The dangers of Praia Formosa – first hand

Two young boys have a dramatic escape

Praia Formosa yesterday afternoon

Having been writing this blog for more than 12 years now, it has been strange that over the last 12 months, I have either witnessed or been involved in events that have been notable enough to make the media subsequently – a coincidence even on a small island!

The first was getting caught up in the mayhem that is regularly the case with one of TAP’s last daily flights to Madeira out of Lisbon – a regular enough occurrence – whilst the second was being unfortunate enough to be on the Porto Santo ferry that had to turn round and return when it arrived on the Golden Isle late last summer due to a cruise ship having “adopted” its berth!

Last week I was on the seafront at the same time and in the vicinity of the strange stabbing of a young tourist – a report that has had no follow-up at all yet. Yesterday afternoon I ventured down to Praia Formosa – a bad habit I have formed, off and on, over the last 30 years, and witnessed some of the most reckless swimming in dangerous conditions that I have ever seen there, which resulted in two youths being rescued after all manner of emergency services were called out.

The dangers of Praia Formosa - first hand 1

The seas were unusual mid-afternoon, with the waves being reasonably calm, but punctuated by sudden spells of ferociously strong waves, maybe five or six metres, crashing in in rapid succession. I recall noting just a single strong fit swimmer taking up the challenge and thinking what a risk he was taking, getting through the stronger waves to the calmer water beyond, and then returning – this was in the first stretch of the seafront with the cafes before the walkway turns the corner towards the Orca Praia hotel (photo – JM).

Around this time, according to reports in JM, the Maritime Police were already making efforts to rescue, two young people who were in need of assistance at this second stretch of Praia Formosa, popular with the locals, before it gives way to the rocky shoreline that continues to Câmara de Lobos (2nd photo- JM).

The dangers of Praia Formosa - first hand 3

One of the young people reported to be in trouble was quickly rescued (3rd photo). However, the other was still in need of help. At this point, it was the locals who were venturing out to try to help the young boys. According to JM, a nearby tourist catamaran also joined the operation as it became apparent that the remaining young man was still in distress, with two other members of the public joining the rescue operation, including a surfer.

A few moments before reaching the catamaran, the Maritime Police boat arrives (video below), activated for the area, as the authorities confirmed to JM, and completed the operation. The large crowd that had been alerted by all the activity watched this moment in panic, applauded the performance of those involved.

A lucky escape for the two boys – hopefully they and a few onlookers will treat the waves of Praia Formosa with a little more respect in future. Researching the unusual wave behaviour, it cannot be attributed to spring tides, which are not due until next week.

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