The Algarve - easy birding in southern Portugal

A week of easy birding in beautiful southern Portugal, staying in four star accommodation.
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Wildlife Travel leaflet The Algarve 2020

28 September – 5 October 2020


Mike Russell



Single Room Supplement – £375


Return flight, London to Faro. Local transport as specified in itinerary. Seven night’s accommodation, full board. Services of leaders.

Not included

Drinks with evening meals. Refreshments. Gratuities. Travel insurance. Optional entry to historical sites (Castro Marim and Sagres).

Group size

Minimum 6, maximum 14.

Our holiday will explore the varied bird-rich habitats of the Algarve, from the coastal wetlands and salt pans to the heaths and cliffs of the rugged Atlantic coast. Relatively undeveloped compared to other parts of the Mediterranean, the area is home to exciting birds such as Purple Swamp-hen, Greater Flamingo, Azure-winged Magpie and the introduced Common Waxbill, along with a wide variety of waders, terns, herons and wildfowl. The week will give us a good introduction to observing and identifying many of the larger groups of European birds: sea birds, waders and waterfowl, raptors and a good variety of migrating warblers and other passerines.

Near the dramatic Cabo Sao Vicente, the southwesternmost point of mainland Europe, we will visit a migration watchpoint where we will hopefully enjoy one of the great spectacles of the birding world as migrating storks, eagles, kites and other birds of prey head south.

Another highlight of the trip will be our excursion into the rolling steppe and cork oak forests of Alentejo. Here we learn about the conservation work going on to protect Europe’s heaviest flying bird, the Great Bustard. Other bird highlights should include Little Bustard, Black-bellied Sandgrouse, Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black Vulture.

We spend the first half of our holiday based in the historic Hotel Vila Gale Albacora set in the heart of the Rio Formosa national park near Faro, followed by the contrastingly modern surroundings of Hotel Memmo Baleeira in Sagres, both with four star accommodation.

Please note that holidays change, although sometimes only slightly, from year to year and previous trip reports may not reflect the planned itinerary, or other holiday details, for the current trip. Please ask us if you would like to know of any significant differences.

Contact us to reserve your place

Day 1 After arriving at Faro, we transfer to the Hotel Vila Gale Albacora, on the edge of the Ria Formosa natural park near Tavira in time for dinner.

Day 2 We head eastwards along the coast towards the  salt pans and salt marsh of Castro Marim, where we meet our guide from Natura-Algarve. This is an internationally important site for water birds over winter and during migration, and we hope to encounter many species such as Greater Flamingo, Marsh Harrier, Osprey, Spoonbill and many varieties of waders. We should also keep a look out for some late summer butterflies, perhaps including the Long tailed Blue.

Day 3 We head north into the rolling steppes of the Alentejo to Castro Verde where we meet our hosts from the LPN (Nature Protection League). Here we will be looking for the steppe specialities, such as Great Bustard, Little Bustard (both of which will be gathering into large flocks), Black bellied Sandgrouse, Calandra Lark and Black-winged Kite. During the day we will stop off at the highest point in the area Sra de Aracelis and hope for Spanish Imperial Eagle and Black Vulture to pass overhead. After enjoying a traditional Alentejo lunch we will continue exploring the area.

Day 4 Today will be more relaxed, as we continue our explorations of the Ria Formosa Natural Park around the hotel where we will try and seek out Audouin’s and Slender-billed Gulls and the introduced Common Waxbill or simply relax around the pool! For those who  wish, there is the option of taking the hotel shuttle bus into Tavira in the afternoon, to explore this interesting town.

Day 5 We head along the coast a little way to Quinta do Lago where again we will be joined by our guides from Natura-Algarve. We will spend the morning exploring the wetlands: we have a good chance of finding Purple Swamp-hen, Little Bittern and Red crested Pochard while the Azure-winged Magpies will make their presence known! We will then take a boat trip to explore some of the outer parts of the reserve not accessible on foot where terns, gulls and waders should all come our way. After lunch we head further west and spend one to two hours at Lagado de Selgado, an important wetland for migrant waders and wildfowl before heading onto Sagres. 

Day 6 Following breakfast we meet up with Georg Schrier our guide and we start off with an optional pelagic boat trip (c. 2½ hours) to look for seabirds and cetaceans. Cory’s Shearwater are the most likely to be seen but there is also a good chance of Sooty and Great Shearwaters as well, along with European and Wilson’s Storm Petrels. With luck we may also come across Common or Bottle-nosed Dolphins. For those not going on the boat trip there is an opportunity to explore Sagres and pay a visit to the Cabo San Vicente nautical museum. In the afternoon we will spend  some time birding around the farmland behind Sagres where we will be looking for migrants stopping off on the most south westerly point of Europe before crossing to Africa so there is the possibility of finding Stone curlew, Dotterel and a variety of  warblers. In the evening we spend some time looking and listening for Nightjars and owls before returning to the hotel for a later meal.

Day 7 We spend today on and around the most south-westerly point in mainland Europe, the dramatic Cabo Sao Vicente. The cliffs of the Atlantic coastline are bizarrely topped by sand dunes and outcrops of bare limestone. We will spend some time looking for seabirds close in land while Peregines patrol the cliffs and Eleonora’s Falcon are occasionally recorded. As the day hopefully warms up we will head inland a little way to a raptor migration watchpoint where, given the right conditions, an array of raptors such as Short-toed and Booted Eagles, Egyptian Vultures and possibly both Black and White Storks will pass at various heights over our head. After lunch we will spend time looking for other migrants around the area.

Day 8 After breakfast, we bid farewell to Sagres and head back towards Faro, enjoying more birding on the way and a return to Quinta de Lago, for one last look at those magpies… All too soon our time is up and we must go back to the airport and our flights home.

Please note that the itinerary may be changed to suit the weather or other practicalities at the discretion of the leaders.

On the Algarve we will stay in the historical, 4 star Hotel Vila Gale Albacora, set in the middle of the Ria Formosa natural park near Tavira. The hotel was originally a settlement for tuna fishermen and the  renovation has retained many of the original features. Further west, we stay at the 4 star Hotel Memmo Baleeira in Sagres, a contemporary ‘design’ hotel situated in the Costa Vicentina Natural Park, with views out over Baleeira harbour and the sea.

The holiday is full board, with all the meals provided during the stay a mixture of local and international dishes. We will have a mixture of picnic lunches and meals in hotels or local tavernas. Requests for special diets can be accommodated.

Our travel in the Algarve will be by small coach or minibus.

The group flights are with Easyjet from London Gatwick:

28th September depart London Gatwick 16.30, arrive Faro 19.25
5th October depart Faro 20.10, arrives London Gatwick 22.55

Portugal is in the same time zone as the UK.

It is possible to arrange flights from a number of other UK airports, including London Stansted, East Midlands and Manchester, although the timings may differ. It is easy to arrange individual  transfers between the hotels and the airport. Please ask us to check for alternatives/costs prior to booking.

If you hold an EU passport, you do not currently need a visa to travel to Portugal. Your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay; you do not need any additional period of validity on your passport beyond this.

At this time of year the weather is usually sunny but not too hot. There may be some cooler weather and rain. We will adapt the itinerary to the local conditions.

Please see the General Information leaflet for health and fitness requirements. On most days, we are walking for much of the day, albeit at a slow pace. It is necessary to walk on rougher ground and up some slopes, although none of the walking is strenuous. Walking boots are essential.