Gaspard Vynckier, a Belgian industrialist (one of the brothers who founded Vynckier Frères & Co. factory), and his wife Marguerite Massart (the first female engineer in Belgium), both Polytechnique engineers, initially visited Cape Verde in 1963.
The couple found it hard to put up with Ghent’s weather in the winter. Mr. Vynckier was in his seventies and his wife, who was four years younger, was stricken by asthma. The Vynckiers had travelled throughout Europe in search of a year-round steady weather. The Onésime Reclus Atlas, which Mr. Vynckier consulted, mentioned “the Cape Verde Islands with their delightful climate”.
The Vynckiers were mesmerized by Sal Island, which they reached by boat, via Badhurst, and decided to build their second home there.
Back in Belgium they started planning for a prefabricated house, which was shipped along with all the necessary materials , most importantly those intended for its independent energy supply.
The project was initiated in 1965.
The house was assembled by a team from Santa Maria along with some Belgian workers. An important technical part called a “distil” was set up (it’s still there to this day and the villagers continue to refer to it by this name), which included a woodworking shop, 4 generators and a solar water distiller (a system previously studied by Mr. Vynckier in Greece, which produced from 4 to 6 m3/day) that provided drinking water for the villagers for years.
The official inauguration took place on May 13th, 1967 in the presence of a number of leading figures; the governor of Cape Verde—Admiral de Sacramento Monteiro, the Sal Island administrator—Mr. João de Deus Maximiano, Dr. Ramiro and Mr. Pombal, amongst others.
Georges (Gaspard and Marguerite’s son) and Geneviève Vynckier (Georges’s wife) only arrived the next day, and attended the lunch party at the Atlantico Hotel, thrown by the governor for all the guests.
Mr. Gaspard Vynckier and his wife got involved in the village life with the help and support of Mr. João Maximiano. They lived in Sal during the winter months.
The couple had studied the problem of seawater distillation with Dutch specialists. After having succeeded in convincing the governor, Mr. Gaspard Vynckier devised (using Belgian and Dutch materials) a heavy fuel distiller with a 90m3 daily production capacity.
In 1970-71 he had the Santa Maria water castle built. A special barge was constructed in order to empty the 40-ton boiler. Mr. Gaspard Vynckier presented the administration with a plan for the implantation of a sewage and potable water distribution system.
A small anecdote:
An expedition had left Belgium for the Antarctic to bring back penguins for Anvers’s zoo. A “refrigerated” stop-over was to be organized on the way back, so that the animals would have an opportunity to recuperate prior to continuing their voyage. Having been contacted, Gaspard Vynckier ordered a 16m3 cold chamber from Belgium. During the stop-over at Sal, the penguins were installed in it and survived.
The same cold chamber was used by the hotel for many years.
Mr. Gaspard Vynckier passed away on January 30th, 1972.
On December 11th 1962, South African Airways made an experimental flight and landed at Sal.
Once the necessary repairs were made to the landing field, a regular flight was established between Johannesburg and Frankfurt, with a stop-over at Sal.
In 1967, Mr. Bonenberg, an SAA mechanic living in Espargos asked Mr. and Mrs. Vynckier if they could rent him 2 rooms. With SAA’s obvious desire to shelter its crew, Georges Vynckier started building 6 prefabricated bungalows in 1970. Later, 16 rooms were built with local rocks.
Over the years the demand kept on rising along with the
number of stopovers from the airline that made Sal its major stopover worldwide (up to 32 “Boeing 747” per week). This way Morabeza became a 140-room hotel, accommodating the staff of AAA, but also TAP, TAAG, Cubana and Aeroflot. In November 1986, President Reagan refused landing rights to SAA on American land-which also helped to increase the importance of Sal as a stopover.
At that time Morabeza accommodated mostly the crew of the Johannesburg-New York line, since the new planes to Europe were autonomous enough and didn’t require an intermediate stopover.
In September 1991, following the retreat of the Cuban troops in Angola, the other companies stopped landing in Sal. Ever since 1986, Georges Vynckier had embarked on a conversion towards tourism by picking up on European contacts.
The first tourists came from Portugal (Abreu) and Germany (Neckermann). A while later he opened up an agency in Paris and another in Belgium.
Georges Vynckier, industrialist, conceived and developed, as a pioneer, renewable energies.
The first worldwide osmosis system operating with seawater was placed in Morabeza and produced 60 cubic meters of desalted sea water per day. The inauguration was made in 1976 by the former President of Cape Verde, Aristides Pereira (first President of Cape Verde, 1975-1991) who has always supported and encouraged the projects and developments of Hotel Morabeza which, to his point of view, integrated and progressed respecting the country’s reality. On that occasion, he could drink the first glass of desalinated seawater!
In 1980 the flat solar panels (75m²) and three parabolic mirrors for water heating were installed.
In 1985, a wind power plant (aeolian) of 55kw completed the hotel technical installations.
Finally, a wastewater recycling plant (the first on Sal) was set up in 2003.
Georges Vynckier passed away in 2008. A street was named after him in recognition of his important contribution to the country.
Geneviève Vynckier, who stopped by frequently on holiday ever since 1967, joined the team during Cape Verde’s independence (1975) and developed the former holiday house into a hotel of 140 rooms and still continues to improve the installations. She is the driving force behind the hotel’s development and Morabeza owes her for the excellent reputation it acquired.
Baudhuin Baert, of Belgian origin, took office in 1969. He was the technical leader of Morabeza and during more than 30 years he made sure that all of the construction work went smoothly. In collaboration with 2 woodworkers from Ghent—the De Zutters—and his Cape Verdean team, Mr. Baert completed the facilities and assured the functionality of the technical elements.
Patone Lobo was hired in 1974 and in that same year began working with Mrs. Vynckier. Shortly after the independence he became director of the hotel. Mr. Lobo left us in the year 2000 to establish his own hotel.
Sophie Vynckier – Marcellesi, the daughter of Georges and Geneviève has been working at the hotel since 1997. And since Patone’s departure, she’s been managing the establishment.
The staff: the majority of this extremely dedicated team is from Santa Maria village. There are currently 160 employees working at the hotel, 5 of which are European.
Some of our human resources are the grandchildren of our first collaborators.