Diving Sal

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Sal, Cape Verde

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Country: Cape Verde  Area: Cape Verde

Water Temp: 19 - 27°C (66 - 81°F)

Visibility: 10 - 40m (33 - 131 ft)

Depth Range: 9 - 30m (30 - 98 ft)

Loggerhead turtles nesting May to July

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Sal, which is Portuguese for salt, is one of the northern group of islands of the Cape Verde archipelago and is home to the area’s main airport. At 35 kilometres long by 12 kilometres wide, Sal it is geologically the oldest Cape Verde island and offers tourists over 350 days of sunshine each year under which to enjoy its white sandy beaches.

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Strong trade winds during the winter months make this island a hotspot for surfing, while the quaint town of Santa Maria has many boutique type bars, restaurants, stores and pastel-coloured houses.

Dive sites are grouped around two main points of the island. Near Santa Maria on the southern tip of the island are several reefs with overhangs, swimthroughs and grottos. Off the southern coast are two wreck dives with artificial reefs. All of Santa Maria’s sites team with tropical fish and other marine animals. Palmeira and Muderia dive sites off the island’s northwest coast are most famous for their highly accessible cave systems. Each cave has several large openings, and divers can enter into enormous cathedral-like spaces and spot sharks, rays, polyps and crabs along with a cache of ammunition dumped by soldiers several years ago.

More fishes, Credit

Pedra de Lume (World Heritage Site candidate and the site of the old salt mining industry, situated inside a volcano), Buracona (lava formations, natural sea pool and site of the 'Blue Eye' ), Palmeira (fishing village and main port), Espargos (the capital).

Several wrecks are approachable by boat on the southern side of Sal. There are wall dives with some overhang – cave-like formations. Two sites are underwater mountains, and suitable for experienced divers. Big fish can be seen. Some caves are difficult to reach and dive at, so cave diving training is required to ensure safety. Shallow reefs near the coast are easy to reach and suitable for beginners and inexperienced divers.  

Ocean view, Credit


Instead of the classic four seasons, the Cape Verde Islands only have two: The Tempo das Brisas (time of the winds) from October to mid-July and the Tempo das Chuvas (rainy season) from August to September, when there may be heavy tropical rainfall. The coolest months are January and February (average temperature of 21°C), where temperatures can drop down to a chilly 16°C ; the warmest is the month of September (up to 36°C) with an average temperature of a pleasant 27°C. The nights can also cool down by about 3ºC - 5°C.The water temperature ranges between 19°C and 27°C throughout the year; the north-east passat, which is active during the Tempo das Brisas, is especially popular with the surfers.

Marine Conservation

Cape Verde is one of the world’s most important nesting grounds for loggerhead turtles, and conservation here revolves largely around the species. There are a number of small local organizations operating alongside larger international research institutions to establish and protect safe nesting grounds for the population.

Conservation more broadly remains a work in progress, with the United Nations spearheading a project to strengthen national conservation and protection areas. Currently there are only three major marine protected areas around the islands of Sal and Boa Vista. The goal is to expand protected areas from 6% to 77% around the three different islands of Fogo, São Vincente and Santo Antão.

Diving with fishes, Credit

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Boat Diving

The southern part of Sal offers 18 dive sites reachable within 40 minutes by boat.  Marine life includes goatfish, groupers, grunts, sea bream (capeverdian sea bream), soldierfish, trumpetfish, chromis, damselfish, soapfish, squirrelfish, wrasse, filefish (leatherjacket filefish), snapper (glasseye snapper), cornetfish, pufferfish, mullets, sea hare, arrow crabs, nudi branch, fire worms, soft and hard corals. Sometimes there are sharks (nurse sharks), turtles (green turtle, hawksbill turtle, loggerhead turtle), stingrays, lobsters, dolphins, cuttlefish, octopus.

Sal underwater, Credit

One deep wreck called the Boris Kwarcit wreck was sunk for divers about two decades ago. Barracudas sometimes appear here.  There are also a few shallow wrecks and two dive sites, Tchu-klassa in the south and Morrinha dos Pedras in the west of Sal, that look similar to underwater mountains. Because they are a bit further detached from the coast and there is no other reef nearby, they are rich in nutrients and offer protection for many species.

There is an equal amount of sites for beginners and for experienced divers. Conditions fromDecember through March are more difficult due to rougher seas and colder water. July, August, September and October are the calmest months.

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How to Get There

Direct International Flights - From UK -Manchester/Gatwick/Birmingham withThomson, from Belgium with TUI JetAir & Germany with TIUFly, from Portugal with TAP & TACV (Cabo Verde Airlines), and from Spain with TACV.

Internal Flights - To all islands except Brava and Santo Antao (go by ferry) TACV. To some islands with Halcyonair. Charter flights with Cabo Verde Express.

