Here’s a fun fact about me: I have never broken a bone – not a single limb, appendage or digit but I almost ruined my untarnished record during my recent visit to the Benagil Cave in Lagos. The most traumatic thing that’s ever happened to me in a hospital was that I dropped a bag of sour cream and onion chips after only having had a single, solitary chip. It still haunts me almost 30 years later. So typical.
We ended the last leg of our trip to Portugal in Lagos, a town in the southern Algarve region full of golden, sandy coves and beaches leading out to the deep, blue Atlantic. Despite the plethora of picturesque beaches that populate the southern coast, I was determined to get an amazing photo of the awe-inspiring Benagil Cave.
How To Get To Benagil Cave
You can access the Benagil Cave from the beach of the same name – Benagil Beach (duh). If you’re staying in the town of Lagoa – where all of the best beaches and restaurants are – it’s a 40 minute drive so you can catch an Uber (expensive!) or rent a car.
From Benagil Beach, the cave is actually shockingly close – just around the curved rock wall on the left. There are are several ways you can tour this uniquely formed cave:
+ Kayak: You can rent one on the beach or go with a tour.
+ Stand Up Paddle Board: This is a good option if you have good balance and it’s not a windy day.
+ Boat: Taruga Tours is highly recommended.
+ Swim: Many blogs claim you can swim but an inconspicuous sign hanging at the entrance of the beach indicates that it’s neither allowed nor safe enough to do.
▪ Not all tours allow you to land and explore the cave so make sure to double-check
▪ Book a tour for the first day in Lagos as weather can affect it
▪ Note the tour duration if you don’t want to feel rushed when taking photos
▪ Don’t forget a dry bag to protect your phone or camera gear
You Break It, You Bought It
Having chosen an afternoon SUP tour, my regular travel buddy Kelly and I practiced our turns and strokes on the paddle board in a little cove with our guide before heading towards the Benagil Cave.
As I paddled ineffectively from atop my board, I glimpsed a boat full of tourists zooming towards me in the distance and wobbled precariously. In a panic I lost my balance and fell backwards into the water while still clutching the paddle, smashing the end into my face.
Ouch. My nose and my pride.
When I resurfaced, gasping for air over the side of the board, I internally berated myself for my physical ineptitude and gingerly touched my sore nose. Our tour guide glided over and upon catching sight of my face, his expression quickly morphed from concern to extreme alarm.
“Your nose is broken!”
What?? I touched my nose – one drop of blood. Another. Shit, it’s coming fast now. Why is the bridge of my nose all squishy? Oooohhh boy when did the water around me fill with blood? Are there sharks in this area?!!! GET ME OUT OF HERE!!!
Still draped over my board, we latched the ropes to a passing tour boat and hitched a ride back towards shore for medical attention. I tried to ignore the stares of nosy tourists as they openly gaped at my blood-covered face from crammed boats on their way out to the caves. My embarrassment blossomed into full-out mortification as we approached land. The ENTIRE BEACH was at attention as I was shamefully ushered to sit on a towel next to the lifeguard station which consisted of 2 folding lawn chairs.
While gauze was unceremoniously shoved up my traumatized nostril to stay the steady stream of blood, the lifeguards inspected my face and seconded the opinion that my nose was broken. Having had no prior experience, the only thing I knew is that breaking anything was painful enough to make you cry yet my nose was merely tender.
Squishy? Yes. Embarrassing? So much. Painful? Not really.
Saying little, I gloomily pondered how this unfortunate incident would affect the rest of my trip – namely missing the awe-inspiring sight of the Benagil Cave – was making me more dejected than the actual physical pain.
I’m never going to hear the end of this. My mom is going to FREAK out! Maybe I can say that Kelly punched me…? Of all the things to break and in another country. What’s my travel insurance info? It’s going to be a loooonnnggg plane ride home. I’m going to look battered for weeks. My co-workers are going to make fun of me so bad.
An Attractive Distraction
Preoccupied by my internal pity party, I had failed to notice until that moment that one of the lifeguards was pretty attractive. Oh. My. Gosh. He was MORE than attractive. He was probably the most stunning person I’ve ever seen up close – chiselled features, golden tan, green-flecked hazel eyes (yes, I noticed that level of detail) and abs that probably doubled as a washboard – and he was looking at ME.
….and I looked like a macabre Picasso painting, inelegantly sprawled out on a sandy towel with all my “mochi” hanging out with abandon.
Oh, and I sounded like a congested pug because of the wad of gauze up my nose. The pinnacle of beauty and grace 🤦🏻♀️
His utter gorgeousness was distracting but I suspect that maybe that was the point. The lifeguards (there were 2 but who noticed the other one?) didn’t seem to provide much in the way of first aid so it wasn’t out of the realm of possibility that this Adonis of a man’s presence was intended as an emotional salve to soothe the hysterically injured. Well, I can’t say it didn’t work.
A Second Opinion
At this point, Kelly had paddled her way in from being much further out in the water and regarded the chaotic scene calmly with her seasoned physician’s assistant’s eye. Having had her fair share of broken noses (high school water polo) and witnessing all kinds of medical fucked-upness at the hospital she worked at, she assessed my face, carefully felt along the bridge of my nose and definitively declared, “It’s not broken.”
Implicitly trusting her medical judgement, I let out a huge sigh of relief.
She explained that the squishiness around the bridge of my nose was a hematoma, a collection of blood that formed as a result of the skin on the nose being so thin and there being so many small blood vessels that bleed easily.
To be safe, when the ambulance arrived I let the EMT examine my nose in the sardine can of a truck while the paramedic cleaned up the blood. The medic backed up Kelly’s assessment and advised me to apply an ice pack to my face to minimize the swelling.
So now what?
Our poor tour guide had been figuratively clutching his pearls the entire time, alternating between fetching ice and fretting over the excessive amounts of blood pouring from my nostril. While I didn’t want to test his emotionally fragile state, I still really wanted to see the Benagil Cave! We took a €20 Uber ride from the other side of the Algarve and I wasn’t letting a broken face stop me from getting a great photo.
A little battered a worse for wear, we took the paddle boards back out – this time I was kneeling instead of standing – and headed over to the caves. A mere 10 minutes later, we were standing awestruck in a hollow dome of rough rock with a natural hole at the top, letting light stream through.
What was even more amazing was that because we were delayed by my incident, we arrived at the cave later than most tours operate, we had the whole place to ourselves. We were able to get some blissfully clear photos of the Benagil Cave without hoards of tourists cluttering the background or aimlessly wandering into the shot.
Can I admit something? It was kind of worth it. Obviously I don’t recommend it and would rather have NOT broken my face and been subject to extremely public mortification but in the end but not only did I get a great photo but it made for a funny story albeit at my dignity’s expense.
Keep your stalking game strong and follow me @teriaki if you aren’t already!