By Bo, co-founder of SeaBookings, working from Lisbon:
What better birthday present can you give than a day out on a boat? This year, for my mother in law’s birthday, we decided to give a special present: we went on a dolphin watching tour in Setúbal with the family. When we finally found a Saturday where we were all available and the weather forecasts were OK, we booked our dolphin trip in Setúbal for the afternoon.
Setúbal is known for its delicious fried squid. And as the dolphin watching tour in Setúbal would depart at 14h30, we’d have time to enjoy some of this local delicacies. We booked a table at Taska da Avenida, number one on TripAdvisor for the famous “choco frito”. In fact, it was the best fried squid we’d ever had and the French fries and salad were also delicious. So, if you plan a day trip from Lisbon to go on a dolphin watching tour In Setúbal, pass by Taska da Avenida before. The restaurant is only 10min by foot from the meeting point to catch the boat.
Once our bellies were happy, we took a stroll around the streets of Setúbal and met the crew of the boat tour at their office. Here, the youngest one of our party, Luísa of 5 years old, was super excited to learn about the dolphins that we’d be searching for. In Setúbal, in the Sado River, lives a resident pod of bottlenose dolphins of 27 members. These resident pods are very rare and as they are residents, the skippers and marine biologists on board have a strong record of their behaviour. They can even identify each of the 27 dolphins by their dorsal fin! Of course, Luísa was impressed to know all this and to learn about the life of these beautiful creatures.
The boat used for this dolphin watching tour in Setúbal is a very nice and comfortable catamaran. You can sit in the shade or in the sun or even on the nets. After picking up one more family from Tróia, on the other side of the Sado River, we were ready to start our journey in the search of wild dolphins. As they are not fed or tagged, the crew never knows where they’re hanging out, so there’s always a small chance to have tough luck and not find them. However, given that this pod of dolphins is resident, the chances are very very high. In the last years, the success rate has been 90-95%.
After cruising river-inwards for about 20min we already saw the first splashes. Yes, we had found them! Everybody on board was super excited. As soon as we approached the pod of dolphins, they were all around the boat. It’s truly magical to see how people react when they see these beautiful creatures. It’s so special finding them in their natural habitat. The skipper explained that we could only be with them for 30min so we would not “disturb” them too much. One thing we really liked was to feel that this tour operator truly respects these animals and are interested in them. One of the skippers even explained a lot about them. He went from family to family and explained a bit about this curious pod of resident dolphins, both in English and in Portuguese. The other skipper was steering the boat and even allowed Luísa to help him!
Before heading back to the dock in Setúbal, we still did a scenic tour along the green hills of the Arrábida Natural Park and the white sanded beaches of Tróia. It was beautiful!
This dolphin watching tour in Setúbal is very suitable for families. On our trip, there were many kids and even babies on board and in our case, grandma also enjoyed a lot! We recommend to check-in at least 15 min before the departure of the tour so you can take a look at the office and learn about the dolphins. Regarding food and drinks onboard, we brought some water and fruit and cookies and there’s also a bar service for additional drinks. To find out more and to book, feel free to have a look here.