Category: Why Cape Verde Published on Sunday, 23 October 2011 17:52 Written by Super User Hits: 790
Maio is a flat sandy island. It has amazingly beautiful beaches and is a smaller version of Boa Vista. It is a quiet and peaceful place where life is at slower pace.
The island of Maio measures 268 square km, 24 km wide and 16km long. The highest peak is Monte Penoso at 437 meters.
It is hot, sandy and dry, yet contains the archipelago's largest forest park. The North of the island is flatter than the South, owing to its susceptibility to erosion from the wind.
The island is home to just 5,500 people. The capital of the island is Vila do Maio.
For several centuries it was used almost exclusively for the breeding and grazing of goats.
In the 17th century, the island became one of several centres of Salt collection, an industry which benefited greatly from export to Brazil, and many Cape Verdeans came here from other islands.
In the following century, English merchants also became involved in the trade, and at one point as many as 80 English ships passed through Maio every year. Vila do Maio became known as “Porto Ingles”, the English Port.
It is thought that a significant number of slaves were sold from Maio, to be taken across the Atlantic to Barbados and other Caribbean plantation islands.
Maio was attacked frequently by pirates, and eventually a fort was built in the 1800s.
As the years went by, however, salt was not enough to sustain the island's residents. Some of the population left Maio, many for overseas, driven by drought and famine.
Infrastructure and Development
Maio is served by a domestic airport and by boats from the neighbouring islands. Its close proximity to Santiago and Boa Vista makes up for the lack of an international airport.
Because of the small population, infrastructure development has been at a significantly slower pace than on some of the other Cape Verdean islands. Electricity and clean water can sometimes be in short supply.
There is a bank, and a car-rental outlet, and some shops. A new hospital is under construction.
The main port is in Vila do Maio which is a small fishing town with a modern harbour.
Property Investment and Developments
It has been wonderful to get to know the pioneers of the property market in Maio. Property development has mainly occurred on the edges of Vila do Maio and at Morro.
Property investment has been limited, but constant over the last few years.
The attraction on Maio to property investors is principally that it is still in the very early stages of development and prices are still very cheap.
Economy and Agriculture
Fishing is the main industry on Maio. There are also ranches where sheep, goats and cattle are raised.
Tourism is fairly recent and still somewhat underdeveloped. The new international airport in Praia, Santiago, will certainly help the development of the island.
The key attraction for visitors to Maio is its seemingly endless beaches and the peace and quiet it offers.
The coastline is beautiful. Totally unspoilt and unpolluted. Maio offers a real sense of tranquility. In this sense there is great potential for tourism here.
There are some water sports available, but in general there are less amenities and facilities than Sal, Boa Vista or Sao Vicente.
There is plenty to do on Maio for keen fishers and bird watchers.
There are a few things worth seeing on the island such as the impressive Salt Pits and the Oasis at Ribeira do João. Vila do Maio is a lovely small town with its fortress and pretty flower gardens. A visit to Morro by 4x4 is also recommended.
Maio offers the visitor wonderful fresh meat and fish, in particular goat meat and shellfish. Local dishes such as the goat stew, pickled turtle eggs, and local cheese with dates or melon, should not be missed.
Culture and People
The Creole people of Maio live in small, tight-knit communities, with a strong sense of tradition. They are very friendly and welcoming.
They are people whose lives are profoundly affected by their environment. Many have battled drought and famine to stay in their homeland.
In recent years there has been some immigration to Maio from Santiago, as opportunities for tourism increase funded primarily by property investment.
Nature and Wildlife
Maio is one of the few islands which a rare breed of turtle choose to nest. They can be found on Baia de Porto Cais and Praia Real.
There is some unique vegetation on Maio and the local birds are famous for living long periods, sustaining themselves only on insects.