Lakeside eco lodge in rural Portugal

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Responsible tourism

As the pioneers of responsible tourism, we screen every trip so you can travel knowing your holiday will help support conservation and local people.

Environment
As one of Portugal's leading Birding and Nature Guides, Frank, the Quinta's owner, has been at the forefront of Wildlife and Environment Conservation for more years than he cares to admit, travelling the world to give lectures and bring attention to the Montados, (Portugal's Cork Oak Forests), the threats they face, their conservation value and the value they have for the food chain and the indigenous population. He initiated the "Save Salgados" campaign through his Avaaz petition, the second largest Wildlife Conservation petition in Portugal's history, which has to date saved this Ramsar site from development.

We've been "Green" since before it became fashionable. Starting from scratch in the 80's we've been primarily solar run, re-cycling and re-using everything from water to waste. The garden, which supplies our kitchen, has never had chemicals of any kind put on the land, and the vegetable patches have, quite literally, been broken down from solid rock, and, with 35 years of added compost, sand and straw are now productive to such a degree that the surplus is often given away to guests who are moving on somewhere else.

As noted above, the Quinta is primarily solar run. To get technical, the batteries are rated at 1,450 amps charged by 3.9 kw photovoltaic cells, (2.6 kw direct inverter to grid, main inverter 6 kw nominal continuous, 8 kw starting power for 30 mins + 2.6 from direct solar inverter). We also have a totally silenced 22 Kva 3-phase generator as back-up. This is used for approximately 1 hour in every 24 for the professional dish-washer, battery-charging back-up and water-pumping back-up. In this way we mitigate deep-cycle use of the batteries thus prolonging their life while also ensuring that our guests never go without any of the "necessities" of living. We are totally unconnected to any state utility and are wholly reliant for electricity, water and waste on what we produce or dispose of ourselves. In this way our carbon footprint is negligible - to such a degree that we have been awarded a Platinum rating as a "Green Leader".

Cooking is done with propane. Water heating is done with solar panels with a zero-loss propane gas boiler as back-up should we have a week of cloudy weather. Heating is done with Heat recuperators, wood stoves, (wood grown in the Quinta's woodland), and, in some rooms, butane heaters. Having said that, it is very seldom that we have the need to heat when we have guests as we are closed for exactly this reason from 1st November to 15th March.
Water is not as large a problem for us as it is for most, as the Quinta sits on the side of a massive lake and any water we use eventually ends up back in the lake - from where we pump it up again with a solar pump. It is then cleaned through a series of filters, including a back-wash filter, before being fed through a UV system to make it drinkable again. We re-use all our waste water through underground irrigation systems to mitigate evaporation and most of the above-ground irrigation systems are drip-feed and irrigated only during the hours of darkness.

Frank has built the whole Quinta from scratch, using, as much as possible, local stone sourced either from the Quinta's own land or from nearby ruins whose owners wanted the land cleared. However, some buildings are made from wood and some others from brick or cinder blocks.

Portugal is still in the dark ages as regards biodiesel or electric transport, but all the Quinta's vehicles are kept in good repair and are regularly serviced so as to pollute as little as possible. Local buses are few and far between, but we encourage our guests to arrive by train if they can.

As far as possible we use local suppliers, especially where this pertains to food if we cannot grow the stuff ourselves. If we do have to source from outside the local area we do our utmost to source green.

Many guests now visit simply to enjoy one of our guided tours that explain how we have built the Quinta, the tricks to make living an ecologically sustainable life enjoyable, to learn about the local nature, to learn from our experience, what works and what doesn't.
Community

The Impacts of this Trip

Having lived in this community for thirty five years, where "local" takes on a whole new meaning, we are well-integrated with our neighbours. Our newest employee has been with us continuously for fifteen years, our longest-serving one thirty three - and before that we employed her sister.

One of the primary reasons I chose to make my life here was that it was away from the coast, where 95% of the population - and thus employment - is situated. I had seen in Britain what happens to a community when the youth move away through lack of employment. Without employment there are no young people - by "young" I mean below the age of 45. Without the young there are no kids, without kids, no schools, without schools no buses, no shops, no banks, no post office and before long, no life. I knew I was late but I thought that perhaps I could make a difference by starting a business inland, where the local population was already ageing. I was nearly too late.

When I moved here there were four restaurants in our local village. Now there are none. There was a Post office; gone now. There was a Jewellers; gone. An insurance broker; long gone. Three grocers and a separate fruit shop; just two grocers now. I've done my best for the school, and we still have that but the average age of the local population is now sixty five - the average! Three babies have been borne in the last ten years ...
We have done what we can, and we continue to do so. The Quinta, by its existence, is now the primary fiscal source that keeps five families, (including our own), in the area. Without the Quinta those five families would have joined the exodus to the coast and there would be five more nails in the coffin that too often is the interior of the country.

Our guests get a warm welcome from the locals because the locals know that they're staying at the Quinta; what more is there to say? We've been a part of this community for thirty five years.

Climate

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