The Pier, Credit

Local buses or taxies are the most convenient ways to get around Sal. The buses do not have a proper time schedule, and go when they are full, but this makes them also cheap. A taxi is a bit more expensive, but quicker and more reliable.

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Where to Eat & Drink

Sal is by far the most developed island in Cape Verde, and there are a good number of restaurants to choose from. While Cidade dos Espargos is technically the largest city on the island, Santa Maria is best geared to tourists and has the majority of restaurants.

Food, Credit

A few favourites include:

 ▪ Gigi's Manera Cafe - Pizza and a couple of beers

 ▪ Bombay Brasserie - Starter, main dish & beer

 ▪ Baileys - English breakfast special

 ▪ Compad - Spag Bol or Chicken/Chips & beer

 ▪ Papaias - Steak & chips

 ▪ Morabeza - Vegetarian Thai curry & beer

 ▪ Chez Pastis - for special nights

 ▪ Padaria (Bakery) - Slice of pizza and beer

 ▪ Barracuda restaurant – seafood

 ▪ Baraonda restaurant – steak & chips

The nightlife on Sal is more lively than on other islands, and Santa Maria has the most bars and clubs.  A few local favourites include:

 ▪ Calema bar – nightclub

 ▪ Ocean’s – bar & restaurant

  ▪ Pirates – bar & discoteque with occasional live music.

Larger hotels outside of town also have bars and clubs that are geared more to a foreign market.

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Other Activities

While lodges on Sal operate largely on an all inclusive basis, there are a number of activities that can be done independently, or with the assistance of a lodge.

Exploring the town of Santa Maria on foot offers a taste of Portuguese and African cultures on the island.

A day trip to the old salt mines – Pedra de Lume – offers an insight into the island’s salt-based history. Although no longer functioning, it's possible to take a bath in the salt water here. Manicures are also available at one of the many spas in Santa Maria.

Jetskis in Santa Maria,Sal, Credit

If looking to explore the barren landscapes inland, rent a quad bike or join a tour, see numerous dunes and rocky outcroppings. Otherwise, stick to the coast and try kite boarding or wind surfing. Water scooters and jet skis are also available to rent.

Quad Biking, Credit

The bubblemaker and discovery diving programs are available for kids who want to try scuba. Snorkelling excursions are suitable for families with non-divers. 

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Insider Tips

A lot of items such as shell, shark jaws and coral are sold illegally. Watch out for those.

Be prepared for higher prices on Sal. Nearly everything is imported into Cape Verde.

Windsurfing, Credit

There is no hyperbaric chamber in Cape Verde. The nearest is in Dakar, Senegal on the continent – 280 miles from Cape Verde.

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Rating 10/10

relax dive cabo verde

Sal1 Apr 2017 - 7 Apr 2017


Our purpose at RELAX and DIVE CENTER is to help you to visit the underwaterworld from the beautiful sea from Cabo Verde. We are an inspired team sharing our passion. We offer high quality PADI dive courses and professional dive guides.

Jose Magalhaes

very good experience, very good staff very professional, fun and safe.

Rating 10/10


This is one of the ships that have been wrecked in Santa Maria bay. Santo Antão was a cargo ship 14 crew, built in 1957 in Lisbon. The ship had a length of 53.30 m (with maximum beam of 9.02 m, Draught 3.35 m at the bow and stern Draught 3.63m). Santo Antão was carrying goods between the various islands in the Cap Verde Archipelago. Sunk during a storm to hit a reef near the shore of the island of Sal in 8 January 1966. A short, 8 minutes boat ride from Riu Hotel bay with Scuba Caribe Diving Center. The dive with depths ranging 7 to 11metres, visibility is between 8 and 30 metres. For lovers photography, the extraordinary diversity of fauna, a sanctuary of porcupine fishes is truly impressive and makes this a mandatory dive.

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Gabriel Onus

Porcupine fish are very cute! Looks a nice site.

miroslav photo 1

Miroslav Karaicic

Excellent, finally we have some more info about our nice shallow wreck. :)


Nick T. Morrison

Looks like a good dive site and shallow too, so great light for photography and beginner divers.

Rating 10/10

Clean up Sal 2014

Beginning of June marked two important conservation days: 1. The World Environment Day and 2. The World Ocean Day. Numerous events have been organized around the world to raise awareness for our environment. The sad truth is that all this efforts don’t seem to be enough, as the problem is growing. One big issue is the ocean debris problem. Enormous chunks of garbage are floating in all our oceans collecting more and more debris via ocean currents, winds and continental sewage systems. Even if we would start today collecting and recycling all that amount of waste material, it would take years, even decades to clean the oceans. Unfortunately, the problem is not being addressed properly. One way of helping would be if every community, as small as it may be, would do its part in adequate garbage disposal and recycle use.

