Guide to Kayaking in Ria Formosa

An Eco-friendly Way to Adventure in the Algarve

Kayaking Ria Formosa

As we discussed recently on our blog about how we practice eco-friendly, sustainable tourism in the Algarve, we are committed to sustainable tourism — in fact, it is integral to who we are as a tour operator. While the previous blog discussed our eco-boats, we’d like to talk about another extremely eco-friendly way to make the most of the beauty and serenity of Ria Formosa… kayaking.

A little more about us

Before we wax lyrical about kayaking in the Algarve, perhaps you’d like to know a little more about us? We are Lands – Turismo na Natureza, but we usually just refer to ourselves simply as ‘Lands’. Here at Lands, we run various environmentally friendly tours out of Faro into the Ria Formosa – an 18,400-hectare protected lagoon made of sand dunes, salt marshes, tidal flats, islets, salt pans, freshwater marshes and ponds, pine woods, and agriculture fields along the coast of Eastern Algarve. As a result, the area is popular amongst visitors and locals alike and regularly studied by marine biologists and ocean scientists. Everyone who works at Lands is a trained biologist and this expertise filters into everything we do.

Ria Formosa is a Nature Park, which means that it is open to the general public. For all of us here at Lands, it is a playground full of wildlife, unique habitats, scenic views, and much more. There’s a lot to see and enjoy, and our job is to guide anyone who’s looking for a fun way to explore it. While we’d like to sing the praises of kayaking in Ria Formosa today, we also offer eco-boat tours of Ria Formosa and even a bird watching walking tour.

Kayaking in Ria Formosa

Couple kayaking in Ria Formosa

For many, nothing compares to getting down low onto the water’s surface, pushing yourself along one of the Algarve’s most beautiful natural habitats, all while keeping an eye out for the beautiful birdlife in the area. Kayaking is an excellent way to explore Ria Formosa, both for you and for the environment. And this is why we offer both kayaking tours in Ria Formosa as well as kayaking hire in Ria Formosa. It is entirely your preference as to which option will work best for you; if you prefer to explore for yourself, then the rental option is best, but if you prefer to learn from an expert tour guide, you should opt for the tour instead.

Why is Kayaking in Ria Formosa so Eco-Friendly?

When running a tourism business in an area like Ria Formosa, full of wildlife and fragile habitats, certain precautions must be taken in order to preserve these environments and try to keep them in their natural state. For some, this might be a precaution to safeguard their business, but we believe that living and working in our little corner of the Algarve is enough to inspire all of us to look after our little slice of heaven. And the good news is that kayaking is one of the most environmentally friendly ways to explore the area — at least when you are following the rules (more on this later).

Stork – birdlife in Ria Formosa

One of many reasons we love kayaking is that it’s one of the greenest ways to get out on the water without disrupting local ecosystems. Unlike larger commercial boats, kayaks are completely sustainable, which means no gasoline, no oil, and no sound pollution from motors. Also, since our tours are in the nature park, we do our best to assure nothing can be left in or taken out of the water to ensure habitats remain unperturbed. This allows us and all our guests to experience one of the most unique natural attractions in the Algarve without ruining or disturbing this protected area.

Kayaks and canoes are used throughout the world for exploring wilderness areas and quietly observing wildlife and flora. They cause no erosion, noise or pollution and leave no trace of their passing.

A Few Kayaking Rules to Follow When Visiting Ria Formosa 

In general, kayaking is an environmentally benign activity. Nevertheless, we can take some specific steps to ensure our adventure in Ria Formosa will not cause any damage to the wildlife of this beautiful area in the Algarve. By following the simple steps below, you can ensure your presence is not detrimental to the environment.

Learn about any sensitive areas

Birdlife in Ria Formosa

Find out about the area before you go, noting its sensitive places, protected areas, species, and breeding seasons. For instance, the dunes and sandbanks out on the islands of Ria Formosa are important breeding sites for the Little Tern. This bird is a summer visitor in Portugal and Ria Formosa hosts the main breeding population of this species. This beach-nesting species is seriously affected by human disturbance so take care when walking in the islands: there may be nests with camouflaged eggs. If you see one, keep well away so you can protect it. 

Don’t drop litter

For many, littering is so abhorrent we don’t need to remind them, but it’s still worth mentioning here for everyone to read. Always take your litter home with you, leaving no trace of your visit. And if you want to be especially considerate, pick up other people’s litter if you see it. When clearing litter left by others, however, always remember to handle it with care.

Leave the environment as you find it

While this, of course, applies to litter, it also applies to shells, plants, branches, rocks, sand, and anything else you find on your adventures. The best way to be responsible with this Algarve paradise is to be a passive observer, doing everything you can to not move or disturb anything. Take care not to disturb other nesting species and move away if you notice signs of disturbance.

Keep noise to a minimum

You absolutely don’t have to whisper the entire time but shouting and making a racket will likely scare off some birds. This is why it’s better if you can keep the noise to a minimum. Being quiet is also in your interest as it will allow you to get much closer to the lagoon’s incredible wildlife.

Be careful when launching or docking your kayak

Do not ‘seal’ launch or drag your kayak as these methods wear away natural banks. Float your kayak carefully when launching or landing.

Suggesting kayak routes

Where possible, please try to keep to our suggested routes, designated paths, and launching points. Also, make sure you avoid paddling over tidal flats as they may contain fish spawn and also protected and sensitive species like the seahorses that are particularly vulnerable to any pressure of their preferred habitat the seagrass meadows areas.

Paddle carefully

The Ria Formosa shallow waters are considered a nursery area for many species, so please paddle carefully and avoid dragging canoes across intertidal areas, through sand dunes. and their grasses.

Safe distance

Always keep a safe distance away from wildlife to avoid disturbing and stressing out wildfowl and seabirds as well as their nesting chicks. Keep a careful eye out for obviously natural animal shelters and feeding areas, such as mudflats and marshes.



There is probably even more to say about kayaking in Ria Formosa, but we’ve rambled on long enough! If you’ve got right to the end then we hope this means you’re excited to explore one of Portugal’s most incredible natural environments with us. If you have any follow-up questions, please feel free to get in touch. Your big adventure in Ria Formosa could be only a few clicks away!



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