Up until recently, one of the best kept secrets in the Algarve was the labyrinthine network of cross country dirt trails, navigable only by expert local insiders, hardcore off roaders, and experienced hikers in search of that exclusive scenic hideaway, far far away from the well trodden tourist path.
Although relatively new on the Algarve adventure scene, Bulldog Buggies are quickly rising through the ranks of what are considered to be the most unique attractions in the entire south end of Portugal, granting access to anyone looking for an altogether different type of tour experience.
Can you imagine winding perilously up and down steep hill slopes and valley contours layered with a blanket of thick dust and loose scree, traversing rough terrain partially sculpted out of rocky (and wet) riverbeds, on foot, in the searing heat of the sun, with perhaps (if you are lucky) a vague idea of where you might be going?
This certainly wouldn’t appeal to the more leisurely or fun loving holiday makers among us, even if the trail does take you through lush orange groves, acacia forests, past rarely seen before dams and reservoirs, including secret places to swim and fish, along with stunning 360 degree panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and distant south coastline.
Add a top end 500cc, all-terrain dune buggy, equipped with comfortable racing style bucket seats, safety harness, automatic gears, an advanced differential function (so that you always have power when you need it most), a roll cage (for extra stability), plus an easy going, English speaking guide, who will happily lead the way to all of the above, and it easily becomes one of the most enjoyable ways to discover the true, untouched splendour of the Algarve – that is, once the cloud of dust has settled!
Dan, a straight up, down to earth chap with a no nonsense approach, preps you initially with the basic safety requirements (i.e. use common sense and keep eyes firmly fixed on the trail ahead), but this takes a mere couple of minutes, after which you are ready to begin a two hour drive with Jay, who makes plenty of stops along the way at various look out points, allowing you to swap over and take turns to test out your driving skills with one of the best off road vehicles on the market.
There are six buggies available in total, each costing over eight thousand euro to put on the road, and capable of reaching over 90kmph on good terrain. Our average speed of around 30km on fairly technical cross country tracks felt just fast enough to remain in the safe zone and still get the adrenalin pumping, leaving us thoroughly exhilarated by the end, and eager to conjure up any excuse to return and relive it all over again (particularly in the wet season, when the tracks are apparently even more fun to ride!).
An ultimate tour of the hidden Algarve, whether traveling alone, in company (stag parties here are a must!), with family, loved ones, or simply on the hunt for your next once in a lifetime adventure; Bulldog Buggies is not likely to disappoint.
For those more specialised in the off road sphere, with ample time and money to spare, alternatively, consider buying your very own buggy to complete the recently marked out ‘Algarve Way’, which stretches all the way from Faro to Sagres.
A rental fee of 95 euro per two seater buggy is charged for tours. There is a separate ‘Buggy Sales’ page with a detailed list of specs also available on the Bulldog Buggies website.
Tours are based a few kilometres away from Silves and can be customised in advance if preferred. Directions and GPS coordinates can be accessed from the website (thankfully Bulldog Buggies are located conveniently within easy driving distance to many tourist hubs, including Lagoa, Carvoeiro, Armação de Pêra, Albufeira, Lagos and Portimão).
NOTE: Wear old clothes and prepare to get wet and dirty as you will be covered from head to toe in dust.