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Date: 23/11/2009
Adrian's latest trip to Santiago, San Vicente and Sal.

Adrian Lillywhite, MD of Cape Verde Property, takes another trip to Cape Verde, Nov 09.

So another week down in sunny Cape Verde. I managed to book a flight out of Gatwick for about £300 and just 5 hours 10 minutes later I landed in Sal and met Alex de Pina for the first time, our new guy working alongside Ann Johnson in our Santa Maria office. Alex is a local lad who is experienced in the property market on the island and also speaks fantastic English, Italian, Portuguese and French. A very useful asset to the company. Bev Chadwick, who worked superbly for us for about 4 years is still in Santa Maria and loving it, has taken on the task of running a new rooftop music bar called Habela. Best of luck to Bev, and more about Habela later.

Alex drove me down the 15 minute journey into Santa Maria in our new Ford Ranger (actually ex rental but still a lot better and much more practical than our old Toyota). After unloading my luggage in my lovely apartment in Leme Bedje, it was off to the office to drop off a few supplies, printer cartridges etc, and then at about 6 PM down to happy hour at May O'Leary's and a meal with Ann, Steve her husband and a few of the expats. May O'Leary's isn't very 'Cape Verdean' and might not be everyone’s cup of tea however it's cheap during happy hour, the food is good value, the company is always good and the footy was on the TV.

I had a very early rise, about 6 AM to get a 10 euro cab ride to the airport because I was flying down to Santiago to take a look at the Vila Jardins de Oceano and Sambala developments. Rhadia from Vila Jardins picked me up at the airport in Praia and we drove the 15 minutes to their small development of just 40 villas, restaurant, shop and fabulous infinity pool. Rhadia explained that the whole development will now be completed by May next year, and all the materials for completion have now arrived in Santiago. So full steam ahead. I was taken around the 'show villa' and I was really impressed. The quality was excellent, the views from the rooftop terraces beautiful and the furnishings top quality. The new Estrela Santiago Golf Resort with the Nick Faldo golf course and marina is only a couple of miles away, so when all Estrela is built then Vila Jardins will really benefit from this. Also Cidade Velha has recently been awarded ' World Heritage' status and is actually a lovely little village and very close to Vila Jardins.

Rhadia then drove me back to Praia and dropped me off at the Sambala office where I met up with Piran Johnson, who in general Cape Verdean fashion was expecting me the next day!! Anyway, after the initial shock of seeing this bald Englishman popping his head round the corner of the office, Piran drove me up to Sambala Village, the large British development by Sao Francisco beach. Piran is English and has been in Cape Verde pretty much longer than any other Englishman, almost 10 years. Fabulous chap and an expert in Cape Verde law who has done a sterling job liaising between Sambala and the CV government, which can be frustrating at times to say the least. The new road down to Sao Francisco beach from the airport is now complete and in 10 minutes we were by the sea. Money has now been allocated by the government for the final stretch of road up the hill to Sambala. This is expected to be finished by May 2010, allowing Sambala to fully open as a resort with direct flights from the UK, which will be fantastic for the investors who have patiently waited over the past few years. I know Sambala are in discussions with TACV, Cape Verde Airlines, for direct flights next year and also the European Tour golf for it’s new golf course. Fingers crossed.

Sambala was as impressive as ever. Lovely gardens, great pools, a new small restaurant and the pool bar which we obviously frequented along with a ‘Sambala Burger’. Good to see all the guys there, and hopefully next year will be a big year for Sambala, Vila Jardins and also the new ‘Nick Faldo’ Estrela Santiago.

In the morning I hitched a lift to the airport with one of the Sambala crew and took the 40 minute flight up to San Vicente and the island’s brand new airport at San Pedro. International flights into San Vicente are due this December from Lisbon. I met up with an old pal Steffan who develops villas and his builder friend Kevin and we hired a car for the day (40 euros). I hadn't been to this island for about 2 years so was really looking forward to it and I wasn't disappointed. After the recent rains San Vicente had a green glow to it (more like Santiago) and it was spectacular. No doubt this greenery will slowly disappear as the usually hot and dry weather in Cape Verde takes control, however when I was there it was beautiful. It reminded me of the Brecon Beacons in Wales, but a lot hotter and drier and no SAS soldiers hiding in the bushes (or at least I didn't see any, but I suppose if they are SAS then I wouldn't, would I?).

We drove into Mindelo, a great little town. It is the cultural heartland of Cape Verde with decent shops and a bus service every 10 minutes, with a set fair of about 25p. At the moment I believe there are 7 Brits and Irish living there full time with a smattering of other Europeans. The 3 of us then drove out of Mindelo the 10 minutes to Salamansa, where a new golf resort is planned. This is a little fishing village with a nice white sandy beach and very different from Mindelo. Next to Salamansa is Baia das Gatos, the small holiday town by the sea which is the location of the San Vicente music festival and also a planned golf resort. Steff has a very nice villa development in Baia which we went to see. 3 bed semi detached villas with private pools for only 179,950 euros. Excellent price, nice location, especially for the future with 2 golf courses planned next door. Also in Baia, on Monte Verde, are some great little townhouses with fabulous views down to Baia over the planned golf resorts. Just up the coast from Baia das Gatos, and now linked with a fantastic new road, is Calhau. The drive up to Calhau on this new road is absolutely spectacular, reminding me a little of the 12 Apostles in Cape Town. The views were stunning, the beaches deserted and the road was a real road!!! Real tarmac. WOW! There were even small picnic areas to stop and take in the view. And then into Calhau where we had a spot of lunch. Sorry Calhau.... there really is a lot of work to do. Somehow the town seems to lack direction. Maybe in the future it will all come into place. I hope so. Lunch was a big garopa fish, chips and rice. All for about 6 euros each including drinks.

