In Portugal, there are many sites (some still wild) representing different ages of the Earth. Such a place we saw it in the last episode when we went to Caves of Moeda. Since is very hard to date caves, I do not know if this one had an age of 200 million years or just 1 million: so let’s just say that in this episode we go back to when the Dinosaurs walked on Earth.
Natural Monument of Dinosaurs Footprints of Serra de Aire – PT
Monumento Natural das Pegadas de Dinossáurios de Serra de Aire
010.1 Entrance to the museum and the park itself
To get to this place, I personally do not know another way other than the car (personal or taxi). Maybe look around at Fatima city, they might be mini-busses or maxi-taxi as they are sometimes called. The entry fee is below 10 euros for an adult (it was 6 when I was) and it takes less than an hour to walk all the park (if you do not read, look close, analyse). When I was, they did not sell books or compendiums on what you will see (only stuff for children) but maybe today, or tomorrow they will.
010.2 Genesis of the Earth
But what is this place? Well, I will try to keep it short: in 1994, Joao Carvalho ran into 175 million years old footprints belonging to some huge dinosaurs. They lived back in Middle Jurassic Period and the family was called Sauropods. The footprints that can be found at Natural Monument of Dinosaurs Footprints of Serra de Aire (while not said on their website), I think they come from Cetiosaurs.
010.3 View of the plateau.
Sir Richard Owen, the same one who invented the name dinosaur, thought that this dino was some giant crocodile, then he concluded that it was some marine life-form and such gave it the name Cetiosaur: meaning whale lizard. Cetiosaurs (that are mostly spread in Portugal and the UK) are the most primitive in the Sauropod family (all Sauropods have enormously long necks, small head, long tail and elephant-like legs, measuring in total between 6 to 30 meters in total length). They were “among the first dinosaurs to be recognised” back in 1825. They measure around 14m (46ft) and yep they are herbivores, and they lived close to water (as depicted also in the Jurassic Park movies). I found all these information (like most) in a book: The complete illustrated encyclopaedia of dinosaurs & prehistoric creatures by Dougal Dixon
010.4 The “prehistoric” garden
Like I said, these dinosaurs, the Cetiosaurs, might have lived in these parts of “Europe” as they might have preferred the luxuriant vegetation and the abundance of water. So the administration of the park replicated that in a beautiful way and I am quite glad that they did. But of course, do not think that actually, these plants come from that era… But is cute to imagine this enormous lisard walking around and taking a snack (a small bite from the tree).
010.5 The stars on the… floor 🦕
Hundreds of footprints, all in line, showing (unlike in the Jurrasic Park movie) that these huge giraffe/elephant animals lived in isolation and not in a herd. The tracks are (as they say on the brochure) the oldest and best preserved in the world (for Sauropods). 🦕
010.6 The footprints, the trail, the garden and Portugal
The plateau with the footprints (to the right on the image) is situated at around 10km south-east of Fatima or 90km north of Lisbon. Unlike at the Cave of Moeda, here the sun could be a little too much in summer days, so take water with you as you will find yourself mostly outside of the shadow areas. Also, a wide lens would help your photography in this area so pack one. As you probably did not see, I used an 8-16 mm lens mostly at the wider spectrum.
010.7 The many wind-turbines.
It is quite romantic that on a hill that was once like a swamp, huge dinosaurs walked, ate and moved along while having their footprints preserved for millions of years. Next, to them there are other circular giant prints, tools of modern human engineering, harnessing not the power of plants, but wind. Talking about winds, there are some quite interesting theories about herbivores and CO2 levels back in dino-age. I will let you google it!
In conclusion, the park is interesting and for some, it is a must see (I for one liked it). It is in a beautiful area, not far from other attractions but most accessible for those with a car.
The park closes early so in one day to visit both Grutas da Moeda and this park, is a bit optimistic (but it can be done).
Also in the summer, the sun sets at a late hour so you have time to get sunset shots in …
Well, open the next article to find out more!