© Manuela Sousa

NATURAL SERPA,

GET READY TO DISCOVER THE MORE NATURAL SIDE OF THE ALENTEJO.

When in Serpa, do not fail to go down to the Guadiana - the great river of the south - and visit some of its most emblematic stretches. On the way, observe the holm oak montado, a landscape of great scenic, cultural and environmental interest that is becoming rare. Put all your senses to the test, sharpen your eyes, fine-tune your nose, awaken the touch and listen, enjoy.

VALE DO GUADIANA NATURE PARK

 

With more than 69 thousand hectares, part of which in the municipality of Serpa, this protected area follows the river and extends from an area upstream of Pulo do Lobo to the Vascão river, the border between Alentejo and Algarve.

 

This Nature Park offers different reasons that justify a timely visit to the municipality of Serpa and one of the most famous is Pulo do Lobo, where a walkways structure will soon allow easier and safer observation.

© CMS, Guadiana River

THE ROUTE TO PULO DE LOBO

The best access to Pulo do Lobo is found on the road that connects Serpa to the São Domingos Mine, at the junction to Vale do Poço. After crossing this locality, follow the directions along the paved road to the intersection that indicates "Pulo do Lobo, 2km" (on the left). From there, the path is a well-maintained dirt track. When you reach a clearing, just before a very steep descent, leave your vehicle and continue on foot. You will not find the hike a waste of time, as the landscape is magnificent.

The path is worthy of appreciation. The holm oak montado has some expression here, especially in association with the pastures. Early in the day, you may be able to observe grazing flocks of sheep and, perhaps, talk to a shepherd about this now unusual way of life. The famous PDO Serpa cheese, one of the local products of excellence, is produced from the milk of these herds.

This landscape, of rare beauty, is the one most commonly associated with the Alentejo. It corresponds to an ecological system that has been perfected by the communities to improve and make the best of the scarce resources of a region characterized by a Mediterranean climate and poor soils.

Traditionally, disperse holm oak or cork oak trees were associated with pastures, woods or extensive cereal crops. Those areas yielded cork, wood, livestock products, beekeeping/honey, herbs and medicinal plants, mushrooms and game.

This is a scenario that underlies the identity of the region and inspires different cultural expressions. It is present in the gastronomy, the traditions, the cante and the collective imagination of the populations. It is a pleasure to behold. The colours and shades change throughout the year, following the rhythms of the activities that take place in it.

It is one of the habitats with the highest number of animal species where human beings are also present. In terrestrial vertebrates alone, it supports more than 130 species. It will not be difficult to see magpies, tits, short-toed treecreepers and, with some luck, perhaps birds of prey, true owls or barn owls.

© Nicola Di Nunzio, Montado

PULO DO LOBO

 

Before beginning the descent, take some time to take in the whole of the landscape that is visible from halfway up the slope, because it is monumental and impresses by its grandeur. Notice the giant winding corridor in which the water runs, formed by large rock walls.

 

From this spot, you will be able to identify two valleys. One is fairly wide and rounded, excavated over thousands of years by the force of the waters that descended from the source towards the sea. The decrease of the flow, caused by the last glaciation, began a process of excavation of another channel, a deeper one that the water now travels and which we call "Corredoura".

© Shutterstock

The “Pulo do Lobo” (the Wolf’s Leap) – a waterfall formed by the contact of the reverse erosive force (from the sea to the spring) with the harder quartzites that are found in this area – is a true natural monument where a scenic composition of rare beauty combines with the geomorphological particularities and the high interest of this site in terms of biodiversity.

On the banks of the valley, you can observe several floristic species characteristic of the Mediterranean scrub. In the areas where human intervention was least felt it is easy to find mastic, myrtle, strawberry tree, wild-olive tree, gorse, rosemary and lavender, combined with holm oaks, that can be not only admired but also smelled, as they exude incredibly intense aromas, especially in the spring.

On the banks of the valley, you can observe several floristic species characteristic of the Mediterranean scrub. In the areas where human intervention was least felt it is easy to find mastic, myrtle, strawberry tree, wild-olive tree, gorse, rosemary and lavender, combined with holm oaks, that can be not only admired but also smelled, as they exude incredibly intense aromas, especially in the spring. 

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© CMS, Guadiana River

Here the senses are really put to the test. The sounds, the smells, the textures and shapes of the rocks, the splashes of the water... This is a place of reference for the local communities. This was where the migratory species were fished during the winter, a high-risk challenge even for the bravest fishermen. Lampreys, shads, twaite shads, common barbels and eels could be caught here.

© CMS, Guadiana River

It is also a place of legends and stories, some more real than others. By talking to the locals you can get to know some of these tales.

Around here and in other areas of the Guadiana, during the Spanish Civil War and in the following years, up to the 1960’s, people smuggled flour, rice and coffee or tobacco.

A sharp eye can spot some signs of the diverse fauna that inhabits these parts. If you’re really lucky you’ll be able to observe the Bonelli's Eagle or the Golden Eagle, two of the birds of prey of highest conservation interest that occur in the Park. Even more difficult to see is the lynx, the world’s most endangered feline, which is being reintroduced in this protected area since early 2015 with truly positive results.

 

José Saramago wrote of Pulo do Lobo, "the river boils among very hard walls, the waters roar, swirl, beat, reflow and gnaw away, one millimetre per century, for a millennium, a nothing in eternity."

WATCH THE MAGNIFICENT PULO DO LOBO

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