Conservation and history in Portugal
Are you looking for an adventurous trip with a purpose, or on a gap year or career break? If you want to make a difference in some of the world’s most important conservation areas - and in community projects - then volunteer trips are for you! Volunteers tend to have a sense of adventure, and come from a range of different backgrounds and from all over the world.
Edward Abbey said 'sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul'.
How Conservation and history in Portugal makes a difference
As the UK's biggest environmental volunteering charity, our aim is to make the maximum contribution to the communities and places we work in and we always work with a local partner organisation. These are unique holidays in unique places. Working directly with the local people you'll have the chance to experience Portugal in a way no other holiday can offer. Living, laughing and working as a group, you're not only changing the world, you'll change your life.
Conservation and History in Portugal
Our work is helping local systems of sustainable production in conjunction with efforts of the park and local community. The haquea removal is a critical part of the project directly helping to maintain the semi-natural habitats characteristic of the area and preserving traditional grazing lands. Work on way-marking and trails is an important part of visitor management in the park ensuring that the area can be enjoyed with minimal disturbance to wildlife and the environment. Portugal is far more than the Algarve, and much of it's beauty lies hidden in the mountains. This holiday will bring you away from the usual tourist areas and attractions and contribute directly to the preservation of some of Europe's finest original landscape.
Coastal conservation in Portugal
Removal of the invasive species Acacia longifolia and Carpobrotus edulis is a critical part of the project directly helping to maintain the unusual and delicate natural habitat characteristics of the area and preserving the high biodiversity of the area. Both these species agressively compete with local native plants crowding them out and creating biodiversity deserts. Sand dunes are notoriously prone to erosion and disturbance meaning that removal by hand is the only viable method. 'Visitor management' in the park is equally important in ensuring that the area can be enjoyable and educational with minimal disturbance to wildlife and the environment.
In the Mountains: We'll be staying at a former forest guard house, now used as an Ecological School near the village of Arnal, 1000m above sea level and away from everything, except goats, cows, the odd dog or two and the occasional local. Basic but comfortable, it has bedrooms, bathrooms with showers, kitchen, dining/living room and a meeting room. It's near the top of the mountain and has a long view to the valley and to the town of Vila Real. There's a nearby waterfall perfect for that end of the day refreshing dip, and even a local bar in the next village - a 30 minute downhill walk away (but uphill on the way back!)
By the Sea: The Foz do Cávado youth hostel in a near perfect location on the banks of the River Cávado - a comfortable and modern youth hostel with walking distance of the town, the beaches and the river. The hostel has a new swimming pool but with the sea pretty close too, it can be hard making up your mind where to bathe after work. The Cávado, which flows right next to the hostel, is a well known river for canoeing and other water sports.
We'll be accommodated in 4 bed rooms. Twins may be possible at extra cost and depending on availability - enquire when booking. Breakfasts and dinners are prepared for us, we'll make our own packed lunches.
So we can really get to know both areas, we'll have an extensive guided tour of each of the natural parks, with a highlight in Litoral Norte of a boat trip of the area or even, conditions permitting, a scuba diving trip organised by the PADI certificated local Diving and Marine Ecology Centre.
During the first week we'll also take a day out to explore the Port Wine region of the Douro Valley (port caves, vineyards and a unique landscape) taking the opportunity to sample its finest and visit the historic town of Vila Real. Sampling the local wine is an important part of any trip to Northern Portugal and with the guidance of our Natural Park friends we'll take the opportunity during our second week to make some comparisons whilst exploring further the Minho region. It's all about the litoral of course and so naturally we'll be taking to the water.
If it's big nightlife you want - the first week is not for you (although the trek to the bar of an evening can be quite an adventure!) But for the peace of nature, walking, splashing in waterfalls, watching the stars as the sun sets and curling up with a good book by the woodstove, it's perfect. On the other hand - If all the peace has rejuvenated you in the first week, the cafes and festivals of Esposende are waiting in the second.
The day before our we meet at the beginning of our project is the Festa de São João do Porto - St Joao's Festival - and with so much to see in Porto and Vila Real, it's worth tacking on an extra couple of days at the beginning or end.
Conservation and history in Portugal