Cape Verde is an archipelago and is located in the North Atlantic Ocean, approximately 604 kilometres (375 miles) off the coast of West Africa and is due south of the Canary Islands. It is made up of ten islands (of which nine are inhabited) and eight islets. The islands have a combined size of just over 4,000 square kilometres (2,500 sq miles) in area with an estimated population of over 500,000 people. Cape Verde is named after Cap Vert (meaning Green Cape) in Senegal, the westernmost point of continental Africa.

    The islands are divided into two sections, the Barlavento (windward) islands and the Sotavento (leeward) islands. The Barlavento Islands are Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, and Boa Vista and the Sotavento Islands are Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava. Santiago is the largest Island, both in size and population and is home to the capital city, Praia.

    Cape Verde boasts West Africa's highest standard of living as a result of a stable political and economic system. The population is made up of a good mix of African and Portuguese heritage. The official unit of currency is the Cape Verdean Escudo (CVE), which is made up of 100 centavos. It was linked to the euro in 2002. Most businesses also accept US dollars and euros. Portuguese is the official language but people also speak Crioulo, an Africanised Creole Portuguese. The flag of Cape Verde consists of two white horizontal stripes above and below a red horizontal stripe in the lower half of a blue field. A circle of ten gold stars representing the major islands is centred around the red stripe on the hoist side.

    According to the UN, the local population in Cape Verde is approximately 500,000 inhabitants (2009). The number of Cape Verdeans living abroad is higher than the resident population, estimated at over 600,000, although in recent years there has been a marked change with greater numbers returning to the Cape Verde islands. The level of education has improved at an interesting rhythm; 88% of children enrolled in primary school and 78% enrolled in secondary school and over three quarters of the population are literate.

    Since 1975, Cape Verde has presented very high indexes of economic growth. Political stability, investment in education and financial support from emigrants have been the main reasons for this success, but now tourism is the predominant industry in Cape Verde, and as such has become a major contributor to the country's economic growth.

    The Climate
    Cape Verde's climate is milder than on the African mainland, being islands there is the natural air conditioning provided by the coastal winds, making the temperature more moderate. Average temperatures during the day, range from 25°C in January the coolest month, to 30°C in September, the hottest month. There are two seasons: December to June is cooler and dryer and July to November is warmer. Cape Verde is part of the Sahelian arid belt but doesn't have the rainfall of nearby West Africa. It does rain irregularly between August and October and the showers are heavy, frequent but very brief.

    Average Temperature°C
    Facts Climate

    Flora and Fauna 
    There are trees typical of both temperate and tropical climates depending on the elevation. The only native mammal is the long-eared bat.
    Cape Verde's isolation has resulted in the islands having a number of native species, particularly birds. Many of these species are now endangered because of human development.

    Native birds include:
    Alexander's Swift
    Bourne's Heron
    The Raso Lark
    The Cape Verde Warbler
    The Iago Sparrow
    The Cape Verde Shearwater

    The islands are an important breeding area for many other seabirds.

    Native reptiles include the Cape Verde Giant Gecko.

    There are 5 different species of turtle who come and lay their eggs on the shores of Cape Verde on their way across the Atlantic, nesting generally takes place between May and October. Diving is good here and there is a wide variety of fish to see. This includes many tropical species such as parrot fish, angel fish, groupers, barracudas, moray eels and manta rays. There are also sharks to be spotted including the nurse, tiger and lemon.

    The Cape Verde diet is mostly based on fish and staple basics like rice and corn. Vegetables such as potatoes, onions, tomatoes, manioc, cabbage, kale and beans are available most of the year. Fruits are widely grown, banana and papayas are available year round and seasonal fruits include mangos and avocados. Cape Verdean food is essentially Portuguese, but some dishes are unique to the islands. A popular dish served in Cape Verde is Cachupa and is often referred to as the country's national dish. It is a slow cooked stew of corn, beans, and fish or meat (sausage, beef, goat, or chicken); each island has its own regional variation of this hearty stew. One of the most delicious dishes is pastel, it is a mix of fresh tuna, onions and tomatoes, wrapped in a pastry blended from boiled potatoes and corn flour, deep fried and served hot. There are many different types of Lagostadas (a lobster dish) and seafood is plentiful. Soups are also popular, a common favourite is called caldo de peixe (fish stew), it contains lots of vegetables and spices and is thickened with manioc flour. Other specialities include bananas enroladas (bananas wrapped in pastry and then deep fried) and manga de conserva (unsweetened chutney).

    The natural winds and the beautiful crystal clear sea around the islands make Cape Verde one of the best spots for wind surfing, kite surfing and deep sea fishing and diving.

    A true Cape Verdean way to get a crowd together is to have a picnic and TOCATINA, an impromptu music making session.
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