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The Ria Formosa National Park is one of the natural wonders of
Portugal and indeed a very special area for all Algarvians.
It was formed as a National Park in 1987 but of course it has evolved over many thousands of years. It covers approximately 18,000 hectares and is made of 5 barrier islands and 2 peninsulas that enclose a system of tidal lagoons.
It extends along the leeward coast of the Algarve through the municipalities of Loulé, Faro, Olhão, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo António.
Because of the natural features and unique location it is included as a wetland of world-wide interest and designated as such under the Ramsar Convention.
This is an intergovernmental treaty that provides the framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and wise use of wetlands and their resources.
In this protected area you may witness many different habitats such as barrier-islands, marshes, tidal flats, islets, dunes, salt-pans, fresh water lagoons, agricultural areas and woodlands which hold an impressive diversity of flora and fauna.
Furthermore, within Europe, the "Ria" has been declared an IBA (Important Bird Area) and is included in the Natura 2000 network of specially protected sites.
Apart from more than 200 species of birds that visit the park regularly, there are over 300 species of molluscs, 11 amphibians and 15 reptiles, including the endangered and extremely localised Chameleon. Of the various mammals that haunt these wetlands the most popular must be the charismatic Otter, which is common throughout the park.
As such the area has become a focus for Birdwatchers and Nature lovers alike throughout the year with the Ria Formosa also providing a home for many transient migratory bird species.
Within the Tavira area there are two main barriers islands, Ilha de Tavira and Ilha de Cabanas. Both are within easy reach of Tavira itself. They are a focus for both tourists and locals alike throughout the year, but especially in the spring and summers months where the Tavira area welcomes many visitors. Both islands provide unique beach locations. See our Tavira Beach pages.
Ria Formosa also has other of areas economic importance due to the variety of fish, shellfish and molluscs. Clams are widely cultivated in this area where production makes up about 80% of total exports of the country. Cockles and Mussels can be seen being harvested by local fishermen daily at low tide in the towns and villages along this part of the Algarve coastline.
There are some great local organisations that provide guided tours and walks within the Ria Formosa. We have list below those that can be arranged from Tavira and a couple that are based in neighbouring Olhão. Have a look and see what you think. Please mention this website if you decide to book.
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