A Seaside Paradise with Added Value
You could, of course, simply come here for a dip in the sea: pack your bikini, bathing shorts, suncream, and beach toys, take the speedboat at the port of Faro and you could be on the isle of Ilha Deserta (which is also known as Ilha da Barreta) in as little as 15 minutes, running barefoot through the white sand on the beach and swimming in the clear water. Alternatively, venture just a little further and you’ll be able to lay your towel down under a sunshade on the beach of Cabo de Santa Maria, the southernmost point of the Portuguese mainland.
Marshes, Lakes, and Canals
This treasure of the Algarve is frequently still considered an insider tip: an area of around 18,000 hectares stretches for more than 60 kilometres from the sea to the hinterland, between the city of Loulé in the west and the border with Spain in the east, with beaches, dunes, sand and mud banks, marches, canals, salt pans, salterns, freshwater lakes, agricultural areas, and forests. Add to that a great wealth of species, many of them endangered: otters and polecats are just as much at home here as two rare species of turtles.
Perfect for Bird Lovers
Among the more than 200 species of birds that breed and rest here are many migratory species that stop off in the Ria Formosa area as they migrate between Europe and North Africa. These include spoonbills with their distinctive bills and grebes with tufted plumage on their heads — ideal for those who want to join the trend of birdwatching. With a little bit of luck, you’ll get to see these and other shy animals like storks and herons up close and learn a lot about them and their habitat when you take a boat trip from Faro.
Oysters, Mussels, Fresh Fish
The nature park not only protects the great biodiversity, it also permits a respectful coexistence between humans and nature: in 1987, its former status as a nature reserve was raised as a way to better manage tourism and the growth of the small towns in the region. The move also helped to preserve traditions: fishermen here not only run oyster and mussel farms, they also sell their fresh catches from the sea, including squid, on the markets of Olhão, Fuseta, and Tavira. You can see them at work along some of the canals, while you can sometimes watch them mend their nets in the harbour on the island of Culatra.
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