Albufeira’s Natural World Part One: Albufeira’s Hidden Valley

Albufeira has a wonderful secret in its midst: a valley filled with wildlife, overlooked or unknown to most. I first discovered it when walking my son to school up a secluded road. 

This valley is an old riverbed whose course ends at the beach near the Inatel Hotel. You only realise the sheer depth of this valley when standing on either side of it. There are some condominiums that overlook the valley and through the middle is a rough path created by people using it as a cut-through to the Avenida dos Descobrimentos. On each side, little trails beaten by dog walkers crisscross the terrain, winding around the thick foliage and affording magnificent views.

On a typical winter afternoon, this unspoilt channel is filled with greens of all shades, dotted with carob and almond trees; wildflowers pepper the undergrowth with cheerful colours of fuchsia, yellow and lilac. 

On a summer’s day, the greens have turned to ambers and browns, but the appeal does not fade. Watching the sunset, catching a glimpse of the ocean, each day a different hue of blue, and hearing the wildlife moving undisturbed amongst the flora are food for the soul. As twilight creeps in, the branches of the carob trees turn into witches’ fingers, black against the pink sky. The sounds become nocturnal noises: a rustle here, a movement there but with the dusk disguising who and where.

Almond blossom in the valley

I have had many encounters with the natural inhabitants of this magical micro world. The first was a long, chunky snake sadly flattened, perhaps a victim of roadkill. I couldn’t believe such a big snake could share the route I walked with my son each day. I believe it to be a horseshoe whip snake. Another time, when I stopped next to a palm tree, a long, thin, dark-skinned snake slithered speedily down the trunk, past my sandals and into the undergrowth! 

One day I found I had company: an enthusiastic wild rabbit scampered alongside me, just a metre away. It is a skill to spot the wild rabbits as they really blend in with the foliage, sitting still as stones. You would not know they were there unless you were looking for them. 

Wild rabbit top of the valley
Sunshine on the valley

I frequently see groups of azure-winged magpies as they zip around, always in pairs and more often in groups of eight or ten, the air filled with their trills and whistles. They scuffle in the tall palms, then suddenly fly together across the valley to find a new place to perch. There is always a sense of a playful chase going on.

I think my most thrilling experiences have been with the owls. A few times, I have seen a large, tawny owl (Strix aluco) and also little owls (Athene Noctua) that perch on big, white stones at dusk and are quite visible. One step too close and they are gone; you blink and miss their slick and silent flight. 

One evening I could hear a cacophony from a group of blackbirds, shrieking excitedly and hopping about in front of me because a little owl was sitting among them. I got within a couple of metres. It was as if the blackbirds were trying to understand who this intruder was on their patch. 

The valley’s upper side has a large water tunnel passing under the road and exiting on the lower side, a sure reminder that this is a dry water channel. Boys scramble down the embankments to peer inside this creepy subway, scaring each other with bets.

It would be great if Albufeira Câmara would tidy the valley up (it has been subject to some thoughtless fly-tipping), add in some scenic benches and create a nature reserve park to be enjoyed by all. Whatever its future, it is my fervent hope that this wonderful, tranquil haven for wildlife and walkers will never be taken away. 


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