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A NEW PARADISE REVEALED

Looks like a piece of desert that was separated from the old Africa and floated into the Atlantic waters at the mercy of the trade winds to find its destination and anchor in a vacant area of the Cabo Verde leeward islands, between Boavista and Santiago islands. Here again, appearances are deceptive after all. The island of Maio started as a volcano that emerged from the Atlantic bottom nearly 200 million years, as determined by the scientists and, once asleep, the trade winds took in charge roughing, refining, planing until it resembled the continental desert places where they blow. In a capricious way, they left Monte Penoso in the plain, a name given due to access problems more than to the height, which does not reach the 500 meters.

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The production and export of salt was actually the economic activity that most influenced the development of Maio and the most important ever to date. For many centuries salt was the raw material essential to human life, an irreplaceable food preservative. Because of salt, wars were fought, a lot of blood gushed to consummate achievements, and empires ascended and fell. The territory of Maio proved to be generous in salt and although the Portuguese navigators had opened the door to the settlement of the island, the British were the ones who, between the sixteenth and the nineteenth centuries, managed the exploitation of this precious product exporting it to the whole world. 

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Pirates coveted the island; Francis Drake himself settled here and took military action to maintain the flow of business.  The decline of the salt industry and the drought phenomenon originated painful migrations over the past century. Pastoralism and artisanal fishing precariously ensured the survival of those who stayed in Maio and today the enjoyment of nature in its wild state begins to attract people of many origins, a movement that augur better times to little more than five thousand residents. The extensive beaches that surround the island, diving to experience stunning maritime flora and fauna environments, the discovery of nooks and unimaginable landscapes start to become famous across the world. Turtles still spawn on Santana Bay and other quiet places, long sandy beaches with names like Praia Preta (Black Beach) or Real, Pau Seco, Porto Cais, Morro mouth or Bitche Rotcha remain nearly deserts, the acacia trees that form the largest forest space of the archipelago, a man’s effort to soften the climate, increasingly have the company of new palm trees and coconut trees. In place of the old dormant volcano, the island of Maio is reawakening to the world.

 

WHERE TO STAY 

There are some Hotels available in the Vil­lage of Maio as well as in Morro, two tourist villages.

WHERE TO EAT 

Meat dishes are very popular in this (see box). Caldo de peixe, or fish soup, and bife de atum, fresh tuna steaks, lobster and seafood are also very much appreciated in the island. There are different choices of restaurants in the Village of Maio, as well as bars and restau­rants in the other small villages where you can eat.

SHOPPING

Lacework and weaving are the favorite craft activities of the inhabitants of the island of Maio. There is a weaving center in Calheta, an activity that has a fascination among the youth. There is a cooperative in Morro that produces interesting ceramic pieces.