Photo: Michael Bruxo/Open Media

Authorities to impose stricter rules on visits to Algarve’s iconic sea caves

Limits on the number of people visiting the Algarve’s iconic sea caves at any one time, as well as the size of tour boats allowed to enter the caves, are under discussion by the Portuguese Environment Agency (APA).

These natural attractions, says APA, are under enormous pressure due to the large crowds they draw.

These stricter rules are due to be included in the revised version of the Odeceixe-Vilamoura POOC coastal plan, which is being finalised, reports national tabloid Correio da Manhã.

They aim to protect areas along the coast with “high natural value” which are suffering from tourism pressure, such as the famous Benagil sea cave in Lagoa, it adds.

“We are looking to implement ‘terms of use’ in some coastal areas, which could include, for example, a limit to the number people and size of tour boats allowed to enter these caves,” Pedro Coelho, the head of the regional environmental association (APA Algarve), told CM.

The new rules are being worked on alongside the National Maritime Authority (AMN) and the several municipalities where they will be implemented. Adds CM, they could be enforced as soon as next summer.

The Algarve’s sea caves are one of its most famous attractions and have even received international attention in some of the world’s most reputable publications, from the UK’s The Guardian to the Condé Nast Traveler magazine.

However, some believe these beauty spots are suffering the effects of ‘overtourism’ – in other words, the excessive number of visitors is doing more harm than good.

In the summer of 2019 (the last before the Covid-19 pandemic), the Resident spoke with several locals and business owners in Benagil, a small coastal village in Lagoa famous for its beach and sea cave, who told us the situation was dire and that Benagil was at its “breaking point” due to an overwhelming number of visitors.

Illegal motorhoming, public defecation and a blatant disrespect for the rules, which saw people parking where they please and swimmers turning a deaf ear to lifeguard warnings, were threatening the charm of the once tranquil beach (click here).

The Covid-19 pandemic has obviously led to a decrease in visitor numbers, but authorities want to make sure that the same issues do not arise as society slowly remerges from the pandemic.

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Benagil Cave