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Date: 14/01/2011
MD Adrian Lillywhite's blog - Another Trip down to Cape Verde Jan 2011



Where to start -
On 4th January the temperature had risen to a balmy plus 1C at Birmingham airport from a very chilly minus 17C a few days earlier and as I sat in my rather cramped Thomson seat on the way down to Sal once again I couldn't wait for some nice warm weather.
I appreciate the fact that Thomson fly from Birmingham, Gatwick, Manchester and any time now from Glasgow down to Cape Verde, however a little more legroom would not go amiss. Almost 6 hours later, and in need of a good stretch, we land in Sal and that's much better...... 27C.... This time I'm visiting Cape Verde with 2 of my oldest friends who have never been to the islands before. Another Adrian, just to make things complicated, and Steve. Both Cape Verde virgins.
The ever dependable Alex from our office picked us up from the airport in the Cape Verde Property Ford Ranger (probably the most popular model of vehicle in CV) and drove us the 15 minutes down to Santa Maria. This flight was a slightly later arrival than normal at about 5.30 P.M. and by the time we had bought the 25 euro visas and picked up the cases it was getting dark as we made our way to Leme Bedje in Santa Maria where we would all be staying. At about 6.30 we dropped of the bags, donned our shorts and made our way to Porto Antigo 1 and the wonderful Papaias for a pint by the sea before walking to Tam Tams for a Tam Tam burger.
Back at the apartment and sitting on the terrace we decided to put the world to right, slag off the British weather and talk rubbish into the early hours.

Next morning the boys saw Santa Maria in it's full glory for the first time. Amazing sunshine, beautiful turquoise water, incredible white sandy beaches. Ok, it's a building site in places, the 'roads' can be rubbish, especially at the moment as the Camera has dug some of them up to install the new sewage system and water pipes. The budget for the infrastructure improvements has been approved and at last they have started to actually get on with it, including the hotel road from the RIU to the town. The entrance to the town has been diverted round the back at the moment as they work on the roads and for a short time the entrance to Cape Verde's top tourist town is a very bumpy mud track. I have been told it's a 10 month plan. Is this a Cape Verde 10 months? Anyway it will make a massive difference when completed. If there was heavy traffic it may have been a bit of a nuisance, however the amount of cars in Sal, as anyone who has been there before can vouch for, is not exactly central London. In fact if you pass more than 10 cars on the 12 miles from the airport to the town it's a busy day.

It really was lovely weather. No clouds, a nice breeze and not at all humid. Perfect. I had never been to CV this close to New Year before and as usual it was really very pleasant and I had to make sure my very hairless head had a big dollop of factor 30 smeared into it.

We made our way to the CV office and dropped off all the usual stationery, printer cartridges, new inkjet printer (they are cheaper in the UK) and some very fetching bright lime company shirts for Ann Johnson, our office manager, and some slightly more subtle yellow numbers for Alex. Ann has been on Sal now for over 2 years and tells me she is thoroughly enjoying it. Alex originally comes from San Vicente. He recently mentioned that his parents live next door to the parents of 'Nani' from Man Utd who is just one of the famous footballers to come out of Cape Verde. They love a good game of footy in CV.

It was busier in the town than last time I visited. A nice little buzz about the place. A very cosmopolitan feel with the usual Italians, Portuguese, more French than ever before due to new flights, plenty of Scandinavians and Germans. Basically a good cross European mix. I'm personally not so keen when a place is dominated by one nationality and this mix of Europeans is a good sign for the growth in tourism in Cape Verde, which I am reliably informed has actually gone up 23% in the last year. Not bad for a recession.

