Culatra - Armona - Farol Islands

The Ria Formosa is a lagoonal system formed by labyrinthine channels, patches of marsh, silt and islets. The lagoon is separated from the Atlantic Ocean by a string of islands and sandy peninsulas, parallel to the coast. Its waters are though salty.

The dune cord stretches out all along the eastern coast of Algarve (Sotavento), from Faro till Vila Real de Santo Antonio; it is formed by the peninsula of Ancão (also called Island of Faro), the islands of Barreta, Deserta, Farol-Culatra (the zone of our trip), Armona-Fuzeta, Tavira, Cabanas and finally the peninsula of Cacela.

The Ria Formosa is a very unique and rich ecosystem, home of rare species of animals, that sometimes exist only there. Birds are the principal inhabitants of the lands of the lagoon: living and nesting there.

The vegetation of both the dunes and marsh are also considered of great botanical interest.

Because the preservation of this biodiversity is a priority, the Ria Formosa got recognized a Wet Zone of International Interest, and the Ria Formosa Natural Park had been created in 1987, protecting a 18 400ha area  of nature.

In low-tide, the water channels of the Ria attain 1 to 2 meters deep, increasing to 6-8 meters deep in high-tide. So most of the water gets flushed out and replaced during a tidal cycle. The lagoon provides seawater fishes and different kinds of seafood. Because a large part of the lagoon is dry at low water, the Ria Formosa is the largest aquaculture site in Portugal.

While sailing on the Ria Formosa, we can have a unique glimpse on the hills of Algarve and its highest point, the “Serro de São Miguel”.

If tourism and leisure activities on the Ria area are relatively new, the lagoon has always had an important economical role for the region, Olhão being its capital. Many local families depend on the lagoon natural resources. Most of the area of the lagoon, except the navigation channels, is leased out to the clam farmers as a clam growing concession, the lagoon acting as a huge clam farm! Most of these concessions were inherited.

90% of the clams production of Portugal is coming from Ria Formosa, they are famous all around the country. But nowadays the rate of exportation of seafood and fish is also increasing, as an example, almost all of the oysters of the Ria are sold to France. The environment here allows a faster growth of the “baby” oyster, the waters of the Ria acting like a nursery before they finish growing in France.

Locals started to settle in the islands of the Ria Formosa on the XIXth century, mostly working on transformation of tuna fish, which was the most important economical resource at that time. But it is after the Portuguese Revolution, in 1974, that new settlements took place. The Portuguese government is today claiming that those houses have to disappear because of the existence of the Natural Park.  The main village is on Culatra Island, with more or less 1000 families, all living of fishing and/or aquaculture. Life on the islands is very simple; the basic facilities appeared very recently: electricity in 1992 and running water in 2010!

Leaving the platform we can appreciate the architecture of the “Mercados Municipais de Olhão”, with its four cylindrical towers. They got inaugurated in 1916 and are still used as fish and fruit market.

If the tide is low when we start our trip, you will have the chance to discover the local life, with the people working on their concession which are clearly visible. Little by little we will abandon the town for an area where the birds and fishes are kings.

Let us bring you to this unknown and unspoiled Algarve; enjoy the crystal clear waters of the lagoon or of the beaches of Farol and Culatra; discover the lifestyle of genuine people, leaving in harmony with this fragile ecosystem… for an unforgettable day…

Please check the map above for a better understanding of the geography of the lagoon and its surroundings, for an overview of the highlights of the area and the beaches you will find on your wonderful trip.


Departure: Olhão at 9H30

Lunch: Around 12H30 in Farol Island. The restaurant as a direct view on the Ocean and is the last location of Southern continental Portugal.



Grilled fish (up to three types of fish according to the season)


Drinks, including juice, wine, beer and water


Note: Cars and motorcycles are not allowed in the islands of the Ria Formosa and there is a 500 meters distance between the platform and the restaurant. This is a pleasant walk, crossing the island, an opportunity to discover its flora and local houses.

Arrival: 17H- 18H in Olhão

Stops: Farol Island, Culatra and Armona, approximately 1H of free visit. This program can eventually be modified in some particular conditions. It can also be adapted to your needs.

Capacity of the boat: Up to 90 persons.

For prices of this journey or more information, please contact us.


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