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Cape Verde: An All Inclusive Encounter

April 12, 2012

Flying low over Boa Vista – part of the wider known Cape Verde Islands off the West coast of Africa, I was instantly struck by the vast lack of greenery that stretched out below me.

I was touching down for a week of forced relaxation and it was something I had been both looking forward to and slightly dreading. I was excited by the idea of stretching out on the sand with a good book and soaking up those precious rays of sunshine, but it was what I would do if the sun decided to take a vacation of its own that worried me…

It was February half term and I was tagging along with some family friends on a ‘let’s just go and do nothing for a week’ type of holiday, which at the time appealed to me greatly – what could be better than starting the year with a golden tan and my batteries fully recharged.  I’m also a big fan of new experiences when on holiday and an all-inclusive hotel was definitely a first for me.

The 10 minute coach journey from the surprisingly small and very welcoming airport to our resort offered yet more sandy horizons dotted with the occasional palm tree. When we reached our hotel its size and grandeur was quite a contrast to the empty landscape surrounding it.

As we stepped off the coach we were met by an enthusiastic entertainment team, who welcomed us with a high-energy dance, complete with African percussion and what I assumed to be authentic Cape Verdean choreography. We’d yet to set foot inside the hotel and already I had a pretty good idea of what to expect from our stay – an injection of Cape Verde culture (they even had an evening performance telling the story of the Islands and their history) and an overall African slant on the conventional package holiday.

I was impressed with the décor of the hotel, which was all woodwork and wicker furniture, which felt very safari like and gave a nice authentic feel. The open plan complex had lots of areas for eating (including three themed restaurants), two outdoor swimming pools, a stage for daytime activities as well as evening performances and a vast expanse of beach, perfect for long runs or hours of sunbathing on the obligatory sun beds.

A typical day started with breakfast, which could be anything from a selection of fruit, pastries or a traditional English fry up and being new to the delights of an all inclusive, I enjoyed piling my plate high, safe in the knowledge that there was no extra cost (except the pounds that I would inevitably gain on my waistline!)

Next on the agenda was a very short walk to the beach to bag a well-situated sun bed, by which time the summons to a morning exercise class on the beach would resound out on a megaphone; ‘Takka Takka, Wakka Wakka, Jiggy Jiggy. No Stress!. Take it easy, No stress!” It was an entertaining way of revving up those that enjoy morning stretches, but at the same time it was a self-assuring mantra to those who couldn’t be bothered to get involved (i.e. me after an already guilty morning of eating pastries and toast!).

After the class, the day’s activities were announced, which were of course optional and ran throughout the day. Rifle shooting, volley ball on the beach or aqua aerobics in the pool were just a few of the things on offer and there were plenty of options for kids too. I have to admit I didn’t feel the urge to participate massively in these activities but I did give the aqua aerobics a try and I don’t think I was the only one who appreciated the toned and ‘motivational’ instructor, as I star jumped and flutter kicked along with what felt like every other woman staying at the resort.

Without wanting to sound prudish, I wasn’t a huge fan of the ‘organised fun’ vibe (which I’m sure is part and parcel of an all inclusive resort, at half term, filled with kids). That said, I could certainly see the merits of having optional activities on offer everyday, sparing you the stress of having to plan something for everyone in the family. I can also see the appeal of being able to relax on a beach knowing that your kids are off doing their own thing whilst being safely supervised by a very friendly and fun loving team.

I may not have minded all of this if I was able to take advantage of the ‘unorganised fun’ options available, such as swimming in the sea, body boarding or taking a scuba diving trip. But it just so happened that during our stay we encountered very strong winds that whipped up some huge waves, as a result we were only able to venture into the sea once during the week we were there.  I have since found out that strong winds and rough seas are to be expected here and should be taken into consideration before booking, especially if you’re hoping for a daily dip. This is a shame as, generally, I think the sea and all it has to offer plays a key role on these holidays – it provides an element of adventure in an otherwise easy going yet structured environment.  That said the conditions were perfect for experienced windsurfers and kite surfers of which there were many and of which, unfortunately, I am not (although lessons were available).

So in a nutshell, this is a great trip if all you want to do is lie down in the sun for a week with the mantra ‘no stress’ fully engrained in your psyche before you leave.  It’s also great if you have kids and crave a family holiday where everything is taken care of. However there are possibly places closer to home that could do the job just as well…although, travelling in February, you could be compromising on the high temperatures with places like Morocco or Egypt not being quite as hot. If it’s a bit of culture you’re looking for, this resort offers a sample of it but not necessarily enough to justify the long and expensive flight.

So going back to my original expectations, I did come away with a tan and a nicely renewed energy supply but ironically, I seem to find ‘stress free’ resorts a hard place to relax in and perhaps should wait until I have kids of my own before I can fully appreciate all that they offer. As a pursuer of all things new I did enjoy my experience but have certainly learnt a few things from it, including a little more about myself.

Stayed at: Club Hotel Riu Karamboa, Boa Vista Island, Cape Verde, Booked with: Thomson Holidays, Travelled during: February half term 2011, Remember: Visa required but can get it online.


From → 2011 Travels

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