What is the terrain and geography like in Cabo Verde?
A little over 500 years ago, early Portuguese explorers discovered an archipelago of ten islands just off the coast of West Africa (620 km./385 miles due west of Senegal) and about halfway between Portugal and Brazil. Because there was inadequate water, the islands had no permanent settlements at the time. The Portuguese Crown found the location strategically important, despite the water shortage, and established a colony called "Cabo Verde." The new colony acquired a population - Portuguese, other Europeans, and Africans (initially as slaves) - who soon intermarried and founded a Creole culture, with subsequent additions from the Netherlands, Morocco, and New England when Cape Verde became the refueling and crewing center for whaling vessels, as well as an entrepôt for other parts of Africa. These three elements - location (between Europe and the New World; off Africa but not part of the mainland), the lack of water, and the mix of peoples have continued to play a major role in shaping the history, prospects, and the sense of identity of Cape Verde.
The 10 islands, totaling about 4,033 sq. km., are volcanic and have limited arable land. Nine of them are inhabited. Santo Antão, São Vicente, Boa Vista, São Nicolau, and Sal, (plus the uninhabited Santa Luzia) make up the six Windward Islands, while Maio, Santiago (which contains the capital, Praia), Fogo (with a semi-active volcano), and Brava comprise the four Leeward islands. The total population, according to the 2000 census, is 434,812. Santiago Island (with the city of Praia) alone contains over half of the total population and Mindelo (the second largest city) on São Vicente accounts for an additional 15%.
Geography - note
Strategic location 500 km from the west coast of Africa near major north-south sea routes; important communications station; an important sea and air refueling site
In terms of climate, Cape Verde is part of the Sahel region. Annual dust storms, originating in the Sahara, tend to erode the windward side of the islands and bring seasonal harmattan or smog-like dust. The climate otherwise is superb, with sub-tropical temperatures mediated by the surrounding water and the prevailing north-westerly winds. The average temperature in Praia is 75 degrees F (24.4°C), but summers are hot and humid. The range of monthly averages is from 72°F to 79°F. Rainfall is almost absent even in normal year-average precipitation is less than 10 inches. In addition, Cape Verde suffers periodically from drought. For 10 years, from 1989 until 1999, Cape Verde suffered severe drought, receiving less than half the average amount. In 1999 and 2000, the drought was relieved by a normal wet season (August to October.)