Can u see beyond the beauty?


When holidaying in a paradise country, it’s rather difficult for one to see further than its beauty, especially in this high tech era when the mind is set up to think about those nice pics that will soon delve on social networks, making half of the world envious.

However, today, in order to show you how mass tourism and All inclusive offers can jeopardise an Island, I decided to strip myself –again- of any prejudice and guide you on a journey that will take us beyond the alluring beaches and endless dunes of my birth place Boa Vista, Cape Verde Islands.
Boa Vista came to the spotlight a couple of decades ago when the first Italians investors came over to the island.  Their arrival was announced in sorts as the beginning of success for the “Island of Dunes”, which for years was completely ignored and forgotten by the central government, though displayed an enormous potential.

It was only in 2007 that the international airport was inaugurated, and after that, the giants of the world tourism like Tui Travel found this gold mine.
It was a cunning plot set up to benefit the All Inclusive hotels and ignore the needs of an island that was still pleading for decent electricity and water supplier and where the healthcare was the poorest in the country.  Instead, the Minister of Tourism made people believe that was the right way to promote the island.
Now, let me show you what’s happening 7 years after.

Our first stop: Holandinha (little Holland )

Dump in Boa Vista Cape Verde Islands

Dump in Boa Vista Cape Verde Islands

I was taken by a friend who on our way warned me about the heart-breaking scene I was going to witness. So I knew it was nothing comparable to the Netherlands but quite the contrary. It was a huge dump where the hotel’s rubbish is sent and had became a source of food for some unemployed and pig farmers living nearby and using the scraps to feed their pigs and also feed themselves. The name -Holandinha- was just a fancy way to hide the shame of working and living in such a place. But what those people probably don’t know is that currently the Dutch and so many others western tourists are coming every day to the Island making Boa Vista the most important place for tourism. The figures show that the Island is the 2nd most important for the Cape-Verdean GDP. I wonder if we could fight against the tourism industry and the corrupted government who are trying to make us slaves and if we could explore our unique resources, we could be, indeed, like the Dutch: pedal freely in the right direction.
While I was digging into my future ideations, I knew the crowd there – women and young men – were getting ready for the next truck load.
As soon the truck popped up on the horizon, the youngest boys ran as if they were heading to grab their soul, I saw one crawling onto the dumping bed, his fellow friends queuing next to the car and preparing to fight for the first black bag to come out. In the past, one person was stabbed to death over a dispute for the food.
That day, things were more passive, the ladies were avoiding the first clash, moments later everyone seemed to be more comfortable in front of my camera and through the lens I saw their hands diving and digging for leftovers of lasagne, fruits, seafood rice avoiding things like dirty diapers and tissues.  The overwhelming scenes lasted minutes long and in between laughter and shouts I saw some feeding on a “pret a manger” sandwich, others peeling oranges and some already licking their lips after trying a creamy dessert, ignoring all possibilities of diseases.


Dump dwellers gathered

Most of them were from the main island, Santiago, drawn by the promises of a job in the tourism industry but instead, ended up living in the filthiest and poorest place I ever been.
I glanced at the scars on their hands from broken bottles, they told me, but I wonder for how long this system will wound their soul and leave them in this extreme poverty.
They are victims of a very lucrative and corrupted business called All inclusive Tourism which only allows them only to share the leftovers from western tourists.

Barraca – Bairro a Boa Esperança

Girl standing by her mum’s stall

Barraca is a slum located at the outskirt of Sal Rei “city” and it is home to more than half of the population in the island, which is estimated to be around 14 thousand. The first inhabitants of the neighbourhood came over 10 years ago to feed the system that was in demand for labourers but were forced to work for the hotels.
The island wasn’t prepared to deal with an overnight crowd of workers and because of the miserable wages at the hotels, people were force to illegally build their own houses despite the fact that Boa Vista is one of the most expensive places in west coast of Africa.
I used to avoid this reality until I realised I was ignoring 90% of the hotels’ workers. They come from different islands in Cape Verde likewise from Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, and Guinea Bissau.
They are adventurers who came to earn an average of 230pounds a month just to be chefs, gardeners, security guys and lifeguards at 4 or 5 stars hotels like Royal Decameron, Riu Karamboa or Riu Touareg.
William, a Ghanaian artist, took me through the grey unfinished houses of the slum, where everything was lacking; running water, sewage, toilets and where drugs and prostitution are easily accessible.

Little boy from the slum

Little boy from the slum

I saw kids playing on their own without their parents who, every day, from morning to evening, strive to make sure tourists have the holidays of their dreams.

