Benagil beach emergency sees authorities respond to calls for action

Working group to present proposal for ‘solutions’ by December 31

Years of local entreaties to authorities to move in and control the madness at Benagil beach every summer have seen a public notice (finally) posted in State gazette Diário da República.

The Algarve CCDR (commission for regional coordination and development) is to “coordinate a multidisciplinary working group with the mission of establishing the capacity for human load and determining conditions of access to the Benagil grottoes.

This comes after YEARS in which local people have been complaining about a veritable touristic invasion of the area since Benagil’s ‘wonders’ have been repeatedly extolled over practically every means of communication in the virtual world.

Benagil went viral long before the pandemic. In the subsequent years, even during restrictions, pressure on the stunning beach with its equally stunning sea cave has pushed the bounds of sanity.

Businesses running ‘pleasure trips’ to and from the cave have fallen out with each other in their determination to take as many people back and forth as possible in daylight hours: there have been fights/ arguments – all against a backdrop of a ‘little slice of paradise’ that has been indelibly plundered.

Portugal Resident reports in the past have alluded to the pressure of illegal motorhomes/ wild campers who think nothing of ‘going to the lavatory’ behind whatever bush serves their purpose. 

Yet the government dispatch in Diário da República skirts around this unpleasantness

“The Benagil Caves, located off Benagil Beach in the municipality of Lagoa, are one of the Algarve’s main tourist attractions”, it says. 

“In recent years, these natural caves have aroused the curiosity of a growing number of people who seek them out by sea, leading to a significant increase in the number of visitors staying in the area, especially during the summer period.

“Thus, under the terms of the government order, it is necessary to define the maximum limit of human load capacity in the Benagil Caves, and it is essential to regulate access to them, given the need to protect and prevent situations that could jeopardise people’s safety, especially considering the high level of erosion that has taken place in the area, which requires the definition of rules of use for visitors, in order to reinforce their safety.

“By joint order of the Secretaries of State for National Defence, Tourism, Trade and Services, the Sea, the Environment, Nature Conservation and Forestry, Local Administration and Spatial Planning and Fisheries, a multidisciplinary working group called the “Benagil Caves Working Group”, hereinafter referred to as the Working Group, has been set up with the mission of establishing the human carrying capacity and determining the conditions of access to the Benagil Caves, with the aim to:

a) Set the human carrying capacity for access to the Benagil Caves, taking into account their sensitivity and stability and the safety conditions to be guaranteed for people and property;

b) Define the forms and conditions of access to the Benagil Caves;

c) Define the type of vessels authorised to access the Benagil Caves, as well as how to proceed with this access, namely length, beam, draught, maximum capacity, type and activity, speed and other procedures to be carried out by the vessels;

d) Define the mechanisms for controlling access to the Benagil Caves;

e) Evaluate, propose and develop measures to reinforce security in access to the Benagil Caves;

f) Evaluate, propose and develop mechanisms for monitoring and controlling compliance with the established human load capacity limit;

g) Evaluate the possibility of creating a single fee for access to the Benagil Caves.

“Made up of representatives of the various public and private entities with competence and intervention in this area, the Working Group will be coordinated by the CCDR Algarve, which will provide the necessary logistical and administrative support, and will end with the presentation of its conclusions and proposal by 31 December 2023.

“For more information contact the CCDR ALGARVE Communications Office ([email protected] / TLM 96 95 37 047). 

Faro, 30th August 2023”

Thus, the bottom line is clear: time has finally been called on Benagil beach/ cave madness – and the future for all who wish to take part in the perennial ‘race’ to see this natural wonder will become a lot more regulated and expensive.

Will this be enough to ‘save’ Benagil? Many will tell you that point has long since passed.

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