Culatra Island

When looking for the library in Olhaõ, Frank asked someone in his best Portuguese for directions, to get the answer I don’t know, mate, I don’t live here I only work here.  This is how we met Captain Steve. As his name says, he loves the sea and has made it his business to show the beauty of the sea and landscape to foreign visitors, be it by boat, kayak, cycling trips or tours with the minibus into the interior.

Steve’s boat ‘Seta’ is a traditional wooden Portuguese boat, and a joy to travel in. We go on a trip to Culatra Island with him, where the traditional fishing village seems to have stopped development about 40 years ago. One can only buy a house on Culatra if one is involved with the marine industry, so there are no concessions to tourists here. No hotels, no holiday homes. The island has no cars, and after a hearty lunch with freshly grilled fish, we take a stroll in the sun, along the sandy paths that run between the fisherman’s houses. There is a really special atmosphere here – the absence of cars, the dryness (it only rains 4 days in the year here, according to the captain), the sandy roads, and everywhere there are people. It’s a busy village. The 4pm ferry spills out a few dozen teenagers on their way back home from school on the main land.

Steve knows many of the islanders, and they give him a friendly welcome wherever he goes in the village, which allows him to show us places that we would otherwise not have found ourselves.

He takes particular delight in showing us a washing line full of drying fish and introducing us to 92 year-old Maria, one of the oldest inhabitants of the island.

From spring onwards, Steve says, this trip offers a lot more in terms of marine wildlife and other fauna and flora, and trips start to include swimming and snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters of the lagoon, set as it is within the National Park of the Ria Formosa.

Around 4pm, we get back on his boat and putter back to Olhaõ, having had a fantastic, international day with a small group of French, Dutch and English tourists, made all the richer by Captain Steve’s informative and entertaining stories as we went along.

*****

There is a nice set of photos about the island here

Link to Captain Steve’s web site ktalgarve.com


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