The perfect place for wildlife enthusiasts to observe nature...
This is undoubtedly one of the most fascinating places where wildlife captivates and reveals itself in its most beautiful and diverse form. At first glance, the location may seem tranquil and unassuming, but upon closer inspection, every corner comes alive with scenes reminiscent of David Attenborough's documentaries 😉. Although numerous species of wild birds inhabit the area, encountering each one isn't guaranteed as they appear seasonally, in line with migrations, making each visit a unique experience.
The main purpose of this area is the production of sea salt, which is created in the nearby salt pans. It's an excellent habitat for numerous wading birds and long-legged ones such as flamingos, the Eurasian wigeon, grey herons, and black-winged stilts.
As we stroll between the reservoirs, we'll notice their diversity. Some are more saline than others, varying in surface colors due to different salt concentration levels and bacterial activity. Flowing through the heart of these areas is the Ribeira de São Lourenço, a river that nourishes the entire park area with water.
The Ludo Park can be divided into two main sectors, separated by the main road. This road beautifully glimmers in the sunlight, adorned with salt crystals that settle on its surface, falling from trucks transporting vast amounts of salt.
Flamingos, seagulls, plovers, cormorants, and storks are typical elements of the landscape here.
The tidal fluctuations in the more 'green zone' (as I like to call it, referring to the area from the main road towards the inland) are more pronounced. The slow-moving saline water fosters a very specific plant cover consisting of salt-tolerant plants (halophytes) such as lush limoniastrum, which beautifully shimmers in the morning sun with hues of purple. Another plant commonly found here is the thorny rush. Depending on the season, one can observe ringed plovers, sandpipers, herons, black-winged stilts, young flamingos, and a variety of ducks and herons.
In 2022, this green zone suffered immense damage from a fire that nearly consumed the stork habitat. It's a remarkable place because on a few trees, there are over 20 enormous nests where many bird families have the chance to raise their young. Even in 2023, the trees remained lifeless, without leaves, serving merely as skeletons and support for the storks' homes. Ludo without the clattering of storks wouldn't be the same, and despite everything, it's heartening that nature, in its destructive rampage, preserved their habitat.
Above it all soar raptors of various kinds: ospreys, kites, buzzards, hairy eagles, and other large species. Every time a predator flew over the ponds, it stirred a commotion among the wading birds. Even the storks, despite their considerable size, nervously reacted, twisting their heads, trying to spot where the danger was approaching from. I witnessed numerous scenes of ospreys hunting, their talons grabbing onto wriggling fish...
Nature in its purest form, beautiful, majestic, and cruel...
Following the main trail towards 📌 Quinta do Lago, you'll reach the 📍 São Lourenço trail, alongside which ancient Roman ruins of buildings once used for salt production can be found. Continuing the journey alongside the golf courses, you'll come across a wooden bird observatory offering a picturesque view of the ponds and marshes near the houses in Quinta do Lago. The golf courses serve as excellent hunting grounds for kestrels, Iberian magpies, stonechats, zebra finches, and many other smaller bird species.
The small water reservoirs and channels serve as a refuge for Mediterranean turtles, which enjoy resting and basking there. However, observing these creatures requires patience and maintaining silence, as they can quickly tilt into the water and vanish beneath the surface.
Listing only a few of the species that can be found there, I could add the exceptionally charming bee-eaters and colorful bee-eaters (the English name seems to fit better with what these birds mainly feed on – bee-eaters), which stand out with their vibrant colors amidst their surroundings, attracting specific types of insects.
Below is a map with entrances; it's not permitted to drive everywhere within the park, and appropriate signs are placed accordingly. You can leave your car by the road (entering from Gambelas) or at the designated parking area (marked on the map below) if entering from the airport side. I explored the entire area by bike, including the pine forests on the cliff separating Ludo from the Faro district of Gambelas, where the University of Algarve campus is located.
Ludo is one of the few places where nature maintains its rhythm, a rhythm unfortunately disrupted by the air traffic from the nearby main airport of Algarve in Faro.
Here are a few tips that might come in handy during your trip to the 🌿 Ludo Trail
🌿 Access to the canal area requires permission from the salt factory owner. Their house is located near the warehouse, so it's worth asking if entry to the restricted areas is allowed.
🌿"The best way to admire wildlife is with binoculars or a telephoto lens on your camera. The animals won't allow close observation. I assure you, any awkward movement will cause alarm. Even the storks on their trees dislike intruders and won't permit anyone to approach their habitats. Let's keep this in mind!. I've seen people approach too closely. In the blink of an eye, dozens of storks took flight, leaving their eggs or young in the nests to the whims of fate. It takes hours before they return, ensuring no intruders linger nearby. Cormorants, flamingos, herons, ducks, they're not fans of ours either. They skillfully distance themselves and aren't interested in our friendly intentions at all.
Observing birds up close demands immense patience, planning, and choosing a spot that is primarily safe for both us and the animals, ensuring a good view. Yet, even then, there's never a guarantee that any of the winged residents will fancy human company, especially those lying still in the mud, camouflaged in their makeshift disguise 😉.
🌿 When setting out on a hike, it's important to carry a supply of water, as water is not available nearby. Mosquito repellent would also be useful, as well as suncream, headgear, and eye protection, as the white salt and water can tire the eyes due to glare.
🎥 I invite you to a short video, recorded in Ludo - more about it Click Here 😉.