What can you expect when you get on the ferry from Peniche to the Berlengas and the first thing they do is hand out seasick bags?
We had the ferry (viamar) booked the day before through their website, just to make sure that we got a ride the next day. There are plenty of different boats going up and down to the island, so it shouldn't be to difficult to get a ticket.
So off we went, sickbag in the pocket ready for some action. These waters are known for their roughness, mainly due to the 4000m Nazare underwater ravine which makes this coast one of the best surf coasts in Portugal.
When the ferry departed at 11:30, it was a little bit overcast, but the further we got from the coast, the sunnier it became. The crossing, which takes about 45 minutes (longer when the sea get's rougher, and it did get rougher on the way back) was calm enough this particular morning. Still, some people got seasick, but even taking this into account, the Berlengas are worth the crossing.
The main island is approx. 10km from mainland Portugal (Peniche) and has been declared a natural reserve.
The island, which is just 2.5 square km, is home to thousands of birds which use these islands as the perfect breeding ground.
The waters around the island are the perfect location for watersports or just watching the many fish or dolphins swimming around in these clear waters.
The ferry arrives at the only harbour on the island where a small fleet of fishing boats and glass bottom boats await patiently the arrival of the many tourists.
This is also the location where there is a fantastic beach, sheltered from the ever present wind by the high cliffs surrounding it.
And take care, the wind hides the UV factor of the sun, and getting a nasty sunburn is likely on this tiny island, so don't forget your sun factor.
Don't expect to be alone around the harbour and the tiny beach, it can get crowded during the summer months with daytrippers and sunworshippers. Around the harbour area are small huts & concrete houses, a small camping and a restaurant.
Where this area is busy, venture along the small walking paths and it be just yourself and 1 million birds and lizards.
We decided to take one of the local glass bottom boats to the caves. A worthwhile trip during which you get to see the clear waters around the islands, the caves and wildlife. We shared the boat with a couple from Belgium who visited the Island with their 3 daughters.
After the boat trip, we decided to treat ourselves to lunch and a glass or 2 of wine in restaurante Mar&Sol.
And the Mar&Sol is the correct name for this restaurant, a terrace in the sun overlooking the crystal clear waters.
Where the prices are a bit higher than on the mainland, don't forget everything has to be imported by boat from the mainland. But don't worry, prices are still very reasonable. We had bread with Sardine pate to start off with, followed by Bitoque (steak, eggs and fries with a salad) , all washed down with a medium caraf of white wine and red wine. The whole meal and drinks came to €33 , so far from expensive.
And as for the views we had from the terrace - unbeatable.
The island is great for walking, and that is what we decided to do after lunch. A concrete path leads towards the lighthouse which is located on the highest point of the Island. From there, a rocky path leads to 17th Century Forte de Sao Joao Baptista which can be reached from the island by a narrow stone bridge.
We were only on the island for the day, but if you decided to stay on the island, you have 3 options:
a) Casa de Abrigo: This is located is Forte de Sao Joao Baptista. A decent uphill and downhill walk is required to reach this destination. It is very simple in layout: dorms (up to six) or private rooms (€20 to €22)
b) Area de Campino de Berlenga: a small campsite close to the harbour which is installed in terraces with rocky surface (€10.30)
c) Residencial Mar e Sol: 6 rooms in this small hotel which is also the only restaurant on the island (€100)
But the main attraction of this island is the birds. There are thousands of them, nesting all around the island. And they are noisy, don't get to close or you will hear them loud and clear protecting their chicks.
And then you have the lizards, they just run right in front of your feet.
At the end of our fabulous day on the Berlengas, we headed back to the harbour for a last drink. As we were the last ferry to leave the island around 6.30pm, the few people who decided to stay on the island decided to wave us goodbye. Heading back towards Peniche, the seas were much rougher than during the morning, and you would be forgiven to think that the boat, which at certain moments would be sideways on a wave, would be ready to sink to the bottom. That being said, the expertise of the captain brought us in time back to Peniche, even catching up with a smaller ferry which had left 30 minutes before us.