Notice with navigation rules in the Benagil caves is under public consultation

New rules contained in the public consultation notice will come into operation this summer

The navigation rules in the area of ​​the Benagil cave system, between the beaches of Vale de Lapa and Albandeira, as well as in the adjacent water mirror, on the coast of the municipality of Lagoa, are under public consultation on the portal, until June 10th.

Commander Eduardo Pousadas Godinho, captain of the Port of Portimão, which has jurisdiction over this area of ​​the coast, explained to the Sul Informação that the document under public consultation since May 8th is the notice that will regulate, "as soon as possible", visitation to this area, as well as access by private or maritime-tourist vessels.

The «four entities that have competences and responsibilities» in this area – Câmara de Lagoa, National Maritime Authority, Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests and Portuguese Environment Agency – put «in notice a set of rules that were agreed upon with all participants in the Benagil Caves Working Group».

This notice “is now open to public participation and, after recommendations and participation from the general public, it will be reevaluated and possibly promulgated», explained commander Pousadas Godinho.

The public consultation, promoted by the Port Authority of Portimão, is therefore based on the recommendations of the working group on the Benagil Caves included in the final report, which argued that, «in view of the large number of visitors and the conflicts observed, it is unanimous to urgency of regulating visits to the Benagil Caves, therefore considering the implementation in 2024 of some management measures considered priorities, through the publication of a Notice, or Administrative Regulation (…), to be signed by APA, Maritime Authority Nacional, Lagoa City Council and ICNF, as competent entities in the territory and in relation to the applicable matters».

The person responsible for the Captaincy highlights, in his statements to the Sul Informação, that the objective is for the notice to “enter into force quickly, following the public consultation, to be applied during this bathing season, during this summer”.


Photos: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


Even without this more structured set of rules in force, the truth is that there are already restrictions on visiting the Benagil cave and the entire coastal strip of the municipality of Lagoa, where the largest movement of boats, with and without motors, is concentrated, and visitors.

«At this moment, we already have some rules implemented when weather conditions deteriorate and which, in some way, limit or define rules for navigation in that area», he explained.

«We already have a notice that, whenever the weather conditions deteriorate, it is promulgated and prohibits access to the caves», he added. The objective is to «increase the safety of all passengers and crew of maritime tourist vessels and kayaks that frequent that area».

But, to try to «solve the problem of excess people in the Benagil caves», there is much more to do. And that's where the document appears «GT Benagil Caves – Navigation Instruction», now under public discussion for 30 days.

Among the rules contained in this document, emphasis is placed on those that specifically refer to access to the Benagil Cave – which was locally known as Algar do Zé Rodeira.

Thus, there will be “geographical separation” for the entry of “motorized platforms” (motorized boats, particularly maritime-tourist boats) and “non-motorized platforms” (canoes, kayaks and paddle boards).

There will also be restrictions on certain activities, such as «the disembarkation or bathing use of the sand, inside the Algar de Benagil or in any other similar cave that can be used for bathing in the area», access to the interior of the Algar de Benagil de visitors swimming or using buoyancy aids (buoys, inflatable mattresses, armbands), diving with an autonomous diving suit or apnea, night navigation, underwater fishing and recreational fishing (on foot or on board), among others.

Only up to three boats or seven canoes can be inside the cave at the same time (one of which is the guide's).

Another of the rules is to “avoid the accumulation of several vessels in one place, waiting outside for their turn, maintaining protection for the remaining vessels in the area”.

The notice also recommends the obligation to «use a reduced speed when approaching the coast and during the respective maneuvers, just enough to maneuver, using a course perpendicular to the coastline».


Chaos at the entrance to the Benagil cave – Photo: Elisabete Rodrigues | Sul Informação


Access to the Benagil cave, especially during the summer, has become, in recent years, true chaos.

As you can see in the video we published in this article (see below), there are boats of all sizes and types entering the immense cave, but also jet skis, canoes, kayaks, people paddleboarding or on inflatable mattresses, bathers swimming , even children with armbands, creating situations in which «there has never been a catastrophe by miracle», as the mayor of Lagoa told our newspaper in 2023.

There are vessels, maritime-tourist or private, that come from the nearby beach of Benagil or Carvoeiro, but also from more distant areas, such as Ferragudo, Portimão, Lagos, Albufeira or even Faro. Boats line up, by the dozens, at the entrance to the fragile cave.

The Benagil cave, considered one of the most beautiful in the world, appears in all tourist guides, appears on posters and promotional videos... but always as if it were a paradisiacal place, without anyone. Now, the reality is very different and there has been talk for years about the need to regulate access to that sensitive area of ​​the coast.

Therefore, in 2023, it was created a working group, coordinated by the Algarve Regional Coordination and Development Commission (CCDR) and composed of twenty entities, including seven State Secretariats, the Câmara de Lagoa, Turismo de Portugal and the Algarve Tourism Region, business and sector associations tourist entertainment, among others.

At the end of months of work, a report was produced, which included consensual measures (with which everyone agreed) and non-consensual measures.

O report was under public consultation, at the beginning of this year, and proposed “twelve simple recommendations and a code of conduct”.

The Government should have commented on the measures foreseen in the Report, in order to define a new line of action for this fragile area of ​​Lagoa's coast. But, with the fall of the Government, the elections and the inauguration of the new executive, all of this was postponed.

Therefore, for now, the notice that is currently under public consultation must be advanced.

However, taking into account the deadline for the public consultation (until June 10th) and the time necessary to carry out “its assessment and consideration, as well as to make any adjustments that may be justified”, at best, this notice will only come into force at the beginning of July.




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