An Afternoon On A Deserted Island

I’d read about the deserted island – Ilha Deserta or Barreta Island – off the coast of Faro before I set off on my trip. I knew it was somewhere I wanted to experience, drawn in by the promise of tranquillity and solitude by the sea (and maybe a bit of naked sunbathing).

On my first full day in Faro I wandered around the old town and, by chance, stumbled across the boat tour ticket desks. I paid my 10 Euro return fee and hopped on board the next boat to Ilha deserta.

Read more: Photo diary – Picture Perfect Portugal

There weren’t many of us on that boat and there are only around five trips per day, to ensure that the island remains virtually deserted. The trip takes around 40 minutes and is smooth and peaceful. I sat by the edge of the boat so I could feel the cooling spray of the ocean below as we glided past other islands and the rest of Ria Formosa – a system of lagoons and islands, of which Barreta is one of.

My trip was hastily booked so I didn’t have much in the way of food, which is not something I recommend. The island is so deserted that there is only one building on it, which is a pricey restaurant. I did have water and sun cream though which I’m very grateful for as there’s no shelter from the burning sun either.

Ilha deserta has an interesting history and is rich with biodiversity. The island has been in pristine condition and uninhabited for years, and continues to be that way today. In the summer the ocean is calm and crystal clear. Due to its location far out into the ocean, and the fact that it’s uninhabited, means the flowers and plants can flourish and there’s a heavenly smell to it.

In the Autumn, birds start flocking to the island to escape the chill creeping into mainland Europe. During Winter the island is loud with the sound of blissful silence. It truly is a little slice of paradise in the Atlantic Ocean all year round.

I spent my afternoon sunbathing and reading a book. I had to book a specific boat back and only gave myself a couple of hours on the island, which is something I regret. About a half an hour walk from the boat docking point is Cape Saint Mary, which is the southern most point of mainland Portugal. The edge of Europe. I didn’t visit as I was worried about not having enough time to get back to the boat.

As well as this historic point and a restaurant there’s a boardwalk trail if you wish to have a leisurely stroll around the island. Technically the whole of Ilha Deserta is a naturist beach but, around 30 minutes down the boardwalk, is a true nudist paradise – possibly one of the most secluded in the world? I have this worry that I’m too boring and I’d like to push through my comfort zone a little when I travel, so not leaving myself enough time to indulge is another of my regrets.

All-in-all though, I found a little slice of paradise on Ilha deserta. By staying near to the dock it doesn’t seem as secluded as it should, but it’s definitely quiet. I was content enough knowing I was only one of very few people there at that very moment.

On the walk back to the boat I passed the lighthouse and gazed out over the water. Behind me was an elderly man fishing in front of his mini beach hut. I wondered about his story and what it’s like to visit the island every day. Does he take it for granted? Do the restaurant staff like their jobs or are they bored of the commute? I sat back by the edge of the boat on the way back -albeit sweatier and more relaxed than on the journey there – and wondered about it all. I don’t think I’d ever get bored of being able to escape to somewhere so remote, but I guess I’ll never know about the people who do it daily.

Have you been to Ilha Deserta before? Do you want to go? Let me know in the comments!

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