Cape Verde – Maio Island

Ever heard about it? Probably not, me neither a few months ago! Now, it’s all I can think about.

When I decided to travel to Cape Verde I’d no idea what I was doing, so I asked some friends for information and help. My dear friend Mariana, who was doing volunteer work there a year ago told me about Maio Island, and about the possibility of staying with a family and probably see turtles!

Stay with a family and see turtles! I didn’t need to hear more!

But I’d no idea that there was a Maio Island, where was it, how was it, its story, and Google doesn’t help much either. I couldn’t care less, I wanted to go, even if I couldn’t find any schedules for airplanes or boats.

I talked with Maio Biodiversity Foundation and they helped with a place to stay, activities and transportation.

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So, what happened in Maio that makes it so special now?

Two days after arriving in Santiago Island, we’ve started this adventure. In Cape Verde you have to trust the flow, that everything will eventually be fine, but that also means being two hours earlier at the boat, because it might leave to early, or might not leave at all. We had to wake up at 3 am. and around 10 am. we were finally at Cidade do Porto Inglês (Vila), in Maio.

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We were placed with a family in Morro, where a portuguese volunteer was already staying. The first impact was something (not in the best possible sense)! But soon I could only be amazed at everything.

  • Maio is a quiet safe place, with long, long beaches where you’re just surrounded by nature (and a lot of cows).

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  • Everyone from the family we were staying with was all about being natural, “this is who we are, this is what you get”, that made us not only learn about their ways but also feel that they ARE our family in Maio.

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  • Thony, the other volunteer, he not only took us to all the activities as if we were real volunteers, so we got the real experience, he explained everything in detail, and made a huge effort for us to see the little turtles. Besides that, he’s funny and interesting to be with, by the end, a friend.

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  • The Foundation, their workers, and their volunteers. I totally changed my mind about this work, about volunteer work (I’ll talk more about it later), it’s hard, it’s not a vacation, one has to love nature a LOT to do it, and with scarce means.

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  • The little turtles and their fearless will of going to the wild sea!

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  • The people! The (83 years) old lady that wanted my shorts because she was jealous I’d “two boyfriends”.

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  • The long walks, and the rides, always with loud music, always with smiles and ways that were a mystery to us.

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  • The ecological kind of life they have, the sources are so scarce, that they respect the water, they wisely use all the organic leftovers… there is a long way to go, but definitely they have a more sustainable life than us.

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  • The fact that the house was always opened, with all of our stuff inside, and we were so relaxed about it.

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By listing, I understand there’s a lot about my feelings for Maio that I can’t put in words. Maio is not the most wonderful place I’ve ever been, is far from perfect with a lot of big buildings someone promised would bring development but all the money was from narcotraffic and now it’s all unfinished, with the too much relaxed kind of way (because they need to care more about their home – well, we all have!), but…

Maio brought me all the peace I missed from ages, all the silence, took away all the fears for a while, gave me the feeling of a bigger family, I saw the little turtles, the little fishes. It will always have a special place in my heart, and I might never be able to rationalize it. And that’s totally fine!

(I want to thank Thony for the beautiful photos he allowed me to use here!)

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