The Cape Verde Islands are not a main debris producer. Studies show that 400 000 kg of debris is left daily on all the Cape Verde Islands (Ferreira, SEBRAE, 2012), that is 0.8 kg per citizen. Of course, a huge part of this is tribute to the tourism industry, over 400 000 tourist arrivals have been counted already during 2012, and the number is growing (data.worldbank.org). Yet, Cape Verde does not have a working garbage recycle plant. Most of the debris is still burned or buried, that is how far environmental awareness is reaching us.

Scubacaribe and SOS Tortugas have made the effort and cleaned the beach and ocean during June. Dive sites Ponta Preta and Jardim, just in front of the Riu Funana hotel, have been attended. Our colleagues from the SOS Tortugas have done a great job on Serra Negra, the south eastern beach of Sal. Over 700 kg of debris have been collected there in one single day. And that is after the cleaning was done during May and April as well. The beach on the south western side Ponta Preta are much better maintained, thanks to the daily attendance of the hotel staff. Only 30 kg of debris was found there by our divers. That is good news!

07 debris 1 09 debris 3 10 debris 4 16 group photo
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Mike Bednarz

Nice work Miroslav & Scubacaribe team! Waste in the ocean is such a big problem and with a couple billion people though out the world increasing in wealth increasing their consumption (and consequently their refuse) it is hard to see how this is going to get better without broad international action on waste management and protection of the sea.


Rich Ward

Good stuff :)


Dawn Hadsell

Yeahhh! :) 700kg is a lot of junk!

Rating 8/10

Excellent diving with turtle

Sal25 May 2014 - 25 May 2014

As we are now approaching the mating season of the loggerhead turtles, it is now possible to observe the adults species during diving.

Recently, we made a dived on the Farol Reef with 4 certified divers, Germans and French.

The Farol Reef is a gorgeous reef near the coast, maximum depth 18m with some drop formacion, overhang and small caves.

The visibility was great, with approximately 15m, tempeature of water was 24°C degrees, and there was a low current.

We planned to do a drift dive, and we came across the first big turtle (longgerhead). It was an adult male approximetly 1,5m long. He was passing by along the divers and after 20 minutes we saw a very nice young (green turtle) who posed for the photographs.

Towards the end of the dive and with 45 minutes of time, we found another turtle (female adult loggerhead) in a small cave. She was approximetly 1m long and with some injury, probably caused by propellers of boats. This is an example of why we should raise awareness of the importance of protecting and respecting marine life.

At the end of the dive all of the divers were happy and satisfied.

See you in the next dive!!!

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Showing 3 of 5 comments. Show all

Vandra Allison

Thank you, ive been looking at Canons vs Panasonic Lumix, i think i will start with just the camera and work up to external flash and strobe :)


Nick T. Morrison

Great photos Ivonilson!


Ivonilson Gois


Rating 9/10

Boris wreck

Sal16 May 2014 - 16 May 2014

We started the dive with some current, though it got weaker during our bottom time on the wreck. Our three experienced divers, Nathan, Alan and Danijela, were able to spot the capeverdian sea breams on the stern of the wreck, a stingray lingering along the bottom, and many other species, like the porcupinefish, goatfish, grunts.

We started close to the bottom, at 28 meters, swimming around the wreck. Its length of about 25-30 meters allows divers to turn around it even three times. That way, the best parts of the wreck can be observed. We progressed shallower first to the deck at 20-22 meters, where we found a lot of the above mentioned fish life. We finished the dive close to the chimney and the part that once was the bridge, where the captain controlled his ship. Neutrally buoyant, we were enjoying the view of the wreck below us. As we had some good visibility, from the bridge itself we were able to see both the stern and bow of the Boris wreck. It is quiet rare to have a view on the whole wreck, so we appreciated this opportunity.

As after every deep dive, we respected the safety stop at 5 meters, waiting on the ascent line. After surfacing we were lucky to spot some dolphins approaching our boat, jumping next to us for some 3 to 4 minutes. After a great dive done, we relaxed on the boat during the surface interval, before making the second dive of the day at Farol. Ready for the next adventure!

boris foto 1

Danijela-Leca Podlipec

It was really fascinating!

Jonas Frueh

Very good. I hope one day to dive this wreck.


Hayden Hindley

Look fab! :) Makes me want to do more wreck dives.

Rating 8/10

Sant'Antao wreck

Sal11 May 2014 - 11 May 2014

A Nice dive on the Sant'Antao wreck in the south of Sal, Cape Verde.

Beautiful dive on this shallow dive site perfect for all levels. A lot of marine life there including pufferfish, parrotfish, stingrays, nudibranchs, soldier fish, turtles...

I dove there with ScubaCaribe sal, excellent dive centre, I recommend it to everyone.

Good bubbles...

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