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Paddling in Portugal

Canoeing in the Algarve

Paddling in Portugal Photos and Story copyright L Manouch

A canoe free holiday, just for once that's what we agreed. It was the end of November, hubby and I had literally just come back from an exhausting paddling trip on Rannoch Moor. In fact our past 4 holidays had all been physically hard scottish trips with lots of wind and rain, so when I saw the words 'a week in sunny Portugal' staring out at me from the travel agents window, I couldn't resist. In I went and 10 minutes later it was all booked, sun, sea and tranquility here we come. Excitedly, I got home and searched the Internet for more info on the little fishing village where we were going to be staying. It didn't take long before I found a website dedicated to it. Carvoeiro, a beautiful small town with lots of restaurants and surrounded by small beaches.

setting off

copyright L Manouch

It all looked wonderful except I couldn't imagine a holiday without spending some time on the water especially as this trip was likely to be warm and sunny. Then out of nowhere, a list of Portuguese Canoe outfitters appeared on my computer screen. How it got there, I'll never know (or admit too) but there in front of me was the address of an outfitters based 20 minutes from where we were staying. It was fate. I was straight on the phone and before I new it I had booked a canoe, all the gear and even transport to the water. I was delighted, warm sunny relaxing paddling for once, now all I had to do was tell hubby..

paddling in Portugal

copyright L Manouch

I have to admit I was slightly apprehensive about paddling abroad. Not knowing the area, the bylaws or the language was quite nerve-racking. But Frank made everything so simple. I told him on the phone the type of paddling I liked, flat water, loads of wildlife, beautiful scenery, completely stress free and he did the rest. For the slightly less adventurous he runs guided canoe tours for only 25 euro per person but hubby and I wanted to explore on our own and knowing we had some paddling experience he was more than happy to let us go it alone.

Three weeks later we were there, drinking sangria in the village square, waiting for Frank to pick us up. Right on time his landrover appeared with a big red Thermoplast canoe on the roof. I'll be honest, I've never paddled a plastic bath before but I was so excited I was willing to give anything a go and as it turned out, it wasn't as bad as it looked. We drove along the coast to a little sandy beach called Praia Angrinha. Frank explained this would be our pick up point at the end of the day. A beautiful castle called 'Sao Joao Arade' which was a perfect landmark to look out for, overlooked the beach.

We drove inland for quite a while until we reached the village of Silves. We made our way down a little dirt track and ended up next to a picturesque roman bridge with a tranquil river flowing underneath. This was it, the start of our journey. Everything was perfect. We carefully got into the boat and we were off. I found the boat comfy enough and it wasn't too hard to manoeuver although hubby did keep comparing it to our Mobile Adventure Lowline we have at home, which is fitted out with a wine bottle holder and snacks tray (to expect that would have been a little too much I think).

bridgecanoeing in the Algarve

copyright L Manouch

The river now opened up and turned into a large estuary. In the distance we could see a huge very modern looking bridge. As we got closer we saw the motorway that went over it. All the creaks and rumbles echoed beneath and I felt so vunerable in our tiny little boat as we paddled under ths huge structure. As we came out the other side I decided to take some photographs of what was, a very impressive piece of architecture, then 'plop' and we both fell silent. I'd been trying to change lenses on my camera and somehow the lens just fell overboard. I was devastated. I suppose I should be grateful it wasn't the camera but still it was horrid watching my favourite lens which cost more than the holiday disappear into the deep gloom below. The last part of our trip took us through the city of Portimao. From being in the middle of nowhere we were now paddling through a busy shipping lane surrounded by tower blocks. What an amazing experience. The contrast was spellbinding and I loved every minute of it. There was so much going on all around us. Huge galleons complete with canons moored next to ultra modern Gin Palaces. Jet skis and the coastguard where whizzing about and in the middle of it all a little old man in his colourful canoe, collecting mussles from the estuary bed with a long rake, totally oblivious to the noise and bustle around him.

It wasn't long before we saw the outline of the castle high up on the cliff in the distance. We paddled slowly towards the sandy beach not wanting the day to end, but as we dragged our boat through the scattered lobster pots on the sand we were already planning our next trip back.


copyright L Manouch

Come kayaking!

riverside cafe

copyright L Manouch

Lucinda Manouch is an award winning photographer who specialises in canoe and travel photography. You can see more of her photos at

Call or text (SMS) 00351 910 668 600 or 00351 910 690 926 9am - 6pm GMT

Licensed Travel Agency RNAVT 5595.

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