For the avoidance of doubt, this page is in respect to scuba diving on the island of Sal, Cape Verde. There are other resorts within the archipelago islands, which are not covered here.
Although I have been coming to Sal since 2009 and became a qualified Open Water diver in 2012, I have only logged seven dives, four in July 2013 and three in January 2014. Unfortunately I did not have a camera in those days, so I do not have any photos to share. Of all, I have two most memorable images etched in my mind. One at Boya 32 and the second at Três Grutas.
This was my 49th log dated 8th July 2013 and first dive of the day. Entry was from a small Zodiac at 07.17am with dive duration of 42 minutes. Maximum depth 25.50 metres and average 19.15 metres. Water temperature was 21degC. Air in was 206 bar, air out was 57 bar with SAC rate of 14.62 L/Min.
The dive site is located to the west of the island, off the Mudeira resort to the south of Mont Leon. Descent was via a permanent shot. My log file quotes this as a “Goldfish Bowl” and has to be my favourite dive site here. The volcanic rock formations were an obvious black colour with a symmetrical cuboid shape. The plethora of aquatic life was abundant in a rainbow of colours and differing sizes.
This was my 48th log dated 6th July 2013 and second repetitive dive of the day. Entry was from the Zodiac at 13.06pm with dive duration of 62 minutes. Maximum depth 18.30 metres and average 11.17 metres. Water temperature was 22degC. Air in was 202 bar, air out was 54 bar with SAC rate of 13.43 L/Min.
A popular repetitive dive site for your second dive located off the south west of Santa Maria. Três Grutas translates to Three Caves, a rock formation protruding from the sea bed which is quite barren and desolate. I have dived this site twice and being frank, quite boring. You will free descend and swim in a clockwise around the area. As aforementioned, my first dive here has an etched in my mind, within one of the crevices was full of lobster. As I did shine my torch inside, there must have been 50 or 60 lobster inside, all reflecting the light from their eye refractive ray concentrators.
Precautions and Considerations
Firstly, from the dive companies I have spoken to, none of them can provide Nitrox. Obviously there shorter bottom times and longer surface intervals to consider. Secondly, there is no decompression chamber on the island. I have never been able to find out what is the remedy to any DCI. Thirdly there are some strong currents running and last, be aware of short surface intervals which may negatively impact non-stop, no-deco times on repetitive dives.
Although my experiences have been good on the whole, let me expand on two of the aforementioned precautions and considerations.The itinerary commonly followed is a morning trip, a two dive excursion with cylinder change and surface interval on the Zodiac where refreshments are served. I found that these surface intervals were rather short which reduced bottom time on the second dive. This was evident on my second dive to Três Grutas in January 2014 where around 20 minutes into the dive, where we had been between 18 and 22 metres for the duration, my NDL had reduced to 2 minutes. We had turned the dive begun the homeward leg. The issue was that the guide was still at the seabed, I assume protecting himself from the increased current. By buddy and I ascended to 15 metres and were finding it hard to fin. My SAC rate had increased to 28.74 L/Min and I could see the guide beneath carrying on without regard to group splitting, with one buddy pair clambering hand over hand over the rocks due to the current. My buddy and I deployed our DSMB and surfaced some 30 metres from the Zodiac. My observation would be that the short surface interval depleted my NDL which mandated an ascent to shallower level in an increased current after the dive was turned. The guide failed to keep a continued check of the group’s dive profiles and location.On 19th January 2014 we had dived a site called Pontinhā as dive one and I had decided to call dive two. After the surface interval, I remained on the Zodiac with the skipper. We had tied ourselves to a buoy, somewhere to the south west of Santa Maria, around the same area as Três Grutas and the skipper fell asleep. Forty, fifty and sixty minutes had passed and I was beginning to get apprehensive as to when the divers would surface. I cannot remember exactly the time, but the skipper was woken as a kite surfer came alongside shouting that the group had drifted eastward towards the pier. Detaching from the buoy, we powered towards the group who were still drifting at the surface with their DSMBs. I cannot understand Creole but for sure, the skipper was getting a right bollocking. Obviously he should not have fallen asleep. He should have kept and eye on the time direction of exhaled bubbles and supported the dive group.
Be aware that many of the photos on the dive companies promoted websites are stock photos. Nothing wrong in that, but other than Boya 32, I have found the diving here quite bland and probably the reason why I have not dived here since. My aforementioned dives and experiences are with one dive company only and not respective of all others. However, tidal flow and currents are not dive company specific and you should be appreciative of your surroundings. There are no coastguard services to rely on and skippers do not carry radios. So if their is difficulty, mobile telecoms or local vessels can be used to summon aid. Or kite surfers! Keep an eye on your NDL times on second dives and carry a DSMB. There is a lot of surface traffic around Sal, be they fishing boats, kite surfers, wind surfers or jet skies, so always deploy a DSMB on ascent and carry a noise making signalling device like whistle or inflator hose air horn.