Maio – The Lonely One
Overview of the island
269 km² (the fourth smallest island)
Cidade do Maio (approx. 4,000 inhabitants)
Monte Penoso, 436 m
Maio, which is the southernmost of the three flat sand and bathing islands, as well as the easternmost island of the Sotavento. Wonderful beaches, many of which are deserted even today, sleepy villages with colourful little houses, some decorated with flowers, wandering goats and, above all, a great deal of peace and quiet await the visitor. It seems as if time has stood still on this pleasant corner of the world.
There is little vegetation on the island, but Maio is not just desert. Salt marshes in the north of the island, hilly landscapes, but also limestone valleys, acacia forests and coconut palms dominate the island’s landscape. Thanks to reforestation measures, Maio today even has the largest contiguous forest area in Cape Verde. As a result, charcoal can once again be produced in a charcoal kiln near Morrinho without endangering the tree population.
Even birdwatchers get their money’s worth on this island: sand larks, desert sandpipers, racing birds and even ospreys can be observed. There are terns and wading birds in the salt ponds near Cidade do Maio.
As there are always irregularities in the ferry connection between Santiago and Maio, the only reliable way to reach the island is by plane. Between the main island and Maio there are two to three weekly connections. It takes less than 10 minutes to fly.
With a population of about 4,000, the island’s capital Cidade do Maio is a tranquil village located in the southwest of the island on the Atlantic Ocean. With its main square and a baroque church with a wide staircase leading to the entrance and large towers, the centre is an inviting place for a stroll. The view from the large waterfront street is of the very beautiful town beach. Meanwhile, the 18th-century fort is a reminder of the town’s history. Cidade do Maio offers some nice guesthouses, guesthouses and flats.
All over the island there are beautiful beaches, most of them deserted. The beach already mentioned, that starts directly in the north of Cidade do Maio, is kilometres long and stretches further outside the town along the west coast via the village of Morro to Calheta. Praia da Ponta Preta, which borders the island’s capital to the south, is also worth a visit. There are also beautiful beaches to the north and east, which can often only be reached on bumpy roads or on foot, but they are less suitable for bathing because of the surf.
On leaving Cidade do Maio in a north-westerly direction, you first reach the village of Morro, surrounded by a grove of coconut palms. As already mentioned, there is a beautiful beach with fine sand. In summer, you can observe turtles here. However, you should keep a good distance, since the animals quickly feel crowded and then interrupt or stop laying their eggs.
North of Morro you reach Calheta, Maio’s second largest town. It is situated very beautifully on a bay and here you can see colourful little houses and a small square with a church whose white and yellow façade catches the eye. In between Morro and Calheta, there is a mountain range to the east with the Monte Batalha (294 m).
It is really lonely in the east of the island. Goat and cattle breeding is practised in the small village of Alcatraz. Not far away, in the vastness of the island, lies the idyllic chapel of Nossa Senhora do Rosário. On the south of the island, in the village of Figueira da Horta, farming is possible and the area is unusually green.