Now back to Mindelo, to my nice little hotel called Residence Mindelo (43 euros a night). We dropped off my bags and then took a drive around the town to take some photos of the marina and stunning views of the town. Steff went home to his new baby, and Kevin the Irish builder then decided to show me the 'real' Mindelo. We went to the fruit market and then went to his 'local' pub. What an amazing place and certainly not somewhere I would have found on my own. I believe it is called Christina’s, but not exactly sure. A very small bar (completely different to May O’Leary’s) but Kevin loved it and I must admit the people were fantastic. What characters, never to be forgotten. After about 3 hours there it cost about 10 euros between us, including would you believe spam and chips. The boss man was a white Cape Verdean, nicknamed Yellow, whose great grandfather was believed to be from Plymouth. The boss woman was pregnant and the 13 year old daughter helped behind the bar after school. They all spoke excellent English and were lovely people. As we left we heard a band playing by the new marina, and lo and behold there was a large stage set up with a Brazilian band playing. They must have known I was coming.

Oh no, up early again to get to the airport and the 40 minute flight back to Sal. My 3 internal flights cost me about 50 to 70 euros each and I used both TACV and the new airline Halcyon.

Sal is my 'home' in Cape Verde, even though I live and work primarily in the UK. I feel the most comfortable here. Santa Maria is a great little town with fantastic beaches and beautiful turquoise water along with many bars and restaurants. It is still in it’s infancy for tourism however has tremendous potential. Sal is a very multi cultural island with over 20 nationalities living there. It still needs work and is certainly not the finished article, however I totally believe that the south areas of Sal will emerge as the jewel in the crown of Cape Verde.

One of the reasons I went to Sal this particular week was because of the 'Ground Breaking' ceremony of the excellent 5 star Dunas Beach Resort. I was lucky to go to the Tortuga launch earlier in the year and the Dunas ceremony and party was just as impressive. Attending were various Cape Verde government dignitaries along with Rob Jarrett, the chairman of the developers (The Resort Group) with his golden shovel and several other Resort Group employees and construction chaps. Also attending were a few of the top agents, the most important of which of course were Ann and myself. To start the celebrations we listened to music from Bev Chadwick on sax and Simon on guitar along with champagne and canapes. Then indoors for the speeches and the big announcement was the signing of the Sol Melia hotel management deal for Dunas and Tortuga. So now we expect Dunas to be called the Melia Dunas Resort. This is fabulous news for Sal. After the speeches we went outside again for an excellent barbeque dinner followed by music from reggae band Dub Squad and fantastic singer Alicia. The whole evening was beautifully located on the beach at the Odjo D'agua hotel. We all then moved the short walk to the rooftop Habela bar and it is alleged some people carried on partying until dawn.

Back to work and I have to mention some of the other developments in Sal. Firstly it's amazing to see how quickly Tortuga Beach Resort and Spa is being built. It's very impressive, a great location and should be finished by the end of next year. Tortuga is sold out however we have resale apartments and villas available.

I had a very good look around Vila Verde and the quality is really excellent. The first of the greenery was being planted and most of the pools for the first communities were in place. I walked all the way from Canna up to the townhouses and it really gave me a sense of the quality and size of the development, with the covered walkways under construction and the village squares taking shape. There are some amazing prices in Vila Verde at the moment on a very few apartments. Great value in a quality development.

I had a drive round Paradise Beach and you can tell everything is ready to move forwards quickly. All the plant and building materials are in place ready to go and I was told in around 18 months the whole development will be finished. If you are looking for a fabulous 5 bed frontline villa then we have the best available villa in Paradise Beach. Cotton Bay has all of the 'infrastructure' work done and should start to build upwards soon. This is a major long term project with golf and marina.

I am a big Leme Bedje fan and it is great to see a full workforce back on site. Blocks E and D and the massive pool are all well under way and we hope these will be completed spring 2010. Block G on the front will take a little longer. Leme Bedje has a fabulous location right by the beach with the Josh Angulo water sports centre right next door and a short walk to all facilities in the town. A new bar /restaurant in Leme Bedje will be complete mid 2010. I think this and other developments in the area will have tremendous value in the future.

Saturday afternoon was in the Turtle Shack watching England’s appalling rugby victory over Argentina and then I hate to say the evening included watching the X Factor. Yes, you can watch some of the worst of British TV in Sal. Sunday was on the beach. Fabulous.

Finally I had an amazing flight back to Gatwick, my first time breaking the 5 hour barrier. Just 4 hours 53 minutes. Shame it was an hour late taking off.....

A busy week and now back to the rain.