The Baleeira Cove is home to several unique habitats, which include the water lines dominated by the tamarisk (Tamarix africana), the coastal marshes containing limestone, the Martinhal Lagoon, the dunes, the sandy beach, the intertidal rocky zone and the coastal islets that emerge from the sea in the middle of the cove.
The Martinhal Lagoon is dry in the summer, but during the winter, it is filled with as much salt water during the winter storms as fresh water from Barrancos das Mós and from Vale do Lobo. The species that colonize it are adapted to these variations in salinity and water availability. It is a great spot for birdwatching, especially during migration time, when very rare species emerge. Two birds that live here are the blue rock thrush and the red-billed chough, identifiable only by the most attentive observer, since at first glance they appear totally black. The Baleeira Islets are small rocky islands whose submerged walls are explored by divers to see fish, shrimp, anemones, crabs and gorgonians (a family of soft corals).
Calcite, a dominant mineral in the clear rocks of the cliffs, is dissolved by the water into irregular forms, creating arcs, great rocks emerging from the water and caves. Although on a smaller scale, the sea and the water runoff also carve fine and delicate traces into the limestone.
Since at least the Neolithic period, this area had human occupation. Between the beaches of Martinhal and Rebolinhos there are vestiges of Roman occupation (3rd to 5th centuries AD) – including a cistern, nine furnaces for producing amphorae and a kiln for producing tiles and bricks. A large potter’s center would have most likely existed here, specialized in the production of amphoras to pack salted fish and fish sauces. The location of this center was chosen due to the proximity of clay pits and the ease of transport by sea, thanks to the protection of Baleeira Cove.
At Ponta da Fisga, a rocky ledge between the beaches of Zavial and Ingrina, was once the thriving Zavial Fort. Nowadays, it remains the basis of what would have been a small, rectangular military fort, built in the 18th century. Before this, there was the fort of Santo Inácio, destroyed by the earthquake of 1775. From this point on, the landscape is magnificent and you can see the coast until Ponta da Torre (900 m) to the east and to Ponta da Atalaia (6 km) to the west.
Where to start
In Sagres Garden, next to the tourism office.
In Salema Beach.
Rules and Recommendations
► During low tide, it is easy to cross the road between Furnas and Figueira Beaches.
► 200 meters west of the parking lot of Salema beach, look out for the beautiful footprints of the dinosaurs that crossed the Fishermen’s Trail 250 million years ago!
► When the ground is wet, you must take special care when descending to the beaches.
► In winter the beach bars may be closed, so there are only supplies at the beginning and end of the route.
► The route also contains steep areas, so make sure to watch your step.