Sal, Cape Verde IslandsFlat, dry, barren, brown, bare - fortunately for Sal, the fantastic beach at the end of the road in Santa Maria makes up for visitor's first impression as they travel south along the road from the Airport.
Like the rest of the Cape Verde Islands, Sal was uninhabited when the Portuguese discovered it in 1460. The only event of note over the following centuries was when Goats were dropped off on the Island during the 16th Century - what contribution they made to Sal's current barren state is open to question.
The Island was originally known as Ilha Lhana (Flat Island), however this changed to the current name after the discovery of salt deposits at Pedro de Lume (Sal means Salt).
The Boavistan, Manuel Antonio Martins, began exporting salt on a large scale (peaking at 30,000 tons per year) from the Island at the beginning of the 19th Century and the population of the Island grew as a result. This Industry went through several booms and busts before finally closing in the mid 20th Century. Saltpans and the rusty and decaying transport machinery associated with this Industry are in evidence around Pedro de Lume and Santa Maria.
In 1939 the Italians, under Mussolini, began the construction of the Airport on Sal, having purchased the rights to build the facility here from the Portuguese. Sal's location made it an ideal refuelling station for flights between Southern Europe and South America.
The Portuguese bought the rights back from the Italians after the second world war.
Until recently South African Airways used the airport for stopovers and refuelling, especially during the Apartheid years, when they were banned from flying over many African countries. The accommodation needs of SAA's flight crews contributed in no small part to the development of tourism on Sal.
Sal receives very little rainfall and if there is any rain at all, it will usually be during the 'rainy' season between August and October. Based on 30 year records, Sal receives an average of 33.6mm of rain in September (historically the wettest month) and 0.0mm precipitation in May (yes, 0.0!). In an entire year, rain occurs, on average, on just 10 days (compared to 33 in the Canaries and 145 in London!).
Water temperatures vary between about 20°C in the Winter and up to 27°C in the late summer.