Think back 10 years ago.
Had you heard ofCape Verde? Not quite African and not quitePortuguese, a vibrant mix of both worlds.
The islands of Cape Verde are asbeautiful as they are mysterious.
It was the transatlantic slave trades that putthese islands on the map and ten years ago, TUI put them on the tourist trail and the industry boomed.
It's no surprise butthe constant beat of traditional music, turquoise seas, sandy beaches, world-classsurf and surreal lunar landscapes.
I've been given the opportunity to travel2, 700 miles across the Atlantic to visit Sal, an island steeped in history andnatural wonders, where suddenly there are more tourists than locals.
I want to engage with its people, absorb its unique culture and at this mostcritical time in our planet's history, dig deeper into the reality of tourismand learn how we as tourists can improve the way we travel to ensure asustainable future for an industry we all love.
We've been guided along the wayby two amazing charities; the TUI Care Foundation and the Travel Foundation whowork closely with local businesses and hotels.
This trip was to become one ofthe biggest eyeopeners of my travels to date.
So let's go back to the beginning.
At Holiday Extras we believe in making simple choices to improve the way wetravel, to find solutions that benefit the environment and lessen our negativeimpact on a destination so our journey began in an airport lounge at Gatwick, ideal if you're trying to avoid buying plastic whilst filling up on deliciousfood before your flight.
We chose to fly direct to Sal with TUI Airways, theworld's most carbon efficient airline.
And upon landing we were met by ourprefect transfer driver who took us straight to our greener hotel on thesouthwest coast of the island.
So we're starting our day having breakfast with aview.
It kind of reminds me of what the moon would look like.
It's very rocky butthat view is just gorgeous and we're not wasting any time, we're starting todaywith an island tour an d this is with the company called Explore CV, and I'mreally looking forward to seeing what today has an offerBooking an excursion on a trip can be the highlight of any holiday but we wantto emphasize the importance of finding a responsible tour company.
Explore CapeVerde were recommended to us by the Travel Foundation for being passionateabout the island's wildlife, whilst providing eco-conscious excursions.
Webooked on an island tour and our tour guide Jordi was a knowledgeable marinebiologist.
The tour started in the coastal town of Santa Maria at thefishing pier which is the soul of the island.
Jordi showed us around andexplained that the fisherman returned around 11:00 a.
every morning to theirwives who are waiting at the pier ready to sell the catch.
If it's the locals fisherman's it is a sustainable fishing we also sell therights for the European Union to fish here in Cape Verdean waters.
CapeVerde got its independence in 1975.
As a former Portuguese colony, they absorbedthe Portuguese influence and their blood.
Mixed with the Africans who settled here, essentially created their own race Creole.
It's like cultural to jump from the pier.
If you come here and you didn't jump you cannot say that you've been in Sal.
The nostress lifestyle here it seems the whole time.
Next up we visited a natural reef, apopular feeding area for lemon sharks and a place for tourists to safely seethem in the wild.
You can rent water shoes to protect yourfeet from the rocks and carefully wade in to watch them hunt.
Jordi's care and consideration for the sharks was very clear, insisting we keepa fair distance as not to disturb them.
Other guides let their groups go as faras they wanted, some even chased the curious parts which reminded me of theimportance of booking with a responsible company.
This tour also included a lunch stop in the quaint fishing village of Palmeirowhich gave us a chance to sample some of the local delicacies, including tunasteak and some very strong local rum.
Geordie spoke to us about thetour guide training he'd received from the Travel Foundation.
He was telling ushow important the training is to run a conscious tour.
Whenever you're dealing with wild animals you have to have training and know how to behave with the wild animals to keep the guests safe as well, especially with Lemon Sharks you have to know how to behave.
I guess some guests might get over excited.
Yeah exactly, because everybody wants to be once you dive with sharks, want to be close to sharks so wheneverthey get there they can get start becoming a little bit excited and try toget closer and closer and closer but well in the end we are in their naturalhabitat so keep a safe distance try to don't touch them, to not feed thembecause that might change their behavior and as well feeding them there are somediseases they can develop so those are some advice.
But the tour wasn'tover yet.
After lunch we entered the inside of anextinct volcano to learn about the salt mines which used to be in operation.
Thereason why we have people here is because of these salt mines.
They decided to change the name of thisisland to Sal.
Sal means salt, it all makes sense! The salt produced here used to be exported to Europe to like Belgium colonies, French colonies but mainly to Brazil.
Nowadays this is a more a tourist point, tourist attraction.
Tourists can come here to have a floating bath and get ten years youngeryou know.
Similar to the Dead Sea, the water in the lake is dense with saltallowing you to effortlessly float.
The elements in the water are believed tohave healing properties for the skin and so the mines now act as a natural spa.
Feeling very relaxed, the sun was settingand we drove back down the island to make our last stop of the tour at thefamous kite beach.
Warm winds from the Sahelian belt sweep across from Africa, resulting in the eastern isles of Sal, Mayo and Boa Vista being flat anddry and a mecca for water sports.
