santa luzia, cape verde

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.

Click here to learn more about the history and culture of all of the Cape Verde Islands.

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!

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