Come on this relatively flat walk in the heart of the Natural Park of Ria Formosa, notice the labyrinth of channels and marsh vegetation, be dazzled by the sun reflection on the water, breathe in the sea air loaded with salt, cross with a Chameleon (Chamaleo chamaleon), spot aquatic birds and listen their distinct sounds, observe activity with local traditions such as the salt production.

The Ria Formosa is classified as Wetland of International Importance by the Ramsar Convention. It is an integral part of Special Protected Areas (SPA) of Nature 2000 Network, is qualified as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) according the criteria of BirdLife International and it was established as Natural Park of Portugal in 1987.

The Ria Formosa is formed by coastal dunes string of islands and peninsulas and the lagoon. Part of the lagoon is permanently immersed, and a significant part emerges during the low tide. The ebb and flow of water together with the shallowness of the water creates conditions to foster a great biodiversity of crustaceans, molluscs, annelids, fishes and their main predators, the birds.

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Aquatic birds are the main ones amongst nearly 200 species that can be found. The concept of aquatic birds looks out to encompass all the birds with relations with wet biotopes. The specie´s presence and quantity depend on the time of the year with waders and wildfowl present during winter months whereas herons for instance, more abundant during the hotter months. There are also species that stay all year round, although population can increase due to arrival of migrants.

Birds that can be spotted include the Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), the Little Egret (Egretta garzetta), the Flamingo (Phoenicopterus ruber), the Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), the Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio porphyrio), the Stone Curlew (Burhinus oedicnenus), the Collared Pranticole (Glareola pranticola), the Stilt (Himantopus himantopus) and the Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrius). The Red-veined Darter (Sympetrum fonscolombii), the Fiddler crab (Uca tangeri) and the Spadefoot toad (Pelobates cultripes) are examples of animals of this area.

Regarding the flora, the vegetation in the Ria Formosa provides stability and works as a habitat to countless species. Amongst many others species can be found the Cistanche phelypaea, the Sea Rush (Juncus maritimus), the Glasswort (Salicornia ramosissima), the Armeria gatidana, the Marram Grass (Ammophila arenaria), the Limoniastrum (Limoniastrum monopetalum), the Sea-daffodil (Pancratium maritimum).


Several resources in Ria Formosa have for ages stimulated the settlement of people in the surroundings. Since ancient times humans have carried out activities such as fishing and salt production, as may be seen at the ruins of Roman tanks used to produce Garum, a mix of fish, salt and spices, located at Quinta de Marim in Olhão.

As in ancient times, nowadays the Ria Formosa still works as an anchor for local populations as it facilitates several economic activities such as fishing, aquaculture, canned fish, salt production, touristic activities, sand extraction and goods transportation.

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Photo credit: Rui Ornelas / Visual hunt / CC BY

  • Distance: 5,7 km
  • Type: Circular, flat route
  • Duration: 3 hours
  • Price: 25€/pax

Map

The Bird Route map

Photo credit: JerryL2008 / Visualhunt.com / CC BY

Fantastic views of the Ria Formosa and Armona island.

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