Ilha da Barreta
We begin our voyage on board the ‘Praia das Conchas’ catamaran. It’s a 35 minute hop providing due time to appreciate the wonderful landscape of Ria Formosa stretching from ‘Portas do Mar’ in Faro through to our destination, Barreta or, as it is more commonly known, ‘Desert Island’. To these names, many locals also humorously add on the epithet of ‘pirate island’. With the experienced Captain Raúl Vicente at the helm, the voyages passes peacefully and calmly while opening an insight into the dynamic that men and nature can daily draw upon.
On arriving at ‘pirate island’, we discover our treasure: a paradise island of white sands and clear blue waters that make us believe we’ve reached some tropical destination.
We set off to explore the island and move off the small concrete wharf and onto a wooden walkway. This defines the path that takes us off on a tour through dunes and hidden nooks without our presence causing any negative impact on the local fauna and flora. With the island a protected site, we nevertheless have to highlight that the presence of man gets felt for some of the worst reasons. The rubbish, dumped by traditional careless tourists, is found to a greater or lesser extent all over the place but is particularly bad in the fishing support zone. The piles of rubbish and the total lack of organisation prove the nadir of this part of the island.
However, we swiftly leave behind the negative and open our senses to better focus on the beauty and nature surrounding us. As we advance along the path, we meet all types of people from the local inhabitant who makes this beach his summer sanctuary to the tourist who, with a broad smile across his face, tours the island by bike. When the walkway ends, we are welcomed by a gate that marks the entranceway to the beach. On it are hanging some signs giving names and directions. These are the marks of passage of other ‘pirates’ who seem to challenge us to discover their routes and destinations.
We head through the gate and take a seat on the sand and contemplate the landscape before succumbing to a feeling of being shipwrecked on some ’desert island’. When we take a look around and notice the distance separating us from the next closest person, we smile in thinking that over there, just a few kilometres away, the beaches are so packed out that you have to give an excuse me before setting your towel down.
A quick dip in the crystalline clean waters reinvigorates the body and refreshes the soul before continuing the rest of the way along the sand by the sea. At the end of the extensive expanse, we come to the seawall in front of the lighthouse that separates us from the choppy waters that flow into and out of the estuary according to the tide prevailing. At the end of our walk, we rest in the shade n the only site resembling civilisation here, the ‘Estaminé’ restaurant where we drink something cool. Afterwards, feeling fresh again, we slowly begin making our return to the reality of daily city life.
Setting off from the EVA bus station in Faro, turn right and head along the marina until you reach the Bombeiros Voluntários fire station. Then, follow the wall as far as Portas do Mar, where there is a ticket office and embarkati- on point. Should you prefer, you can buy the tickets and ask for information at the ticket of- fice next to the dock.