If you are a avid reader of these blogs (which I am sure there are at least 4 of you) you will know I tend to go on about the bars, the happy hours, the restaurants....... Well the cheapest pint in town is in the Portuguese restaurant/bar which used to be May O'Leary's. Just over a pound a pint... Average cost for a pint in Santa Maria, non happy hour, is 300 escudos, about £2.40 for the local lager Strela. Happy hours can be half that. Bars that were visited..... Papaias in Porto Antigo, Blu Bar, Cabo Bar (where we watched snowboarding on the TV which was slightly odd in 27C), the Turtle Shack, Grijinha on the beach and the wonderful Morabeza happy hour from 6.30 to 7.30 ( the best ciapirinhas in town) and also the excellent bar in the Odjo D'Agua hotel. However I must admit the favourite haunt of Steve and Adrian was Josh Angulo's café/bar on the beach outside Leme Bedje on Praia Antonio de Sousa. Yes, he actually sells beer now. More importantly he also serves excellent pizzas etc and a wonderful breakfast, not forgetting the best cup of coffee I have had in Cape Verde. His watersports centre has been extended with extra sunbeds, tables etc since the World Windsurfing Championships in November and the place was great. Busy with the wind and kitesurfing fraternity and also a cross section of the more normal 'slightly overweight and not as fit as we would like' people including myself and the boys. Great place to chill out and literally 20 seconds walk from Leme Bedje which was particularly convenient for us.

We ate really well all week, some other highlights being the Mediterranean Restaurant with the lovely Henrique as mine host. Tastey fish and deserts to die for. Also the Cultural café on the square which was it's usual high standards (there is free broadband for all now in the square where you can find people sitting around with their laptops) and we also visited a very nice little pizza place on the beach. I assume it has a name but I couldn't see one. Lovely atmosphere with tables on the sand. Pizzas usually cost from 700 escudos, just over £5.00.

So to the developments - Firstly to the west on Ponta Preta Beach - Emma from the Resort Group took us up to the Melia Tortuga Beach Resort and Spa and we had the opportunity to go into the new hotel and its facilities. Sol Melia will be running Tortuga, and it was really impressive to see the new spa, kitchens, restaurants, bars, laundry, conference rooms etc...it really brought home that Tortuga will be opening in May. It is a very serious proposition for Sal. The whole development was almost finished, the pools full, the landscaping from Jeff Goundrill and his team excellent and the general quality top notch. They were just starting work on the beach bar/restaurant which will be a fabulous place to see the sunset. It will be very interesting to see the return on investment on Tortuga over the next few years, with the involvement of Sol Melia and the fact that Tortuga will be an all inclusive for over 200 of the properties on the resort. Maybe there is an opportunity to piggy back off the mass advertising which Sol Melia will undoubtedly spend on Tortuga and generally on Sal and purchase without going into the rental scheme. Personal choice.

The Melia Dunas Beach Resort was building quickly. Most of the structural work for the beach section was already well underway, both for the villas and commercial areas. Seems to be really motoring on now. Dunas can be bought via a SIPP pension which is very popular. The new Llana Resort between Dunas and Tortuga will be launched very soon. 6 star! Could be a good one for the investors.

ParadiseBeachphase 1 is almost complete. The frontline 5 bed villas are amazing. Great big 2 storey villas with big pools. We have one of these lovely villas for sale at a discounted price if anyone is interested. The largest frontline villas on Sal. Luxury!

CottonBay is still lagging unfortunately. I am still waiting for an update however I am told there could be good news soon.

Vila Verde is BIG. Every time I go I am impressed with the new gardens, pools, and now the new country club for the townhouses is almost finished. The quality of the apartments, townhouses and villas is up to top European standard and the sizes of all the properties are big. Vila Verde is BIG in all ways. The first commercial units are expected to open very soon. I really like it.

Down into Santa Maria and Porto Antigo 3 is now complete. Next to Porto Antigo 1. Excellent frontline location and beautiful properties. Porto Antigo 1 and 2 are both flourishing and busy. My old friend Leme Bedje is looking great. The pool is finished and sparkling blue and planting for the gardens has started. The frontline Block G is really moving forwards, still with a few opportunities to buy and the little Block F has some great bargains from just 60,000 euros. Leme Bedje is coming into it's own and it's one of my favourite locations and developments. The Josh Angulo Bar on the beach has also really helped the area. There are a few short term deals on Leme Bedje which I believe will have great value for the future and the whole development will be finished very soon. A great time to buy.