The situation is Boa Vista is rather complicated. The healthcare is poorer than it was 15 years ago. It is unthinkable, for an Island with more than 10 thousands people, that there is no proper hospital.
According to the health ministry the population is not sufficient enough to justify a permanent specialist like a paediatrician, gynaecologist or cardiologist. If a woman needs to see a doctor for any reason, she would have to wait months, or if she can afford it, pay to fly to another island.
Obviously, within the hotel is another world, where a tourist’s life has more value and permanent foreign doctors provide 24 hour medical assistance.
Everything could be easily changed or avoided if the new generation had a proper education, but when I went to visit the primary and high school, I was shocked to see that the students were using the same facilities I used 25 years ago. Although the teachers hold a strong yearning to get the pupils on track, are limited by the absence of books and computers.
The system is so old-fashioned; on average each classroom has 33 students, where they spend only four hours a day in class, without reading a single page of a book, the start of an education that could change their life.

Freddy at the school

Freddy at the school

When you look at the education system you understand why people cannot fight for more. The football might be free to keep people entertained, but access to more crucial information is denied due to the absence of newspapers or a free local Radio. Those who might be willing to speak out are afraid of retribution by local authorities and as well hotel managers. There are cases of indecent assault and racism at the hotels but authorities are turning a blind eye, choosing to view the situation as perfect.

The tourism industry is monopolised by the giant TUI Travel, that uses all its power to guarantee huge profit margins.
Tourists in all inclusive hotels can even leave their wallets at home, and if they chose to undertake activities like whale watching, diving, tours around the island, the money will remain with the foreign agency belonging to TUI travel.


I left my country outraged that my people are being treated like second-class citizens by the government and barbarically exploited by investors.
In a country where a huge percentage of the population can speak more than 3 languages, somehow the situation has left them mute in articulating the words of freedom.
Nevertheless, as one of them, I found an inner strength to cope with this heartbreaking situation and write about my birthplace without any prejudice. It is another warning of what can happen in a country without a proper education system, from which people can be empowered to fight for their rights. The responsibility extends to foreigners to think about how to book your next holidays to make it sustainable for the people of the country. I urge you to see things from a different angle, see beyond the beauty.

Nelvino Lima

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10 Responses

  1. Susana says:

    Hi Nelvino! I understand and share your outrage. I agree that tourism should benefit mostly the people from the hosting country. I also think that it’s indecent what is happening in Cape Verde and in many other countries too. Unfortunately, this is not exclusive to CV, Haiti for example. People should not be humiliated because they want to feed themselves.
    I also think that it’s very important to expose these situations.
    However, simply exposing them is not a solution in itself. On the contrary, by exposing without proposals for solutions, we’re risking making it look normal. When you’re exposed to a reality too often, you just accept it as being the way it is. I’m pretty sure that this is not what you’re trying to achieve.
    Having worked a couple of years in the volunteering sector, I believe that the best form of aid you can give to a country is to provide them with business. But not just any business, it needs to be fair on both sides.
    I do think that the tourism industry can definitely help, especially when you have tourism operators working within a responsible travel framework.
    Now, given all my points above, my question to you is: could you perhaps suggest a list of hotels in Cape Verde that operate within a responsible travel framework?
    I do not think that simply closing down these hotels will do any good. In fact, I think it will do more harm than good.
    What is needed is to alert western tourists (which you’ve done just now) AND provide alternative solutions; and then, you’re creating a business trend. :)
    Take care!

    • Nelvino Lima says:

      Hey Susana…
      You’re absolutely right regarding the closing down of the hotels n it’s not what I want to happen – it’s too late and never mentioned it.
      What I do emphasized here is this sort of tourism should never exist in Boa Vista and should be avoided – in Maio for instance – which will be the next island to host this kind of business.
      It’s important to find solution for this situation, and here we all have to work together, however, when a majority of the people in Cape Verde and abroad think the country is a paradise, and when the people who play an important role on this business sell Boa Vista as a perfect place, I am in favor of exposing the reality to wake people up and create consciousness.
      I don’t think I am risking make it look normal because an overwhelming majority of the people (Western tourists, Cape-Verdeans abroad and locals) have no clue about what’s happening in Cape Verde nor reports about this situation are easily available.
      Last year I realised that locals were accepting extreme poverty and exploitation as natural consequence of mass tourism and this prompted me to come back and film Boa Vista Beyond the beauty.

