I joined Natura Algarve guide Jorge for a trip that opened a window into the lives of the local clam diggers. I was soon rummaging around the mud flats searching for clams using one of the traditional trowels that are still used to gather these tasty morsels.
“Digging for clams is something my family has done for centuries. It’s part of our culture,” explained Jorge.
“It’s not just a job, as many people will dig for them with their families at weekends. We don’t use any expensive machinery either – I just use the same tools my father and his father before him used.”
The Ria Formosa lies on a busy migratory route for birds, providing a handy bridge between Europe and Africa, but just as interesting are its human inhabitants.
Pushing further into the lagoon, we came to the outer isle of Culatra, which spreads its sandy tentacles across 5km. This is one of the islands that is still inhabited, even if you can walk from the lagoon side to the Atlantic in just a few minutes.
Life here is a low-key affair, lived out under big blue skies with the salt of the ocean filling the air.
“In the old days, people could build what they wanted out here and nobody really cared,” a local student told me.
“Development in the national park is much more tightly controlled these days. I like that there is still real life out here, though.