36 – Santiago and baby turtles
36 – Santiago and baby turtles

36 – Santiago and baby turtles

Finally, we manage to leave!

After changing our departure date a couple of times, because the wind forecasts changed constantly, we leave Mindelo to sail to the main island of Cabo Verde, Santiago, in the afternoon of the 30th September. Slightly heavy hearted, but curious to see what’s coming next, we get going. Quick stop at the fuelling pier, last wave to our friend Gil (G’îles) and other familiar faces on the way past.

Then, off we sail into the always turbulent passage between Sao Vincente and Santo Antao with our main sail up. We try to unroll the Genois but, no way! The furler isn’t turning as it should, in fact it’s completely stuck. Jean-Luc tries to analyse the situation, we can’t see the problem. In the meantime, we have hit the first waves and feel the current. No point in going on, so we turn, get out of the ferry’s way and steer the boat back into the sheltered bay. While Alexander keeps Illika in position, Oliver secures Jean-Luc who climbs up the mast with a bottle of WD-40 (very liquid oil spray). Dust is a pain in the a…! Problem settled!

Crossing to the leeward islands

We lose one hour but that’s no problem as our crossing is supposed to take about 24 hours: We do normally try to arrive at a new place in daylight. In the night the waves start criss-crossing and I feel pretty awful at the end of my 4 hours night shift and happy to go and lay down at 04:00 till the morning, when I finally take an anti-seasickness pill. No, I didn’t think of taking it before! Nobody told me either, that it was going to be so shaky! Fortunately, the wind is good and the sail quicker than expected and we arrive in front of Tarrafal in the north of the island of Santiago in just over 21 hours.

Pleasant Tarrafal

It’s a nice anchorage, although a little shaky at moments, but the relaxed atmosphere in the surrounding compensates. We explore the village and pretty beach in the following days, finding a tourist information (1st one on Cape Verde we see!), the market and the amazingly set Kabungo beach bar. The Caipirinhas are nearly as good as in the “Floating Bar” in Mindelo! We feel safe and the fishermen are friendly, selling us the fresh fish directly on the boat. One afternoon we buy a big lumberjack and invite our Irish neighbour for grilled fish, tzatziki and vegetable curry rice…   

Cruising the island of Santiago

Obviously, we also want to see more of Santiago. So, we set off in a covered pick-up aluguer (same climb on-and-off public transport system as on the other islands) and are amazed about how green the island is. All the way to the busy weekly African market in the centre of Santiago, we drive up and over green hills, with lots of agriculture and beautiful views. We decide not to do another hike to a waterfall. It is very hot these days and any movement after 10 a.m., except for swimming, is hardly imaginable. On top of that, we have seen most stunning waterfalls on Santo Antao, we don’t want to be disappointed 😉

Surfing and other activities

As surfing is a popular activity here, the boys take a surf lesson with a very charming and modest local surf champion, who’s at the same time the owner of the Kabungo beach bar. Slackline, beach volley and beach-schooling were other (depending on what, more or less appreciated) activities during the 10 days in Tarrafal. But hey!, who does not want to do school at the beach?…

Turtle nests on the beach

Now guess the best thing: there’s a turtle nursery on the beach. It’s a fenced off area where the turtle eggs from other, nearby beaches are brought from, so the eggs are protected from dogs, quads, poachers, seagulls, and statistics can be made for the turtle protection on Cape Verde (by the turtle association “Lantuna” on Santiago).

Every morning we get up early, climb into the dinghy, go on shore and rush to the nursery, hoping to see baby turtles. We are a little lucky one morning as, while the caretaker digs up a “lost” nest, they find a baby trying to make its way to the surface. What excitement! So vulnerable! So small! So precious…

Imagine: a hatchling turtle weighs around 20 grams and is 4 cm long. It’s buried 40-50 cm below the surface. That’s 10 times the length of its body… It’s as if we, human babies, had to dig a 4-5 m tunnel and then crawl 300-400 meters to reach their cradle!

Tiny animal, big waves

The small group of people that has collected around the event, follow the little creature to the sea, fencing off the passage, where a dog is desperately trying to get at its toy. Instinctively, the baby struggles its way down the beach, strengthening its muscles for the future swimming activity. It reaches the first waves, but then gets washed onto shore again and again, until someone finally takes the little turtle and brings it past the rolling wave into the big blue ocean. Good luck, little thing… Only one in a thousand turtles will survive to come back in 20 years to lay its eggs on the same beach.

36 of them!

The real compensation for waiting and checking the nursery every day several times, comes a few days later: We accompany 36 baby turtles to the sea! Closing this circle of life, we can then leave Tarrafal, satisfied 😉. Fogo is waiting!


  1. Angelica

    So schöner Bericht, herzlichsten Dank! Schön von Euch zu lesen! Hier langsam herbstlicher, gestern doch nochmal sonnig mit fast 20 Grad! Grosse Umarmung an Euch alle, herzlichst, Angelica, Marcello & Neil

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