WILDLIFE Portugal is a partner of Rewilding Portugal and Rewilding Europe, and is a touristic operator focused on nature tourism activities in Portugal. Fernando Romão is the face of this business and talks about the work that is being developed
Where everything started
WILDLIFE Portugal is a recent idea that emerged as an initiative of Fernando Romão, a specialist in nature tourism for over a decade and who used to work for other nature tourism operators, before venturing and creating his own project. For many years he dedicated himself to carrying out guided walking tours in the central region of the country. He was also involved for a year in the Faia Brava Reserve project, managed by ATNatureza, where he first heard about Rewilding Europe, a pan-European rewilding initiative, and of which ATNatureza has been a partner from the start.
It was then that the dream of launching his own business was born. “I realized that Rewilding Europe was supporting entrepreneurship and local agents who wanted to do nature and wildlife related activities and this idea came up to develop something personal in terms of business, but more focused on wildlife and its observation and photography”. And so, based on the experience he already had in this segment, namely in birdwatching and interpretation of flora and other fauna, he decided to invest in this business, with the long-term goal being to have a network of photography hides, “something that does not exist at the national level in commercial terms, contrary to what already happens in Spain”, he says. This passion for photography hides and vulture watching began at ATNatureza, where he created a hide in the organization’s vulture feeder, and continued to use it even after he was no longer collaborating directly with ATNatureza. In that period, he even took photographers privately and with ATNatureza to carry out this type of activity. WILDLIFE Portugal’s market is mainly foreign, and the focus is on providing “quality” solutions and offers.
Valuing Portugal’s natural heritage
Since its creation, WILDLIFE Portugal has been promoting nature tourism activities, valuing the conservation of the natural heritage of Portugal. Among these activities, the observation and interpretation of nature stand out, namely through the various walking routes that they offer, in addition to photographic tours and other wildlife photography activities. WILDLIFE Portugal is registered with Turismo de Portugal, has the Nature Tourism certificate and is also a member of NATURAL.PT, since they use the National Network of Protected Areas to carry out their activities. At the moment, they operate in the following protected areas: Parque Natural do Alvão, Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela, Parque Natural do Douro Internacional, Parque Natural do Tejo Internacional, Área Protegida Privada da Faia Brava, Reserva Natural da Serra da Malcata, Monumento Natural das Portas de Rodão and Paisagem Protegida da Serra do Açor. It is also important to mention that “a percentage of the profits from the activities we develop revert to nature conservation actions in the Private Protected Area of Faia Brava”, Fernando Romão tells us.
A partnership based on the rewilding philosophy
Fernando Romão considers himself “fully involved in the philosophy of rewilding” and feels that this communion of ideas and ways of looking at nature was essential for strengthening the links between WILDLIFE Portugal and the rewilding movement. “Nature and wildlife are coming back in rural Portugal, in part due to the abandonment of these areas, and rewilding promotes and develops a sustainable management of these spaces, promoting the use of wild or semi-wilds herbivores for example”, explains Fernando Romão when addressing the philosophy of rewilding and how he identifies with it. Regard
ing the partnership, this connection to Rewilding Europe and Rewilding Portugal (and their partners) is essential to consolidate the initial work that has been carried out and to expand nationally, aiming to “increase the network of hides and places where this type of activities can be developed because we have a huge territory for that”. In addition, WILDLIFE Portugal is already present in the European Safari Company tourism offer network, a tourism company created by Rewilding Europe to promote nature tourism centred on the idea of rewilding throughout Europe and in the areas where Rewilding Europe is already carrying conservation projects. Fernando Romão sees this network with good eyes and with hope for the future, since “a network that is being promoted together by an entity within the same philosophy can be very interesting and can attract people to live the experience of rewilding and observation across Europe directly through a single agent”.
Wildlife conservation is also a business opportunity to explore, as long as it is done sustainably and following best practices. Both in the LIFE WolFlux project and in the Scaling Up Rewilding in the Greater Côa Valley project, Rewilding Portugal and its partners (Rewilding Europe, University of Aveiro, ATNatureza and Zoo Logical) aim to promote nature-based companies, dynamizing and giving a new life to local communities, since only with their contribution will it be possible to build a better future for everyone, for Portugal and for the planet itself. In the LIFE WolFlux project, the focus will be on promoting more nature tourism that contributes to the conservation of the Iberian wolf, while in the project Scaling Up Rewilding in the Greater Côa Valley, the focus will be on nature tourism projects that help to promote the natural identity and cultural heritage of the Greater Côa Valley. WILDLIFE Portugal is one of the partners on this path, and Rewilding Portugal continues to look for other entrepreneurs in the region who identify with this philosophy and who, through their businesses, can contribute towards the conservation of nature in Portugal.