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Mediterranean Ponds

Circular Routes Stage

6 / 12 Km

This route, designed by the League for Nature Protection (LPN), within the Life Charcos project, combines a beautiful section of the Fishermen’s Trail together with one of the most remarkable and unique freshwater habitats in Europe, the Mediterranean temporary ponds, providing shelter to rare and endangered species.

This route is home to some of the most emblematic habitats, both in dunes and wetlands, and is representative of the values ​​that led to the creation of a Natural Park and a site of the Rede Natura 2000 on the southwest coast of Portugal. In the spring, you can see almost all the endemic plants of the southwest coast of Portugal, just by traveling this one section of the Rota Vincentina!

In the shrubs you will see and smell aromatic bushes such as thymes, rosemary, lavender, shrubby everlasting or juniper. At the end of February, the orchids announce the official start of the flower season, however some rebel species bloom year-round, like the Lithodora prostrata, with its intense blue flowers. During the day, only the short-toed snake eagle and an endless variety of birds seem to populate these shrubs, but at night, rabbits, badgers, foxes and Egyptian mongooses come out of their burrows.

Temporary Mediterranean ponds are a priority habitat in terms of conservation, because these are environments with a very unique flora and fauna. This is not surprising, as creatures here live only 3 to 6 months in these temporary aquatic environments and live the rest of the year on earth. Many of these species are classified as threatened at European or global level. A common feature to all creatures inhabiting the ponds is their small size. Even the rushes are tiny! But perhaps the most emblematic inhabitants of the ponds are the tiny crustaceans: the fairy shrimp, clam shrimpand tadpole shrimp. These animals complete their life cycle in just 3 months! During the dry phase, most of these creatures are dormant in the soil in the form of resistant eggs. When the rainy season begins, the eggs hatch, the animals grow, reproduce and prepare again for the dormancy phase. With plants a similar phenomenon occurs, but instead of eggs, the seeds, spores and underground organs are the forms of life that are resistant to dryness.

Temporary ponds are preferred habitats for the reproduction of amphibians, since they do not contain fish or lobsters, the main predators of the eggs and larvae of amphibians. In the temporary ponds of the southwest coast we can find almost all the species of amphibians occurring in Portugal, including an endemic species from the south of the Iberian Peninsula, the Iberian parsley frog, Pelodytes ibericus. It is a tiny frog (usually less than 4cm long), however, a single female can lay up to 1.600 eggs!

Where to start

Interpretation center (Centro de Interpretação dos Charcos Mediterrânicos do Sudoeste Alentejano)
On the road between Brunheiras and Ribeira da Azenha, at the bend that gives access to Malhão beach, following the dirt road on the left.

Porto das Barcas
To the north of Vila Nova de Milfontes, next to the restaurant Porto das Barcas.

Datasheet

Degree of Difficulty: Very easy / Average

Extension: 6 / 12KM
Approximate duration: 2 h / 4 h

Accumulated ascent: m
Accumulated descent: 50 / 200m

Maximum ALTITUDE: 60m
Minimum ALTITUDE: 10m

Recommended Season: September till June

Rules and Recommendations

THE CIRCULATION OF MOTOR VEHICLES PUTS WALKERS AT RISK

AVOID DOING THE HISTORICAL WAY ON A MOTOR CYCLE OR IN A JEEP, LOOK INTO OTHER OPTIONS

DO NOT LIGHT FIRES

SEVERAL FARMS AND CATTLE HERDS ARE PROTECTED BY GUARD DOGS. PROCEED WITH CAUTION

BE CAUTIOUS WITH CATTLE. ALTHOUGH GENTLE, THEY DO NOT LIKE STRANGERS APPROACHING THEIR CALVES

THESE TRAILS PASS BY PRIVATE PROPERTY. RESPECT IT AND CLOSE GATES AND FENCES YOU WILL FIND ON THE WAY

THERE ARE VERY FEW SUPPORT SERVICES ALONG THE TRAILS. BRING WATER AND FOOD SUPPLIES WITH YOU.

IN SOME PARTS OF THE TRAILS YOU WILL HAVE TO CROSS PAVED ROADS. BE CAREFUL!

YOU WILL FIND SEVERAL LOCATIONS IDEAL FOR PICNICS. DO NOT, IN ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, LEAVE TRASH BEHIND

BE FRIENDLY WITH THE LOCALS, TELL THEM WHY YOU’RE THERE AND SHARE EXPERIENCES.

Tips

Refreshments along the way
In Porto das Barcas.

Warnings

This is a section with two variants. Be alert to the signage.

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