We were so impressed with the tour that wedecided to book another one with Explore Cape Verde, but this time on sea.
Wesailed along the West Coast past the famous Ponte Preta surfing beach to thewaters of Monte Leao.
The best part was jumping off the boat and free divingamongst the colorful fish and shipwrecks.
Visibility here is amazing so if you'rea keen diver I would highly recommend it.
We had reached the halfway point of thistrip and everything we'd experienced so far had fueled my interest in theimportance of protecting wildlife from the impact of tourism.
Over the next fewdays we were to explore the topic further and meet with expertswho are working on the island to make it a better place to coexist.
We wereintroduced to a charity called Project Biodiversity, a group committed toconserving and restoring the island's unique ecosystems.
The organization workheavily to protect the turtles, which lay their eggs on beaches that are nowcovered in litter and surrounded by hotels.
We visited their hatchery and gota chance to see their volunteers dig up the nest they had recovered and watchedhundreds of baby turtles being saved.
The charity see a great importance ineducating tourists about the turtles to encourage support and donations.
They run talks at their hatchery in Ponta Preta.
Before taking the baby turtles to a safe release point on another part of theisland.
Island life seems idyllic doesn't it? Secluded paradise with guaranteedweather, golden sands and exotic flavours, but unfortunately there's a lot morebehind the perfect Instagram photo and Cape Verde is a great example of this.
Nothing grows on this island, they don't produce any of their own crops oranything.
Everything has to be imported from the other islands around Cape Verdeor from Europe.
Also water, I think the locals will drink water that'sbeing purified, you know sea water that's been purified, but for tourists it all getsshipped in bottles which is really sad by don't think there's any other wayaround it.
I'm not really sure how else you what else you can do with an islandthat has one day of rain a year.
The Travel Foundation's research highlightedthat hotels create almost half the total volume of waste sent to the island'slandfill, and that strong winds caused that wasteto be blown right across the island, littering the landscape and then at theocean.
You know they are believed to be nearly 50 thousand pieces of plastic inevery square mile of ocean, which can take up to 500 years to decompose.
But itdoesn't have to be this way, with a little planning you can make a hugedifference when you travel.
It can be as simple as packing reusable bottles andbags and choosing to stay in a responsible hotel that cares about theenvironment.
The TUI Care Foundation and the TravelFoundation have together been working on the Greener Hotel project.
We invitedDahlia and Ricardo from the Travel Foundation to talk to us a little bitmore about the project and the importance of choosing a greener hotelon your travels.
So Sal is one of the ten islands ofCape Verde and 9 have residents on them.
Just for you to have an idea, think about 80% ofwhat we consume is imported.
The visitors that you know we receive duringthe whole year sums up to the quantity of the population that this wholecountry has.
Tourism is a very very very important sector and brings a lot ofpressure because the waste is it's a natural byproduct you can say of tourism.
What Ricardo has been doing with the technical staff of the hotelsis finding ways that they can reuse and recycle the waste that is beinggenerated but especially finding out ways that we can prevent the waste infirst place.
So and then the TUI Care Foundation is our major funder for theCape Verde program which was a great support, bringing in the majority oftourists they have such a massive impact on this island so it's brilliantthat you guys are working together to make this happen.
With support of the Travel Foundation but also by themselves they have to come together and stand forthis island and for this mission.
So what we're trying to doright now is to create the momentum of continuity through the localstakeholders.
You give them like a little leg up.
exactly! Amongst everythingI've learned about sustainable travel, over our time here I can see why CapeVerde appeals as a brilliant holiday destination, especially if you're lookingfor some winter sun.
So if you're planning a trip here then here's alowdown on some useful tips to know before you visit.
The official currencyis Cape Verdean Escudo but it's a closed currency which means you can't bring itin or take it out.
However Euros are accepted everywhere here so we've foundthis to be the easiest currency to use and you're going to need to bring it incash because not everywhere accept cards.
You'll need a visa to come here and youcan get one of these online at least a week before you fly.
Failing that it willcost you 25 euros at the airport on arrival but just be warned, there mightbe a big queue when you get there.
Portuguese is the main language spokenhere the locals do also speak Creole which is a mixture between PortugueseAfrican dialects and some other European languages.
Now Sal is a really touristyisland so English is spoken pretty much everywhere especially in the hotels andon the excursions.
When it comes to food a standard dishthat you'll find in pretty much every restaurant here is fresh fish and a sideof potatoes or rice and it is delicious in fact it's caught fresh from theharbor just behind me here.
Now if you're vegetarian there isn't a great deal ofchoice but plenty of restaurants will serve pizza and pasta.
As we come to theend of our journey here in Sal, make sure you hit subscribe; we have loads oftravel guides on our channel and lots more exciting destinations to come.
And in Cape Verde they have this saying 'no stress' and it's so evident in thepeople and their culture but what is also really evident is the impact thattourism has had on this island.
We can help this beautiful place build itssustainability movement, help it become a marker for how other touristdestinations can reverse their negative impacts.
So come to Cape Verde and enjoywhat these colorful islands have to offer, sustainably.