratory to this area.

Would I come back here – yes.

The beach and ocean are beautiful; there’s an abundance of wildlife and a massive amount of progress has been made in turtle conservation etc in the last 10 years. Since 2008, fewer and fewer nesting Loggerheads have been poached. I would come back just to help out with the conservation effort. I’m glad we did it this way first, though. My son is really into doing some conservation, but he’s not ready for camping in the desert without a toilet. Give if a few years. I’m game….

Anyway, we were not allowed cameras on the tour. The flash and other light disturbs the turtles so this photo is also a wikimedia one. All lights were covered in red film because the red light doesn’t disturb the turtles. It was an adventure bouncing over dunes in a four-wheeled drive with its, and the other vehicles’ lights glowing red.

There’s also the fact that Humpbacks mate here in March/April. I’m a sucker for a marine mammal, so that I’d come to see.

Cape Verde is a diving hotspot and I would also love to see a Lemon/Nurse shark. They can keep the Tigef sharks that lurk wag out in the depths. I’m not sure about scuba diving, though but we will see…. I snorkeled without panicking and the pipe in my mouth is my main concern.

I was also impressed with the Karamboa’s care for their local cat colony. These strays are fed twice daily, neutered and vaccinated. They look fatter than my girl cats at home (who are picky little princesses) and are super friendly.

Ginger who we couldn’t help but take to is so sweet he chirrups and miaows constantly whilst you stroke him and comes out of his hedge just for a fuss, and most of them were the same (though Ging was our favourite).

So, there are a tonne of positives about Boa Vista. I would come back for any of the reasons listed…..

But it’s an unsettling place with a haunting feel to me. Or maybe it’s a cumulative hangover from the all-inclusive booze (albeit in small quantities as I’m on my own with the kid this time) and the lack of exercise-induced endorphins. My son refuses to go to kids club whilst I hit the gym, so I have only had 2 short, slow runs with him whinging that his legs hurt….. Glad I signed him up for that kids triathlon he insisted on now 😂

This was actually in South Africa last year, but sums up his tantrums perfectly.

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