The tropical wonderland of the Cape Verde Islands archipelago is situated some 200 miles off the west coast of Senegal

And, believe me, this should be on everyone’s list of places to cruise to. Each of the 10 islands we visited has its own identity in terms of landscape, culture and song.

Because of the influences of the Portuguese, Africans, Americans, French and the other peoples and cultures that have settled here, these islands have developed along the lines of their South American alter ego Brazil.  The people themselves are some of the friendliest and happiest I have met on my travels and have a deep love for music. The anchorages on most of the islands are so

shallow you have to land by Zodiac, which, in turn, means the larger cruise ships can’t stop here so the way of life, scenery and culture have remained virtually unchanged.

IMGOnce you get ashore and travel into the interiors, it is the amazing roads that you will remember. Millions of had laid square cobbles have produced mountain roads that cling to the side of high cliffs. Every now and then, they pass through gorges hacked through the rock, too narrow for cars to pass side by side. Suddenly, these gorges open to reveal mountain views that are breath taking, with villages perched precariously on cliff faces.

Perhaps these contrasts are best shown by the twin islands of Fogo and Brava. Separated by a short stretch of water, they are so infrequently visited they didn’t have the infrastructure for our entire group of 125 to land at once, so we split up in two groups

and visited them on alternate days. The relatively flat island of Maio, for example, has vast deserted beaches where some of us walked and swam whilst the birdwatchers went off to explore the saltpans.

IMGA Zodiac landing has to be made on the pebble strewn beach of Brava, often referred to as ‘The Secret Island,’ where the mist that can shroud its valleys and peaks allows the most beautiful of plants, such as bougainvilleas and hibiscus, to flourish.

Landing on Fogo was by a small jetty, with the island itself a huge volcano rising out of the Atlantic. The National Park is situated high inside a huge crater with a floor of black volcanic sand and solidified lava flows that the elements have carved into incredible shapes, dominated by the volcanic cone.

This may be a desert in the true sense of the word but people scratch out a living here and some of them actually produce wine. The vines grow singly as bushes scattered amongst the rich volcanic soil and produce a crisp white wine along with a red that we tried with our lunch at the small winery later.

IMGSao Tiago is the most African of the islands and is, at first glance, a bit disappointing with all its abandoned building projects. But, once you get away from this area, it is a box of delights. We visited the fishing village of Tarrafel, with the mountains looming over its white sand beach, where the traditional brightly painted fishing boats were drawn up in lines on the shore.

Fishing is important here and, when a group of us went off to explore the coastal village of Ponta del Sol on the island of

IMGSan Vincente, we stumbled across a small boatyard which was repairing and building the traditional local boats, with the

children of the family painting the designs on the hull.

To me, the most beautiful of the islands was St Antao, where high in the lush green valley of Paul villagers harvest sugar cane

for food, straw matting, thatching.

These islands really are something special – and now is the time to go and see them before tourism really gets a hold and changes them forever.