The Rio Formosa in the Algarve


Flying into Faro airport at the beginning of a visit to the Algarve you cannot miss seeing the long thin chain of sand dunes, or islands, offshore and the lagoon within them called the Rio Formosa which was originally formed as a result of the earthquake in 1755.  The lagoon system is constantly changing due to the continuous movement of winds, currents and tides.  Classified as a Natural Park since 1987, it is protected from the sea by five barrier islands and two peninsulas.

Last week we took a trip on a catamaran out from Faro marina to the barrier islands.  The water was very choppy so we were glad of our waterproof jackets when the spray came over the bows.  At low tide we could see mud flats where whimbrels fed and storks flew overhead but the windy weather made bird watching less rewarding than usual.

Our first mooring was on a lonely beach on the island of Barreta or Ilha Deserta as it is commonly known, where there are 10 km of beach and an extremely expensive restaurant. From there we motored to Ilha do Farol at one end of the Island of Culatra.  Here, close to the Lighthouse of St. Maria are many pretty houses which are destined to be destroyed in the near future.  The authorities have decided that these houses were built illegally so the many tourists who pay large amounts to rent the villas will soon no longer have the opportunity.  Sadly some of the houses belong to long term Portuguese summer residents.  We lunched in a busy restaurant there, paying 15 Euros each for sardines, black pork, wine and coffee.  

Today we heard that demolition of some of the houses has commenced.


 On our return journey at high tide, the mud flats had disappeared, leaving channels hidden beneath the water.  Looking back at the breakers coming over the barrier islands we were grateful for our skilled and knowledgeable guide.  We will return on a calmer day to see more of the birds whose kingdom this is.