Know. Involve. Protect. These are the pillars that inspired the creation of TrekSal: Caminhada Pela Terra, a three-part hike around Sal’s outermost perimeter. Designed in partnership with City Hall, TrekSal's mission is to inspire exploration of the rich biodiversity and breathtaking views Sal has to offer. A small but hearty team, the trekkers embarked on the first stage late Friday afternoon from the end of Igrejinha beach. For most on Sal, this part of Santa Maria’s perimeter is treated as the final frontier. But for this weekend’s TrekSal team, it was just the beginning.
After checking in, distributing supplies and snapping a quick photo, trekkers set off in hot pursuit (both literally and metaphorically) of their destination – the sleepy town of Pedra de Lume. Arriving on Serra Negra beach just before dark, the team settled in for a presentation from Protected Areas’ resident technician Helia Dos Santos. Contrary to popular perception, Sal island is home to a vast array of wildlife beyond just the iconic Loggerhead sea turtle, with 11 regions designated as natural monuments, reserves, or protected areas that play a critical role in preserving the island’s unique biodiversity.
Sheltered from the coastal winds in tents provided by the local military base, Helia shared her knowledge of the island’s flora and fauna, highlighting the particular sights the team would see along the way. With a few months to go until the start of the turtle nesting season, her insights focused primarily on the island’s breeding population of migratory birds and Lemon Sharks, whose pups make their home in the shallow waters of Parda Beach, aptly nicknamed named Shark Bay.
In early hours of Saturday morning, the team embarked on the trail that occupied the bulk of the trek – the roughly 12 km journey from Serra Negra to Pedra de Lume. Along the way, the Project Biodiversity team shared more about Sal’s migratory bird populations, which includes Osprey (known in Portuguese as Guincho) and the Rabo de Junco, or Red-billed Tropicbird. Just last month, the data collected as part of Project Biodiversity’s led to an impressive discovery – that Sal was home to the most important breeding site for the West African population of Red-billed Tropicbirds.
After five hours of walking (with intermittent breaks in between), Trekkers triumphantly reached Pedra de Lume late Saturday afternoon, taking Sunday to commemorate Earth Day with a quick cleanup along the beach. With the first stage of TrekSal complete, it was time to head back to Santa Maria.
What’s next for TrekSal? For Project Biodiversity and its partners in City Hall, it’s time to look ahead to stage two. With Sal as both a haven for innumerable wildlife and a hub for an ever-growing Cape Verdean community, this walk represents a convergence of the two, its aim to take the sense of pride many exude when speaking about Nha Terra – a popular Creole phrase meaning “Our Land” – and harness it to inspire collective action. With two more stages to go, there’s hope that the discoveries made along this year’s TrekSal journey will transform that pride into long-standing commitment to protecting the island’s natural resources.