Visiting the Island of Santa Luzia, Cape Verde

Santa Luzia is an uninhabited island of Cape Verde and is the nation’s smallest island. With a surface area of only 13.5 square miles, it is settled between the bigger islands of São Nicolau and approximately five miles from São Vicente, and north of the Barlavento islets named Branco and Raso. The Portuguese discovered Santa Luzia, Cape Verde on December 13th, 1461 and named the island after Saint Lucia’s Day which is celebrated on the same day.

Since its discovery, many sailors and groups of people have made attempts to colonize and make this beautiful but deserted island their home with no success. The land has no fresh water and is been deemed to be too dry and barren to sustain a population. At one point, the land was fertile, and much of its desertification was caused by past attempts to harvest vegetation and raise livestock.

Currently, Santa Luzia is considered a forbidden island for visit due to its recent classification by Cape Verde as a natural reserve. Despite this fact, however, many Cape Verdeans and curious travelers from around the world make their way to the Island. After all, despite its barrenness and lack of resources, Santa Luzia has much to offer its visitors. In fact, many Cape Verdeans especially those from neighboring islands such as Sao Vicente and Sao Nicolau spend days on the island camping and fishing. Some fishermen are known to stay on the island for long periods of time.

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Camping and fishing are just a few of the activities that Santa Luzia has to offer. According to some avid sailors, Santa Luzia provides a perfectly secluded location for anchorage, especially to the south of the island near its neighboring Islet called Ilheu Zinho. Once there, a splendor of white sandy beaches awaits. Santa Luzia is actually home to four beautiful beaches named Praia do Castelo, Praia de Roque, Praia de Prainha Branca, and Praia de Palmea Testao. For a small inhabited island, that is a lot of beach to offer considering the other more established and developed islands do not have as many comparable beaches.

For those who are interested in nature and wildlife, bird and turtle watching can provide much amusement on the island. Santa Luzia is home to many small animals including a small lizard species called Sao Nicolau gecko that is unique to the island.

How to get there

Since Santa Luzia is currently uninhabited, there is no official or sponsored way to reach the island from Cape Verde. However, the curious explorer can always charter a fishing boat from either Calhau or Salamansa, Sao Vicente. Visiting is actually prohibited and restricted to authorized scientists and volunteers due to its recent classification as a natural reserve but the restriction is rarely monitored and enforced.

We hope you enjoyed reading about the island of Santa Luzia, Cape Verde. We welcome your comments and would love to hear about your own experiences!

Cape Verdean Grogue

Cape Verdean Grogue also was known as Grogu or Grogo has different flavors that remind you of Cape Verde’s passion and traditions. The taste can be customized by adding lime and a hint of cinnamon which reminds you of the sunset. Due to its vast production, grogue is also known as the gold of Cape Verde.

Grogue is Cape Verdean’s national alcoholic beverage that many of its people consider a staple. The smell of the beverage is like a warm banana though it is an alcoholic beverage but smells like sweet sugar because of the distilled use of alcohol to 40 percent.

The History of Cape Verdean Grogue

The production of Grogue began sometime in the mid-1400’s by the Portuguese shortly after the colonization of the Cape Verde islands. Sugarcane, the main ingredient used for making grogue was brought to Cape Verde from the Caribbean and was cultivated by the slaves. Grogue was introduced to Europe around the 1700’s by the British Royal Navy and remained predominantly illegal until legalization in the 1900’s. Grogue was initially made for sale to the British Royal Navy that frequented the island of Sao Vicente.

As production on the islands became popular, the Portuguese authorities feared the impact it would have on the slave populace and later prohibited it. Production of grogue continued illicitly throughout Cape Verde but small distilleries continued to make small batches of moonshine. Today, most of the existing distilleries in Cape Verde have roots back to these original grogue brewers.

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Today, Cape Verdean Grogue is manufactured in large quantities within the islands of Santo Antao and Santiago where the sugarcane is harvested towards the end of Spring. The sugarcane is cut manually using various cutting tools such as a macheted. The sugarcanes are cut to size and prepared by eliminating the leaves to produce lengthy stalks. These stalks are usually tied into approximately forty pound bundles and transported by women on the top of their heads to the production area and eventually pressed through a trapiche. A Trapiche is a wooden mill that is used to squeeze the juice out the sugarcane. The trapiche functions by having a mule or ox pull the wooden shaft connected to the center of trapiche in a rotating motion. Today however very few distilleries rely on the traditional trapiche and depend more on gasoline powered machines for extracting juice out of the sugarcane.

Since the legalization of grogue in the 1900’s, its production and distribution have been mostly unregulated until recently where new laws and restrictions are being enforced by the government.

What are the elements of Cape Verdean Grogue?

Pure Cape Verdean grogue is essentially prepared from sugarcane and distilled water. The flavor of grogue, however, can be enhanced in many different ways. The traditional and popular grogue cocktail involves mixing grogue with melted sugar cane molasses and lime. This mixture is referred to as ponche. Many other cocktail mixtures are added to Grogue such as lime, cinnamon along with many other fruit flavors.

The Gold of Cape Verde

Cape Verdean Grogue is also known as the gold of the islands because of a large amount of sugar cane cultivation. Grogue or grogue cocktails are liked by almost every Cape Verdeans and out of the large variety of distilleries, grogue is the only alcoholic beverage that is considered the national drink of Cape Verde.

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