      Before u give people business they have to understand they’re not earning with the current one, otherwise they won’t take risk fearing the uncertain.
      Though not perfect, I reckon my work might inspire some people to help Cape Verde find will to demand for more.

      Susana, thank you very much indeed n keep in touch

  2. Daniel says:

    Hi Buddy, I believe you found the proper words to describe what happens there. When went there I was also wordless about the way things works there but I believe I didn’t see half of what you describe here and shows in the video. The articles is very objective and clear. People like you can make difference and I hope people will get your message. I’m proud of you my friend …..hugs

    • Nelvino Lima says:

      Thanks buddy…never thought this article and the video could have such an impact.
      I am glad people are responding positively and reflecting about the subject.
      Hopefully this and many others initiatives will bring inspiration to those who are willing to find a solution.
      Cheers mate

  3. Gerson says:

    Dear Nelvino,
    Congrats for this excellent view about the Tourism in Cape Verde. I meant Cape Verde because Boavista is an example of what happened in Sal and, as mentioned, probably will happen in Maio. What we ask is about the way Government’s thinking Tourism in the Islands. In such way, we have a few years to be transformed in a lost paradise in the Atlantic Ocean. There’s no management, inclusion of local population, territorial planning … etc! What a shame to be capeverdean, we need to change that. Hugs from Brazil

    • Nelvino Lima says:

      We can still act and we have to do it asap…we’ve a;ready lost some battles but not everything is gone…
      The central government, I reckon, is to be blame, but we all have to share this sad situation…
      Nowadays with all this social networks we can bring people to our side and start work on long term solutions.
      Thanks Gerson

  4. richard leary says:

    Hello Mr. Lima, Amilcar Cabral must be rolling over in his grave. Do all of the tourist hotels/resorts on Boa Vista dump their garbage in this way? Is this common/accepted practice on Boa Vista? What your film shows is not even a landfill. Simply an open area which I presume is a (the?) de facto dumping area. Is there an established system of garbage collection and disposal in Boa Vista which could/should be used? I would assume that CV has sustainable development, sustainable tourism and environmental protection policies in place. Are these simply not implemented/enforced? Easily waived or ignored by corrupt and/or incompetent officials? I know that this issue has been discussed in relation to CV as long as twenty years ago, though whether it has ever gotten beyond the talking stage to meaningful action is another matter. Have you ever made inquiries of the embassy of CV in England about this? I traveled to the beautiful island of Brava many years ago. Wonderful memories, but I was appalled by how so much (all?) garbage was simply dumped into the ravines. …Also, would you know if there are there any environmental activist/protection groups in CV? What are they doing about this, I wonder. Thanks.

    • Nelvino Lima says:

      Hey Richard…unfortunately Cape Verde is not a green place…recycling is not “yet” part of the culture…there is a rubbish collection but the final point is an opened dump (at least in Boa Vista) and as far I know there is no environmental plans to protect the land.
      Even in that dump I realised that used oil (apparently from the electricity supplier) have be dropped there as well.
      Protect the land from a contamination will have to be our next aim, though peeps are starting to be more aware, still a long path I am afraid.
      I came across smn who is filming the dumps in Cape Verde to raise awareness of the risk the country is taking by allowing hotels and all industries to get rid of the rubbish without any environmental concern…
      The biologists, who work with the turtles, do teach the young generation how to protect the animals and their habitats therefore the new generation is growing with a different perspective.
      Keep in touch…it’s always good to hear form people who do see beyond…

  5. Mia says:

    Hello Nelvino,
    I apologize in advance for writing across the way – google translate:-) but I can not speak much English and I wanted to write immediately and without having to wait for a translation from friends.
    So, now I saw your video on Boa Vista and I am from him pretty sad, especially when there in May I’m going on vacation – of course in Hotel Royal Decameron :-(

    please tell me how the “ordinary” girl help for poor people on the island? Please quickly’m leaving soon, and if I do anything to help, it will be ..

    Thank you – Mia

    • Nelvino Lima says:

      Hey Mia…The vid meant to raise awareness regarding the unsustainable type of tourism we have in Cape Verde but the main is that the majority of the tourists travelling to the Islands – especially Boa vista – are seduced by all inclusive offers rather than the BnB or “hostels” or even small hotels available in town.
      In my opinion when one book an All Inclusive Holidays to Boa Vista, the main way to help the local economy is lost cos whatever one brings it will be a small fraction of wht It’s needed. However, it is always good to hear that tourists are thinking about an alternative and as well willing to help.
      Next time, seek for a local experience which will allow you to witness the real cape VErde.