Stand up paddle #microadventure in the Algarve


Get outside!
Get outside!

There is a guy on the web (actually he is a National Geographic Adventurer of the Year) who coined the term #microadventure . It’s a fantastic initiative designed to get people out of the humdrum of 9 to 5 and to delve deep into nature during their 5 to 9. Alastair Humphreys has a way with words (he’s also written quite a few books) and the #microadventure initiative is a simple and easy way to get people outdoors.

I have been meaning to get outdoors and complete one for at least a year. Slack, I know! When I least expected it, in the depths of a Portuguese winter, the idea struck me.

  • Drive to a remote lake,
  • paddle 4km,
  • camp on a perfectly flat little section
  • and paddle back in the morning.

It sounds easy, right?

It WAS easy and supremely enjoyable. I guess the aspect of it that really got me going was that none of my mates would come with me in the middle of winter. I was on my own, which sounded pretty exciting. The timeline was all sorted out and as I realized I had to leave at 3pm to make camp before sundown, my watch ticked over to 15h00. I was nowhere near ready.

Hustling through the house, chucking camping kit together I rustled an old sleeping bag out of the closet, which my wife assured me was the warmest thing ever. Managing to gather all the necessary goods into my car, I raced off for the lake with an eye on the sun as it arced downwards, startlingly close to the horizon.

stand up paddle algarve
Paddling across the lake towards my darkening camp site.

Arriving at the lake, my RED paddle 12’6″ Explorer (weapon of choice for this little trip) was pumped up in the nick of time and as I pushed off into a misty sunset, a golden glow settled upon my still lake. Slicing through the water, the Explorer ate through 4km in record time. As the bow scraped mud under my chosen camp site, the afterglow of the sun was still illuminating a clear winter sky and I breathed a sigh of relief. There was still time to gather wood for a fire. “Thank heavens for that,” I thought as packed kit into meaningful areas of my new living area:

  • Tent up,
  • firewood collected,
  • comfy bed-roll spread out,
  • bottle of wine opened,
  • dinner revealed.

I wouldn’t consider this an “Extreme Sleep” as coined by Phoebe Smith who wrote an incredible book about wild camping in crazy places in the UK, in even crazier weather. The only thing extreme about my little #microadventure was the cold. I looked online at some microadventures after I came back and even that wasn’t as extreme as some enterprising young lads’ sleepout in Antarctica. How do you top that?

Anyway, I wasn’t in it for the competition, just for the experience. Paddling out, setting up camp and paddling back on my own was an enriching experience. Hopefully we’ll be able to entice some Algarve SUP clients to try an “extreme sleep” in 2015!

Would you do it?

Vital info for stand up paddle on the Algarve’s dams

The Algarve has six man-made dams or barragems as they are known in Portuguese, however not all of them are suitable for stand up paddling. Starting from the west.

The Six Dams of the Algarve

Here are the six large dams in the Algarve, including the height of the dam wall (in metres) and maximum capacity (in millions of cubic metres) to give an indication of how large they are.

  1. Bravura (also known as Barragem de Odiaxere), 41m, 35 million cubic metres
  2. Odelouca ,76m, 157 million cubic metres
  3. Arade, 50m, 28 million cubic metres
  4. Funcho, 49m, 47 million cubic metres
  5. Odeleite, 65m, 130 million cubic metres
  6. Beliche, 54m, 48 million cubic metres

In order to pinpoint these Portuguese Dams on the map, we’ve provided a handy Google Map below, from which you can work out directions to get there. It’s always a little challenge finding a launch point, but with a bit of common sense and a little driving about, you’ll be able to figure it out. If you need more advice just drop us a line and we can help you out or even take you on a stand up paddle trip.

Important info about Odelouca Dam

The Algarve’s largest and most intriguing dam is sadly closed for water-sports. It is completely prohibited to swim or use any type of water craft (both powered and without motor) on the Algarve’s largest dam. So that means no paddle boarding, no sailing, no wake boarding… zero. Sorry about that.

It’s a pity as it’s a stunning location and is fairly similar to the Barragem do Funcho, however being situated in more mountainous territory, it snakes through fairly steep canyons at times producing wonderful vistas. Looking down on the dam from the mountains above with the Algarve laid out behind is truly spectacular. Take a drive from São Marcos da Serra to Monchique on the N267 to experience glimpses of the dam.

The two best dams

In our opinion, the best dam to paddle on is the Barragem do Funcho, due to it’s size, easy access and beautiful surroundings. The Barragem de Odeleite is a little more out of the way (near Portugal’s Eastern border with Spain) but slightly larger and with more arid natural vegetation. However the best way to make your choice is to get out there and paddle each dam itself.

Check out this video we took at the height of summer on the Barragem do Funcho, with not one single person out there…

If you need any help exploring drop us a line, leave a comment or organize a SUP adventure with us! We’d love to host you. Oh and do you agree with our choice of best dam in the Algarve for stand up paddle?