SalinasSea is also moving forwards quickly. Another SIPP approved development and a fantastic location on the beach next to the Morabeza Hotel and with a guaranteed rental return.

Obviously there are many more developments in Sal, too many for this time round, however in general things seem to be progressing well. Nothing is perfect and the recession has definitely hit some developers, however hopefully in due course these issues will be sorted. I certainly hope the return on investment over the next 5 to 10 years will be good for all. Cape Verde has all the benefits it always had, maybe the world is a tougher place all round.

After a few days of work and play we decided to jet off to Boa Vista for the day on the Saturday. OK, jet off may be the wrong word. More like propeller off. At last the 'powers to be' at the airport have decided to actually use the security scanner for internal flights. That's a first for me in CV. Usually you just jump on, but now there is actually security. Anyway we were meant to check in at 6.30 AM. Obviously no chance of that, so we turned up at 7.35 for an 8 o'clock flight and found the check in closed. I had to use my obvious charms to creep to the check in girl to allow us on. Only hand luggage...come on. After several minutes on her mobile she agreed and 30 minutes later we were airborne. Ann Johnson had never been to any of the other islands so she came with us to see the beaches and developments of Boa Vista. And what amazing beaches. We met up with Trudy who lives on Boa Vista and works for the infrastructure company Bucan who in association with the Cape Verde government have sold the amazing plot of land in the south of the island to Island Resorts, the developers of the Santa Monica Beach Resort. This new development is in a pre release phase and offering very interesting investor half price deals for a short time on both villas and apartments. RIU are building a large hotel (the RIU Touareg) close by, and this is opening in May this year. It's amazing how quickly it has shot up. At the moment there is nothing nearby except this amazing white sandy beach which goes on for miles and miles. It really is one of the world's top beaches. The new road from the airport is under construction and will be finished by the time the hotel opens.

Trudy then dropped us off at the Delfini Resort, next to the Marine Club Hotel on Cabral Beach next to Sal Rei. Our favourite available apartment was a studio on the top floor at 60,000 euros which really had amazing sea views and a very good frontline 2 bed which is furnished. Good location. We then had a quick lunch in the Marine Club Hotel (full of Italians) and walked down to Por do Sol, also along Cabral Beach. Claudio and Gianluca, the developers were there to meet us and show us around. I can honestly say that the finishing quality of Por do Sol was as good as, if not better than any development I have seen in Cape Verde. Really impressive. The pool was also big and inviting, the views excellent. Gianluca then took us to Estoril Beach to see the smaller Barlavento apartments which was coming along very well. There are a couple of very large apartments available at good prices and I am told they will be finishing off the apartments in the same way as Por do Sol so these could be real bargains. Gianluca then drove us back to the airport where we waited an hour for our Halcyon Air flight and back to Sal. Other nice developments are Vila Cabral 1 and 2 and Creola Sands which hopefully start to move forwards again soon. A very productive day indeed.

Back to Sal and busy in the office. Alex is amazing with the Europeans, speaking Portuguese, Italian, German, French and English. Ann has great organisational skills, very experienced and excellent product knowledge. An very professional partnership and doing a great job. If you are in Santa Maria please feel free to drop into the office and they can show you any of the amazing bargains we have on offer.

An excellent week was had by all. The boys really enjoyed it. Far better than they were expecting and both are very well travelled. They could both see the amazing potential of the Cape Verde Islands. We had 20 seconds of cloud all week, beautiful weather. I called the office in the UK and Bev and Lisa were both wearing coats and scarves at work. (I must get some heating). It was easy to forget it was early January. In fact the only way to really remember was the fact that there was still a nativity scene in the town square and a few Christmas lights still up. A sunny Christmas had come and gone, but Cape Verde was still celebrating!



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