Safe beach in safe handsBy Kerstin Buechner Dias • Dec 9th, 2008 • Category: Quinta Lifestyle
Canada has nine, Ireland has 81 and the UK (including Northern Ireland) has 144 Blue Flag Beaches. In contrast, and despite having a smaller coastline, Portugal has 189. One of these is Quinta do Lago.
This is no small feat. The criteria for being awarded a much coveted blue flag is tough and includes environmental education and information, good water quality, strong environmental management and excellent levels of safety and services. This includes a fully operating team of trained lifeguards.
Also known as Gigi’s beach
Quinta do Lago’s beach is also affectionately known as Gigi’s beach by locals. Gigi is the larger-than-life restaurateur who for the past 20 years has run the legendary beachside restaurant that also bears his name. As part of the restaurant’s operating licence, Gigi’s employs the lifeguards that operate along the three and a half kilometre stretch of golden sand.
Although the team of lifeguards are officially trained and run by the ISN (Instituto de Socorros e Náufragos), Gigi takes his responsibility for beach safety very seriously.
“I want maximum levels of safety, security and well-being for my clients at all time”, Gigi asserts
This is supported by information posters sponsored by Gigi’s and the fact that all of the restaurant’s staff are also able to provide safety information for beach visitors.
Gigi’s lifeguards normally operate between the beginning of May and the end of October, a full month before the official start of Portugal’s swimming season on June 1. However, as Gigi’s wife, Leonora, explains, if the weather is good and their operating licence has been issued, the lifeguards can start as early as April or even March.
Gigi has been responsible for the lifeguards at Quinta do Lago for the past 20 years, but as an organisation the ISN has a long and illustrious history. It was founded by Queen Amelia in 1892 and today is co-ordinated from more than 30 lifeguard stations located around the nation’s coastline.
The lifeguards work in pairs and spread out along the length of the beach, spaced about 350m apart. At Gigi’s beach, they are lucky. It is rare for them to have to help anyone and they have not had to complete a dramatic rescue at all. Part of the reason for this is that Gigi’s beach is never crowded. ocated in a protected area and separated from the mainland by a 320m walkway that carries visitors across part of the Ria Formosa estuary, Quinta do Lago beach is as romantic as it is idyllic. It is quite possible to lie back under deepening pink skies, with a glass of champagne in one hand, to watch the sunset on a deserted beach.
This is not to say that a visit to the beach is a day in isolation. By day, the beach is a vibrant and fun place to enjoy sun, sea and sand. It is a fantastic location for watersports and many people enjoy windsurfing, parasailing and jetskiing in the Atlantic surf. However, you will not find the skyscrapers, shops and nightclubs that you may in other beachside locations. This also means that your day at Gigi’s beach will not be affected by the noise or litter that can be generated in more built-up locations.
“We want our beach to be clean and our visitors to respect the environment”, explains Gigi. “We try to promote this with our local children and invite scout groups to several beach trips throughout the year. They come to clean the beach, study the wildlife and learn about its habitat. It’s important that we teach our children to keep the environment clean and in return, we make sure that every child has refreshments on all of their beachcleaning expeditions.”