Half One. The Finish. I’m standing on the head of the check-in queue for my easyJet flight again to the UK from Portugal. I’ve simply been instructed that I’ve not received the proper paperwork. The receptionist doesn’t know, however I’m diving down a warren of holes, very darkish holes of reminiscence, all containing a predator in uniform, shouting at me: “Your papers are usually not so as!” A few of them are drunk, aggressive and closely armed. Not the easyJet woman; she’s pleasant, sober and, I strongly suspect, unarmed.I assumed I had jumped each hurdle: I had crammed out a web based UK authorities journey declaration (pointless), I had taken a Covid-PCR take a look at earlier than I travelled after which two extra whereas within the Algarve (yet another than mandatory, because it seems). Now I’ve a nerve-shredding race to faucet my approach via a number of on-line UK authorities kinds earlier than the check-in closes.Let’s make this clear. You want a PCR take a look at inside 72 hours of your flight out (store round, costs fluctuate); you want a Covid antigen take a look at 24 hours earlier than you fly again (my lodge booked it and I paid €25); and you need to full one thing known as the Passenger Locator Kind which can lead you to guide a PCR take a look at achieved inside 48 hours of arrival again within the UK (you might be supplied selections and costs fluctuate). I strongly advocate you do that earlier than you allow dwelling, on a full-size keyboard, and with a great deal of time.Finally, with thumbs in lockdown and cellphone feverish, I fly dwelling.Kevin Rushby strolling all the way down to Praia do Camilo. Facemasks should be worn exterior in Portugal if different individuals are shut by. {Photograph}: Arlindo Serrao/The GuardianPart Two. To start with there was Luton airport. I had my PCR outcome, adverse, printed out prepared. I boarded the flight to Faro. Very easy.Half Three. The Algarve center bit. The small boat putters ahead, leaving the harbour at Lagos behind and setting out alongside the road of pink cliffs generally known as The Grottoes, a labyrinthine array of sea stacks, arches and tiny seashores, many accessible solely from the ocean. In a traditional season, the extra reachable ones can be busy, however not now. I promise myself I’ll go there and swim via an arch, possibly even rent a kayak and discover (there may be additionally an amazing 140-mile coastal path, The Fisherman’s Path). The solar is excessive, the sky is pure blue, the ocean is inexperienced.“It’s early within the season,” Nuno Oliveira, dive supervisor at WeDive Lagos, is telling me. “As we transfer into summer season, the water temperature will head as much as 24C and we’ll get higher visibility and bluer water.”We attain the headland marked by the lighthouse of Ponta da Piedade and switch west. Our dive web site is named Paredes de Porto de Mós, a rock wall that lies between 12 and 16 metres down. Everybody begins preparing. I’m diving with Arlindo Serrão from Portugal Dive who is aware of virtually each dive web site within the nation, together with the caves. “Portugal has superb diving,” he says. “However nobody comes right here simply to dive. We get lots of newbies and divers who need topside sights.”Sunbathing at Praia do Camilo. {Photograph}: Kevin Rushby/The GuardianI nod. I like topside sights, and each time I dive I really feel like a newbie. “The place does that bit go? Might you simply remind me how … I’m sorry, I’m being ineffective.”Nuno shakes his head. “No downside. We get shoppers who can’t swim, who haven’t even been within the sea earlier than.”“How is that potential?”He shrugs. “The buoyancy jacket controls your degree and you may breathe underwater. The trainer is with you continually. They often simply sit on the underside and watch fish. They find it irresistible.”Now it’s my flip. I step out and hit the water. Arlindo and the others be a part of me. We descend on the anchor rope to 16 metres. Luana, our dive chief, units off, stating the wildlife – a number of it: an enormous conger eel in a gap, lobsters, crabs, a moray eel and gangs of nudibranchs – what Arlindo calls “diving slugs”, however these are slugs designed by Salvador Dali: plumed, feathered and brilliantly vibrant. I fold my arms throughout my chest and settle myself. Diving achieved effectively is a meditative expertise; no sound however your individual breath in a world the place you might be an alien customer from a distinct cosmos.Strolling down the quiet streets of Lagos. {Photograph}: Kevin Rushby/The GuardianThe Algarve is all in regards to the sea. Burrow into any household historical past and it results in fishing; delve into any coastal city or village and the life is within the harbour. Earlier that day I’d gone all the way down to Lagos harbour and the fishermen had directed me to their favorite restaurant, Tasca da Lota, the one the place they’ve espresso at six within the morning and the place you may eat the sardines they caught. However one grizzled old-timer warned me, “Not right this moment, no sardines. The tuna and dolphins arrived and the sardines had been hiding.”So as an alternative I went over to the outdated city of Lagos, a maze of white homes and church buildings that escaped the worst excesses of tourism growth, a blight in some elements of the Algarve. The city is quiet with just a few intrepid vacationers round. Lagos by no means will get as crowded as some elements of the area, however to have it so peaceable is a boon. Arlindo is in heaven: “That is like once I was rising up, earlier than the 1974 revolution.”Conventional candy treats at Pastelaria Algarve in Lagos. {Photograph}: Kevin Rushby/The GuardianThat morning I wanted dive vitality so I settled for an additional native delight: conventional truffles and low at Pastelaria Algarve. Right here they make delicacies like estrelas de amendoa, stars of almonds and fig, and doce fino, which appear like slices of watermelon or little clams however are literally almonds, sugar and eggs. Then there may be the pièce de resistance, Dom Rodrigo, a stringy ball of egg, cinnamon and sugar wrapped in silver foil. Brimming with sugar, I used to be able to dive.Twelve metres down, Luana leads us again to the place we began: the anchor. I pause and go searching. I’m not going to do one other dive, so these are my previous few moments within the magical different ether. One thing catches my eye: a curly scarlet sponge inside a hole, and there subsequent to it, an octopus. My face is a foot away from the animal. I really like and respect these well-armed creatures. They resolve issues, they will change color to elude predators, they usually can escape down tiny darkish holes to flee from aggressive predators. The octopus stares again at me, its eye pale, and clouded with octopi ponderings. Then it winks. Additional data: Go to Portugal, Go to Algarve. Kevin was a visitor of Portugal Dive, which presents a seven-night diving journey to the Algarve from €899. Tuition is included if you’re a newbie, however there are dives for all expertise ranges. He stayed at Vila Gale, the place the WeDive centre is situated, with doubles from £85. easyJet flies twice each day from each Luton (and different areas across the UK) to Faro from round £30 a technique. Vacation Extras offered airport meet-and-greet parking at Luton and lodging at Luton Vacation Inn