The Ria (un)Formosa
Just off the coast of the western Algarve is the Ria Formosa lagoon. Formosa means beautiful. We decided to take a boat trip out to see the lagoon, but we didn’t really do enough research beforehand on what exactly we would be seeing. It’s a lot of mud. And some birds.
The Ria Formosa is an incredibly rich area of flora and fauna, and is one of the most abundant regions for food production in the world. Fish, clams, seafood farms, saltwater flats, etc. There are apparently hundreds of birds on the lagoon, so if you’re a bird-watcher, it must be heaven. The problem is that we’re not those people.
The boat left the main harbor at Faro and then spent 90 minutes floating, v e r y s l o w l y, through the lagoon to the outer island. The boat company pitched it as a trip to “Ilha Deserta”, but it’s not really deserted. There are fishing shacks, and what look like a few shelters for homeless people, a dozen rubbish skips, and a restaurant.
The guide on the boat was impressive in his language skills – he was fluent in (at least) Portuguese, English, Spanish, and French. And I suspect he could have done German as well. He gave us running commentary on all the birds that live on the Formosa. But it was 90 minutes of floating, looking at muddy sandbanks. And when we got the actual island, it was pretty disappointing.
We did see a big skeleton though – any ideas what kind of creature it could have been?
The guide said that in the summer there is a very popular ferry service that makes the trip in only 30 minutes, and many Faroese journey out to the island for a day at the beach. It did look like a lovely beach. Most of the other beaches we saw in Portugal were small coves or inlets – this was the only one with a really long, wide beach, similar to what you’d find in most parts of the US.
The weather that day was pretty cold – you can see the stormy skies above. It didn’t actually rain, but there were weather alerts out saying “the coldest recorded weather ever” was going to hit that night. It was 6 degrees C. (That’s about 43 degrees F.)
Let’s just say that we were glad to return to Faro.