Ria Formosa & Lagoa dos Salgados

This is a birding tour based in the Ria Formosa Natural Park (RFNP) and is designed to help you see as much of the avifauna and flora as possible. We’ll also take you to several small wetland areas west of the RFNP, Parque Ambiental de Vilamoura and to Lagoa dos Salgados.

You’ll be lodged in the heart of Quinta do Lago, a luxury resort situated in the Ria Formosa Natural Park and only a 25-minute drive away from Faro International Airport. We'll provide a route notebook with maps and detailed descrptions, and a rented vehicle to hit the road.

A fantastic birding tour, designed by our expert leaders, giving you the chance to explore at your own rythm the Ria Formosa and other Algarve's wetland areas. At almost any time of the year you have the opportunity to observe many breeding and wintering species.

The Ria Formosa Natural Park covers an area of around 16,000-hectares, and consists of coastal lagoons, vast areas of tidal flats, saltmarsh and saltpans that are enclosed by a belt of sand dune islands and peninsulas. It is of particular importance as a wintering area for many birds from northern Europe and as a resting and feeding station for birds migrating between Africa and Europe. Classified as Nature Reserve in the 70s, this protection status was elevated to a Natural Park in 1987. The Ria Formosa is also classified under the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Importance and as a Special Protection Area under the EU Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds.

Amongst those occurring in notable numbers are Black-tailed Godwits, Ringed Plovers and Little Stints. There is also a diverse population of breeding birds that includes Little Bittern, Purple Swamp-hen, Purple Heron, Red-crested Pochard, Collared Pratincole, Kentish Plover, European Bee-eater, Red-necked Nightjar, Woodchat and Southern Grey Shrikes and Little Tern. Marsh Harriers are resident as are a small number of Booted Eagles, now a regular sight in winter. To the west is the largest area of reed beds in the Algarve, where in season, Ferruginous Duck, Purple Heron, Black-winged Kite, Penduline Tits and Black-headed Weaver can be found.

You'll also visit Lagoa dos Salgados, probably the most extensive area of reed beds and lagoons in the Algarve. It is bordered by farmland with cereal fields and orchards to the south, a sewage treatment plant, favoured by gulls and ducks, to the east and golf courses to the north. This is one of the most important sites in the Algarve for migrating passerines, especially warblers and hirundines, Corn Buntings in winter and is a hunting area for various raptors including Black-winged Kite, Marsh Harrier, and Booted Eagle and, in winter, Short-eared Owl.

Traditional Saltpans
Numerous tanks, channels, creeks and drainage ditches form the Salinas where salt is manually harvested. In autumn and winter the large tanks attract large numbers of waterfowl and are a popular high tide roost for waders and gulls, and Greater Flamingos can usually be found.
Except in high summer the most numerous species are usually Avocets, Dunlin, Sanderling and Black-tailed Godwits. But look carefully as it was in this area that a rare long-billed Dowitcher was once found. Slender-billed, Mediterranean and Audouin’s Gulls can often be found amongst the countless Lesser Black-backs. This is also a good place to find one or two Caspian Terns roosting and in the breeding season Little Terns should also be here.
Ria Formosa Natural Park
The park is an area of approximately 40 hectares comprising salt marsh, saltpans, Mediterranean scrub and pine forest, freshwater lagoons, beaches and mudflats. With such a range of habitats it is possible to see a wide range of bird species. If you are visiting in the spring look out for orchids in the wooded areas and in the summer months look out for Mediterranean Chameleon.
Lagoa de São Lourenço
Lagoa de São Lourenço is a body of water which is largely surrounded by a golf course. The Lagoa is rich in aquatic vegetation, edged by reeds and bulrushes and thus is rich in avifauna. In winter large numbers of ducks including: Northern Shoveler, Eurasian Teal, Common Pochard, Eurasian Wigeon and Tufted Duck gather. However there are many special birds which make their homes here all year round including Red-crested Pochard, Little Bittern, Purple Swamp-hen, Black-headed Weaver and Great Crested Grebe. They are joined in summer by Little Terns, hirundines and swifts.
Lagoa dos Salgados
Lagoa dos Salgados is an open body of water surrounded by reeds, rushes and tamarisks. A coastal lagoon separated from the ocean by sand dunes which, in winter, are often flooded when the coastal edge is breached. Over the last few years work has been undertaken to improve the control of the water levels in the lagoon and several large islands have been created for roosting and nesting birds.

The tour includes

8 days/7 nights

Airport transfers.

Complete route notes with descriptions of best birding spots, information on bird species most likely to be found, general information about the region, its culture and traditions.

Comfortable 4-star accommodation, next to the Ria Formosa and the sea, in the very heart of the Ria Formosa Natural Park.

Package with car included

Possibility of halfboard and single supplement

Hotline number for emergencies

Photo Gallery


A wonderful serenity has taken possession of my entire soul, like these sweet mornings of spring which I enjoy with my whole heart. I am alone, and feel the charm of existence in this spot, which was created for the bliss of souls like mine.

I am so happy, my dear friend, so absorbed in the exquisite sense of mere tranquil existence, that I neglect my talents. I should be incapable of drawing a single stroke at the present moment; and yet I feel that I never was a greater artist than now.

When, while the lovely valley teems with vapour around me, and the meridian sun strikes the upper surface of the impenetrable foliage of my trees, and but a few stray gleams steal into the inner sanctuary, I throw myself down among the tall grass by the trickling stream; and, as I lie close to the earth, a thousand unknown plants are noticed by me: when I hear the buzz of the little world among the stalks, and grow familiar with the countless indescribable forms of the insects and flies, then I feel the presence of the Almighty, who formed us in his own image.

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