The island of Maio in the east of Cape Verde stands for absolute solitude, peace and relaxation. Relatively difficult to reach, it nevertheless attracts visitors with kilometre-long beaches, sleepy villages, coconut and acacia forests and sometimes complete desertedness.
Maio is an island of Cape Verde and is located in the east of the archipelago south of Boa Vista. Here, Cape Verde still delivers on its promise of absolute solitude. In the heavenly tranquillity and endless time for relaxation and recreation, thoughtful minds, desert wanderers and bookworms in particular feel at home.
The reason for the few tourists is probably the relatively difficult accessibility of Maio. Maio can only be reached by plane via Praia on the island of Santiago, and neither planes nor ships travel to Maio every day. If you want to visit this beautiful island, you have to be flexible in your travel planning.
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Flora and fauna on Maio
Like most of the islands in the east of Cape Verde, Maio is mostly desert, partly blown in by the Sahara from Africa. At first glance, Maio appears flat, barren and monotonous. But at second glance, car trips into the island's interior or hikes through the hill ranges reveal an incredible variety of landscapes.
There is much more vegetation on Maio than on Sal or Boa Vista, for example, because coconut palms and acacia groves now thrive on Maio thanks to targeted reforestation. Thanks to this measure, Maio even has the largest contiguous forest area in Cape Verde and makes the production of charcoal possible without drastically reducing the tree population.
Of course, the animals are also happy about the forests, so amateur ornithologists in particular get their money's worth on Maio. On the salt marshes in the north of the island, terns and wading birds can be observed and otherwise desert sandpipers, racing birds, sand larks and even the odd osprey cavort on Maio. On walks through the loose scrubland of Maio, you will often encounter goats and cattle and donkeys grazing in dry creek beds.
Vila do Maio
There is a little more life in the main town of Maio, Vila do Maio, where most of Maio's inhabitants have gathered. The small town is located in the southwest of the island, directly on the sea.
The centre of Vila do Maio is the Praça Fina. Here you will find a small market hall selling food, a small hotel, some cafés, a bank and a snow-white baroque church in Portuguese colonial style with two mighty towers. At Praça Fina, the locals meet in the evening to eat, drink and chat.
Beaches on Maio
Maio offers beautiful, kilometre-long beaches that are often completely deserted. On the west coast near Vila do Maio is the beautiful Praia da Vila, which is easy to reach from the capital. Here, the cannon-armoured fort from the 18th century still bears witness to the city's former prosperity.
Praia da Vila flows directly into Praia da Ponta Preta, which extends to the towns of Morro and Calheta. Bathing is wonderful here. If you walk further north, you will reach Praia de Santana on the edge of the vast salt marshes.
In the west of the island, bathers get their money's worth at Praia do Morro. Sea turtles often come to this fine-sand beach in summer to lay their eggs. The turtles are not specifically protected on Maio, so they themselves and their clutches are freely accessible. It is the responsibility of all bathers to keep their distance and not to disturb the mother turtles when they are laying their eggs, and to leave the clutches alone afterwards.
The beaches in the north of Maio should be used with extreme caution due to treacherous currents and heavy surf. To the southeast, a 10-minute walk from Ribeira Dom João leads to a wonderful beach with beautifully clear water.
The beaches on Maio are not developed for tourism. What you need (sun protection, food, water sports equipment, etc.) you have to bring yourself.
On the road on Maio
Maio is home to a few sleepy little villages, made up of colourful little houses decorated with flowers. People sit in front of their houses and live into the day, goats run around and time seems to stand still. In the middle of the forests of the west are the three villages of Morro, Calheta and Morrinho.
From Vila do Maio on the west coast towards the north, Morro is the first village you pass through. Morro is surrounded by shady coconut trees, through which a narrow path leads towards the coast to a beautiful beach.
Towards the north-east, Morro offers a view of the 300-metre-high "mountain" Monte Batalha. This can be climbed in about 2 hours on difficult but safe paths and offers beautiful views over the island to the neighbouring island of Santiago.
3km after Morro, you come to Calheta with its wonderfully green acacia forests. Here too, rare visitors are greeted by a whitewashed and yellow village church and cute colourful houses. In a small charcoal kiln, charcoal is produced from the partly artificial trees around Calheta and exported primarily to Praia on Santiago.
Otherwise, the inhabitants of Calheta live from fishing. The wide beach not only invites you to watch the fishermen, but also to take long walks along the beach, which after about an hour leads north to the wide salt marshes of Maios and the small, but particularly nice beach Praia da Calhetina.
Directly near the dunes and salt marshes in the northwest is also the village of Morrinho. For Morrinho, "sleepy" is an auxiliary term, there is absolutely nothing going on here, many of the houses are no longer inhabited at all. In the centre rises the village church, lined with magnificent oleander bushes.
The salty landscape around Morrinho, however, is a dream. The glistening, flat landscape is only interrupted by dark bushes and a few cattle now and then and stretches under a bright blue sky to the completely deserted Praia de Santana.
Along the East Coast
From the next village, Cascabulho, a dirt road leads directly to the dreamlike beach Praia de Galeão on the north coast of Maio. The 6km wide bay is lined by sand dunes and is perfect for long walks, as swimming is almost never possible here.
Continuing on the road, you pass through Pedro Vaz and can then take a road south to Monte Penoso, the highest mountain in Maio. This mountain lives up to its name "arduous mountain", because if you want to climb it, you have to find your own way through bushes and scree. At its foot is the small 18th century Capela Nossa Senhora do Rosário.
After Monte Pentoso, the road continues to Alcatraz and Figueira Seca. On this stretch it is so quiet in places that you can hear your own heart beating. Not even the slightest chirping of birds breaks the shimmering heat.
From there, a larger road continues to Ribeira Dom João, a welcome valley oasis after the solitude, with a beautiful beach and wonderfully clear water. If you follow the other larger road, it leads to Figueira da Horta and back to Vila do Maio. In between is the ghostly village of Casas Velhas, which was completely abandoned by its inhabitants after an epidemic.