As we paddled through the shallow water, baby lemon sharks swam around our feet, brushing against the rocks below.
The creatures are harmless to humans, but that doesn’t make them any less scary when their fins break the surface of the sea.
We were in Shark Bay, on the east coast of the island of Sal in Cape Verde, where my boyfriend, my son and I had come in search of sunshine, blue skies and (most importantly) reliable HOT weather.
Cape Verde is definitely the place for those seeking winter sun, with average highs reaching 24°C in December.
And the best part is that, unlike distant sunny destinations like Florida, this collection of ten islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean can be reached in less than six hours from the United Kingdom.
The scorching sun is not the only reason to visit the Portuguese-speaking country, however.
For those who like a bit of adrenaline, there’s kitesurfing along the aptly named Kite Beach (you’ll need strong arms), as well as quad biking on the desert landscape that makes up most of the inner island .
But for us, our break was all about relaxing – and that’s exactly what we did on a four-hour catamaran cruise along the coast of Sal, where, far from shore, the waters were calm enough to bathe.
These beautiful beaches, as well as adventure activities and water sports, were all within a short drive from our hotel, the Riu Palace Santa Maria, in the south of the island of Sal and close to the seaside town idyllic Santa Maria.
The 5-star all-inclusive hotel is only a year old, and as a result our room – with a double bed and a sofa bed, as well as a spacious balcony – was brand new.
There are six pools, including a water park with several impressive slides, and five restaurants, two cocktail bars, a sports bar, a cafe, a spa, a gym and a kids’ club – enough for any vacationer to fly. -and-flop be extremely happy for weeks. on the end.
And even those who want more of an active trip won’t need to stray too far from the lounger, with hotel staff taking care of everything from water polo and painting to yoga. and shuffleboard.
If you fancy a change of scenery, take a leisurely half-hour stroll along the uninterrupted beach just behind the hotel to the seaside town of Santa Maria, where there is a strip of cafes and lively bars.
We had the best caipirinhas I’ve ever had — for the low price of £2.50 — at Ola Brasil beach bar, next to the pier.
And right next door is the popular LobStar Restaurant, which is perfectly placed to receive the best of the daily catch brought in by local anglers each afternoon.
Or, if Italian food is more your thing, head to nearby Leonardo’s, which is run by a brilliant Sardinian chef.
We ventured out to eat only two of our seven nights in Cape Verde, simply because the food at the Riu Palace was varied enough to keep us all satisfied during the week.
The buffet restaurant, which also houses the breakfast and lunch offerings, offered everything from fresh fish cooked to order, Asian-inspired dishes, local cuisine, a selection of international cheeses and two dessert stations. And I must have counted at least ten different types of eggs for breakfast.
There was also a poolside snack bar for lunch and four sit-down restaurants in the evening, specializing in steak, Italian, fusion, and Japanese.
Drinks with meals are usually house white, red or rosé wine, or bottled beer, but a wide range of cocktails are available from the bars during the day and evening.
And the most surprising thing I discovered as a newbie to all-inclusive vacations? Full-size spirits optics in our room, plus an unlimited range of mixers.
Not that we did much damage – by 9pm we were too exhausted from all that fun and food.
GO: CAPE VERDE
covid: All travelers must complete an international travel form. Fully vaccinated arrivals or anyone who has a Covid recovery certificate do not need to take any tests. Unvaccinated travelers must provide proof of a negative PCR test, performed within 72 hours of departure, or a negative lateral flow, performed within 48 hours of departure. There are no rules for children 11 and under.
OBTAIN THE: Tui customers can save £100 per booking when they spend £750 on holiday from May 1 to June 30, 2022 with code RELAX.
STAY THERE: Seven nights all-inclusive at the 5H Hotel Riu Palace Santa Maria from £770 pp, including flights from Birmingham on June 7, plus transfers. The price includes a £100 discount. Check out tui.co.uk or visit your local Tui store.