A summer sunset in Ludo is rich in natural activity: in the twilight hours, the shallow Ria Formosa lagoons create the last fiery orange reflections of a hot day already gone; here and there, you´ll hear the distant splashes of a big fish jumping out of the water, trying to catch one last unsuspecting scarlet dragonfly. And while small flocks of pink flamingos rise in the atmosphere to find their resting places, large gatherings of marine birds start to make their way into the fleetingly vacant salt pans.

flamingos-ria-formosa

TRAIL FACTSHEET

LUDO TRAIL | BIRDS & NATURE: SEE HERE

Location: Ludo, Faro/Almancil; Faro & Loulé municipalities; GPS Coordinates (decimal degrees): 37.016834 N, -7.988397 W; Grade: easy; Type: semi-loop path; the trail is signposted; Lenght: 6950 meters/ 4.32 miles; Average Completion Time: 3.5 hours; Best Time to Visit: all year round; Activities: nature walks; cycling; birdwatching;

Ecologically significant, the salt pans are a prime habitat for a large array of waders and long-legged birds, such as the Spoonbill (Platalea leucorodia), the Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) and the Black-winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus). In case you are not coming directly from Quinta do Lago, and instead you aim to use the entry point suggested on the map below, at first you’ll see the lagoons on either side of the trail. Despite its proximity, these bodies of water are very different. The water on the right-hand side is brackish, which means that it sustains botanic species like the Spiny Rush (Juncus acutus) and an assortment of reeds and bulrushes, which in turn shelter a diversity of ducks, coots and moorhens.

You won’t spot ducks on the opposite side, though, but you might observe waders like the Kentish Plover (Charadrius alexandrinus) or the Greenshank (Tringa nebularia) probing the mudflats. That´s because tidal fluctuations on the left-hand side are much more pronounced. There, the slow moving saltwater brings about the presence of a very specific vegetation cover composed primarily of salt tolerant plants (halophytes), like the luxuriant Limoniastrum (Limoniastrum monopetalum). Following the main route you’ll eventually reach a junction; here, you can either turn right or follow straight ahead. Choosing the latter, you will soon encounter the spot where a short but rather wide stream (Ribeira de São Lourenço/Esteiro de Maria Nova) intersects the salt marsh. Depending on the season, here you may observe the Pied Avocet (Recurvirostra avosetta), the Curlew (Numenius arquata), the Black-winged Stilt, juvenile Flamingos and a large variety of ducks.

Topographic_Profile_Ludo_Trail_Faro The long, straight path then inflects to the right, superimposing the São Lourenço Trail. Located there, a large bird hide affords unobstructed panoramic views of the marsh land. Then you’ll follow the last stretch of the São Lourenço Trail, until it intersects a wooded area with large Acacia and Eucalyptus trees. Look out for birds like the Hoopoe and the Sardinian Warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) and then emerge out of the wooded area by turning right once more along the main path. At this point you have reached the salt pans. On the left there is a narrow gully where Mediterranean Turtles like to relax and sunbathe – however, you’ve got to be patient and keep very silent in order to observe these illusive creatures. Carry on along the main trail until you find another junction. A large and bright white pile of salt will perhaps be there, waiting to be shipped away. Turn right yet again, and you’ll be amid salt pans, where the Greater Flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus) roams. The salterns are quite extensive – in order to properly observe the pink beauties you should be carrying either binoculars or a camera with powerful lenses.

If you do not locate flocks right away, try to follow the narrower, secondary tracks which will lead you right into the salt evaporation complex, but please bear in mind that there is no guarantee of seeing the birds, as their numbers oscillate wildly throughout the year without a defined pattern. Being so, the best option is to try a visit on another day, or in alternative try another nearby trail, such as the Pontal or Airport trails* (please see here and here). You need to seek permission in order to access the narrow secondary tracks crossing the actual salt pans, since they are private property: a short and polite verbal exchange will do. Tagging along, you’ll note that salt pans assume different colours, from red or orange to yellow or pure white. The hue depends on the presence and relative abundance of a specialized and very primitive group of bacteria (Haloarchaea bacteria). To the west, there is a line of tall trees where the White Stork (Ciconia ciconia) nests. Following the main trail you are going to reach the initial junction, where you can turn left and return to your starting point.  *Airport and Pontal Trails are yet to be described on the WalkAlgarve website

 

FURTHER TIPS
If you plan to start off from the point designated on the map (and you are arriving in a rental or an otherwise small car), there is usually available space to park on the sides of the road connecting Faro Airport to Faro Beach (‘Praia de Faro‘). Despite traversing private areas, you’ve got ‘right of way’ throughout the main trail. Sometimes, it is possible to encounter machinery and men working in the salt pans. Birds are used to their presence and are not affected by it: contrary perhaps to intuition, actively explored salt pans actually enhance biodiversity, since almost all the species living there need very finely tuned water levels. The trail is located in the vicinity of Faro Airport; mostly throughout summer, there will be increased air traffic over the area. Please also note that the route has long stretches without any available shade. Between late February and late October it is highly advisable to wear adequate sunglasses, a hat and sun cream. Water is of the utmost importance throughout summertime or during hot weather spells. Insect repellent should be used when visiting the trail at dusk or dawn. In fact, the best time to visit Ludo in the summer is one or two hours before sunset or at dawn. Please enjoy!
 
 
 
 
PLANNING A VISIT TO FARO?

Then you may also want to visit the wonderful nearby beaches. These beaches are in fact located in Almancil, not in Faro: please check the São Lourenço Trail page (bottom of the page) to get more information on the matter. The best beaches within Faro municipality are located in Deserta Island, a somewhat remote place where you can usually find some of the warmest ocean waters in Portugal. You need to take a ferry boat in order to reach this pristine, long stretch of smooth sand (read more on Faro beaches).