When we set out to visit the Algarve with lowcostholidays.com, I imagined miles of sun, sea and sand with nothing much in between. How wrong I was.
In spring the Algarve is a rolling green paradise, with an ever changing view. We went looking for an active family adventure in this Portuguese outdoor playground, and we found quite a few. Here are my top five…
Top 5 Algarve Adventures
Up in the trees at Parque Aventura
1 Skywalking on a treetop trek
I am high in the trees. Like a tightrope walker without a pole, I push one foot in front of the other and hope my innate sense of balance is enough to carry me across the void. The warm sun beats down as I move out of the leafy shade. There’s a whoosh behind me and the sound of hands grasping tree bark tells me I need to get a move on. Matthew is on my tail. Ahead of me, Hannah slowly and methodically pushes a metal clasp into a zip wire, and adds two karibiners. Her Dad calls encouragement, challenging her to step out into nothing. She hesitates, then with a small cry, descends. Meanwhile Cameron has completed the course and is going around again at top speed. Albufeira’s Parque Aventurer high ropes course holds a lesser challenge for him than the rest of us.
I wonder if he was a monkey in a former life.
Up in the trees at Parque Aventura
2 Paddling after the explorers on a sea safari
I am paddling a wide ocean, playground of some of the world’s key explorers like Columbus and Henry the Navigator. The spray glints in the sunshine as I help push us past sandstone crag, out into the open sea. Unlike the great explorers we aren’t bound for Africa; we are heading for the beach. But first, with the help of Frank Frank Koopman from www.outdoor-tours.com, we paddle into tiny caves where the choppy waves tip the boat and we have to do three point turns to get back out. I watch cormorants settle into the day high on the iconic rocks that stud the ocean. I learn basic paddling, and have to manage the fallout when a high spirited outbreak of splashing soaks one half of the family. And then while the kids go snorkelling in the shallows of a blue blue sea, on a pearly white beach, I sit and watch the surf roll in.
I wonder if we’re a family of water babies who have been accidentally landlocked in life?
Sea Kayaking in the Algarve - part of Algarve beach life
3 Taking on the mountains in a jeep safari
I am rubbing my fingers along the bark of a cork tree. I pinch eucalyptus between my fingers and breathe in the scent. I hum along with the bees as they swarm around cardboard box nests, and I feel the heat of the locally brewed medronho firewater. And then I climb back in the air conditioned bus, and hold on tight as we blast over potholed track, and bump through streams and rivers, climbing higher and higher into the mountains on our guided jeep safari with www.outdoor-tours.com. I wish we had time to ride back down the fertile mountain on two wheels, calling out a swift hello to the women who have spent a lifetime irrigating the terraces while their menfolk put the world to rights over strong coffee and tiny pastries.
I wonder if they have ever seen tandem and triplet bicycles before?
Out on safari in the Serra de Monchique
4 Trotting through the valley on horseback
I am brushing past almond blossom and weaving around citrus grove and fig tree. I push through river and trot over stream. All I can hear is the clatter of hooves on off-road track. “Stunning isn’t it,”says Ginny Harman, owner of the Quinta Paraisa Alto riding stables in Bensafrim. “You might find riding country like this in Africa, but it’s unusual to find it in Europe. Most countries insist you follow bridal paths when out riding, but here we’re not restricted.” Ginny says her horses don’t understand cars as they spend so little time near roads. “And if they saw a double decker bus they’d have kittens,” she laughs. My horse is both strong and strong willed, and needs a firm hand. I softly say her name and stroke her mane.
I wonder if we are bonding?
Horse riding in the Algarve
5 Rolling with the tide on a family surf lesson
I am going under. And then I am resurfacing, and whooping, and coughing salt from my lungs. Beside me my children flail about in the white stuff, big grins on their faces. Matt Shears from The Surf Experience doesn’t teach a lot of families how to ride the waves. He teaches a lot of single people and quite a few surf obsessed couples, but he is happy to give us a go. With drooping arms and dangling legs my kids look they have climbed a beanstalk and stolen the giant’s wetsuits. My board is technically the correct height for me, but seems a mile long as I drag it down soft sand and into the white stuff. I get off to a shaky start when I am dumped unceremoniously in the swell. But half an hour of practice in and out of the water and I grasp what I have to do, even if I’m not quite doing it yet. I lie down, and fall in. I kneel up and fall in. I jump to my feet and fall in. Despite the cold air, the even colder sea, and my lack of style and technique, I’m having a really good time.
I wonder if I am a surf dude trapped in the body of a housewife?
A family surf lesson near Lagos, Algarve
Find out more about our Algarve Trip:
Disclosure Note: Our thanks to the Algarve Tourist Board and lowcostholidays.com for supporting our Algarve Adventure. All the experience, views and opinions expressed are, as ever, entirely our own.