Ria Formosa, on the coast of the Algarve close to Faro, is one of the area's most popular destinations for bird lovers and a wonderful place to spend the day. A protected nature reserve, the park covers over 50km of coastline from Tavira in the east to Ancao, encompassing almost the entire Formosa Estuary
The park is made up of a narrow strip of land separated from the sea by vast sand dunes, behind which lies a labyrinth of lagoons and small sand islands, mud flats, marshes and canals.The park holds special appeal for bird watchers, who flock to see a wide range of breeds such as the little bittern and purple heron, as well as egrets, white stork and the stone-curlew.
Many make this their breeding ground, while others use it as a migratory stopover. At the right time of year it's also possible to see the great spotted cuckoo, tawny Pipit, bluethroat, pied flycatcher and various warblers. Some birds of prey, such as the hunting kestrel, are frequent visitors to this protected zone.
The park also has the famous 'Portuguese Water Dogs'. These lovely shaggy dogs were once used by fishermen to drive fish into their nets. They even have webbed feet. The park is also an area of great botanical interest, with woodland, marsh and dune vegetation. This is a fantastic place to enjoy a short walk or take a longer hike. Take a sturdy pair of boots and binoculars, or just a blanket and a picnic, for a peaceful day away from the crowds on the beach.
If you'd like to see the Portuguese Water Dogs then head to the Olhao entrance to the partk. The turning for the park is about 1km East of Olhao off the N125. It can be most easily reached by taking the Olhao turning off the motorway (IP1) and heading towards Olhao. When you reach the N125 roundabout turn right then you will see the brown sign at the next left turning. The park is on the left just after the railway tracks.
Take a coolbox with your picnic and a decent set of walking shoes as the carp park is near the entrace and you will see the most beautiful parts of the park if you walk a while. Worth a chat with the security guard and getting a map from him before heading into the park.
Click here for the Wikipedia page on Ria Formosa