Official name : Republic of Cape Verde
Area: 4,033 square kilometers (1,557 square miles)
Highest point on mainland: Mount Fogo (Pico de Cano) (2,829 meters/9,281 feet)
Lowest point on land: Sea level
Hemispheres: Northern and Western
Time zone: 10 A.M. = noon GMT
Longest distances: 332 kilometers (206 miles) from southeast to northwest and 299 kilometers (186 miles) from northeast to southwest
Land boundaries: None
Coastline: 965 kilometers (598 miles)
Territorial sea limits: 22 kilometers ( 12 nautical miles)
Cape Verde is an archipelago (chain of islands) off the coast of West Africa. The country consists of ten islands and five islets (small islands) located in the North Atlantic Ocean just west of Senegal. The islands are generally divided into northern (Barlavento) and southern (Sotavento) groups. With a total land area of 4,033 square kilometers (1,557 square miles), the country is slightly larger than the state of Rhode Island. The country is divided into fourteen districts.
Cape Verde claims no territories or dependencies.
The cold Atlantic Canary Current, in the Atlantic Ocean, creates an arid (almost no rain) atmosphere around the islands. Cape Verde has two seasons. Rainfall is scarce and generally occurs in the latter half of the year. Annual precipitation is only about 13 centimeters (5 inches) in the northern islands and 30 centimeters (12 inches) in the southern ones. Droughts (periodic lack of rainfall) often last for years and can devastate the environment.
|S EASON||M ONTHS||A VERAGE T EMPERATURE|
|Winter (dry)||December through June||21°C (70°F)|
|Summer (slightly rainier)||July through November||27°C (81°F)|
Though the Cape Verde islands were formed by volcanic activity, there is currently only one active volcano (Mount Fogo, also called Pico de Cano) on the islands. Most of the islands are mountainous with steep cliffs and ravines. The two districts of Barlavento and Sotavento were determined by the direction of the prevailing northeasterly winds. Barlavento lies windward (closest to the direction from which the wind blows), while Sotavento is leeward (the direction to which the wind blows).
The islands of Cape Verde are completely surrounded by the waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. The cold Canary Current runs adjacent to the islands, providing an ideal environment for a fishing industry. The Canary Current is so named because it flows southwestward from Spain through the Canary Islands. The waters around Cape Verde support vibrant colonies of aquatic life, including parrot fish, barracuda, moray eels, several species of whales, dolphins, porpoises, and turtles.
Cape Verde has several fine harbors, with Mindelo on São Vicente being the principal one.
The Barlavento islands of Cape Verde include Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia (uninhabited), São Nicolau, Sal, Boa Vista, plus two islets. The Sotavento islands include Brava, Fogo, São Tiago, Maio, and three islets.
The beaches at Baia das Gates on Boa Vista are the most popular among tourists.
There are no significant lakes in Cape Verde.
Because of the general drought-like conditions of the islands, there are no significant rivers in Cape Verde. Several small temporary streams may form after heavier rainfalls. There are four islands that have year-round running streams, but these contain very little water.
Because of Cape Verde's relatively cool climate, its barren, dry islands are not classified as desert.
With drought, cyclones, volcanic activity, and problems with insect infestation, Cape Verde's land problems are recurrent. Only 11 percent of the land is arable (able to support agriculture) and excessive soil erosion has occurred from raising crops and grazing animals on land that is too arid for such purposes.
Except for the low-lying islands of Sal, Boa Vista, and Maio, the Cape Verde islands are quite mountainous with both rugged cliffs and deep ravines. The highest areas receive the most moisture, not as rainfall, but from the condensation of moisture that accumulates off the slopes of the mountains from the Atlantic currents. The terrain is able to support lush vegetation and trees that are typical of both temperate and tropical climates.
The highest peak in Cape Verde is Mount Fogo (also called Pico de Cano), located on the island of Fogo. Mount Fogo stands 2,829 meters (9,281 feet) high and is the only active volcano on the islands, erupting most recently in 1995.
Deep ravines interlace the cliffs and mountains of the country.
There are no plateau regions on Cape Verde.
There are no major man-made structures affecting the geography of Cape Verde.
Irwin, Aisling, and Colum Wilson. Cape Verde Islands: The Bradt Travel Guide. Old Saybrook, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 1998.
U.S. Department of State. Background Notes, Cape Verde . http://www.state.gov (accessed June 13, 2003).