Maio

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THE FLAT ISLAND

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THE FLAT ISLAND

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History

Discovered in 1460, Maio is part of the Leeward group, and is one of the flattest islands in Cabo Verde. Despite its volcanic origin, few vestiges of this geological history remain, as its highest peak is Monte Penoso, a mere 436 meters in altitude. According to official history, in 1462 the island already had a number of residents, mostly acting as shepherds or working on other chores and tasks.

The island was initially used to raise livestock, mainly goats. Its settlement only began in earnest in the late 16th Century as a result of the exploitation of its salt marshes, with the product being exported to other countries, such as Brazil.

Geography

The island of Maio has a total land area of 265 km2, and lies less than 22 kilometers from Cabo Verde’s capital, Praia. Despite being a rather arid plain reminiscent of a desert, this landscape contrasts with a large acacia forest, the result of a reforestation plan, as well as several verdant oases and a number of palm groves.

All around the island are extensive white sand beaches and a deep blue sea, with its most famous beach being Ponta Preta. The sand is brought from the Sahara by the wind, making the beaches perfect for sea turtles to lay their eggs during the annual nesting season, an event that has proven to be of great interest to tourists.

The largest settlement on the island is Vila de Maio, also known as Porto Inglês (“English Port”) due to the numerous British ships that used to dock there to load shipments of salt. The city is rather calm and exceptionally pretty, while its people are easy-going and hospitable. Maio is also home to one of the country’s oldest and most beautiful churches, as well as a number of colonial houses that harken to times gone by.

Not far from the town is a fort, known as Castelo de Maio, built in the 18th Century to defend the island against pirate attacks. Another must-see spot is Barreiro, where various colorful houses constitute a major tourist attraction.

Cuisine

The main local specialty is fish stew, made with the most delicious varieties of fresh seafood available, including sea bass and lobster. The dish also includes sweet potato, yam, manioc, potato and unripe banana, in a mouth-watering combination.

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