dolphin watching tour in Setúbal

We went on a dolphin watching tour in Setúbal with the family

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.

The nets in the front are a lot of fun

The nets in the front are a lot of fun

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.

It's hard to catch them on camera, but they were all around the boat!

It’s hard to catch them on camera, but they were all around 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%.

Kids love this dolphin watching tour in Setúbal

Kids love this dolphin watching tour in Setúbal

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!

We could not get enough of observing the dolphins!

We could not get enough of observing the dolphins!

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.

dolphins in Lagos

We went searching for wild dolphins in Lagos

Nathalie, content and translations at SeaBookings, shares her unforgettable experience searching for wild dolphins in Lagos:

Even though I live close to Lagos and have seen a couple of wild dolphins from the coast, I still wanted to try out the tours to search for dolphins in Lagos! And when my mum came to visit me in the beautiful Algarve, it was the perfect opportunity to take her out and go on this adventure in the search of wild dolphins in Lagos.

Best thing to do in Lagos with your mum: dolphin watching!

Best thing to do in Lagos with your mum: dolphin watching!

The day we wanted to do it started not very promising – early in the morning the sky was very grey and it didn’t look like it was going to be a good idea to go out on the sea. Luckily though, it opened up so that we were able to do the dolphin watching tour with a little bit of sun and a very calm ocean.

At the Marina in Lagos, we were welcomed by the two very friendly ladies at the check-in counter. Here we were also given some waterproof jackets, that they recommended we wear during the tour as it would get rather windy. Happily, we accepted the offer, and thank god we did so, as during the tour it was perfect to wear the jackets and be protected against the wind!

On the dolphin watching Lagos tour, you'll also enjoy the coastline

On the dolphin watching Lagos tour, you’ll also enjoy the coastline

Once the boat had arrived in the Marina from the last tour, it was our turn get aboard! The boat was a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) with seats in the front, middle and the back. So everybody could choose what they prefer – the skipper explained to us that in the front it would get bumpier, and people who prefer a more calm experience should stay in the back, as there the boat didn’t get much movement! Of course, we wanted to sit further in the front, so we sat down in the second row!

Once everybody was on board, the skipper gave us some general information about what to expect during the tour and how they work to find dolphins! He made sure everybody understood English and understood what he said. And then, it was time to go out and see if we could spot some wild dolphins in Lagos!

Some of the dolphins came very close!

Some of the dolphins came very close!

After leaving the Marina, the skipper increased the speed and we raced outside into the big blue! The ride on the speedboat alone was already a lot of fun, and everybody was excited about what we were going to find! About 20 km from the coast we found a big fishing boat. The boat stopped, and the skipper informed us that around here there was a lot of fish and that we should keep our eyes open since the chances were high the there were some dolphins very close to us!

We cruised a little further, and after some exciting minutes, the boat slowed down again. And there we saw the first splashes of water – dolphins!!! Everybody on board got excited, and as the boat came slowly closer to the dolphins, we all were able to stand up and admire the dolphins from up close!

dolphins in Lagos

Bring your camera for the challenge to catch these quick and playful creatures on a photo!

It was a group of about 10 dolphins, and there were even some mothers with small calves jumping around our boat. The dolphins seemed to be very playful, jumping out very close to the boat and even swimming underneath our boat. It was truly a magical experience, watching these wild animals in their natural habitat.

After some unique moments watching the dolphins and moving around the water with them, it was time to return to the Marina. The skipper took the “scenic route” along the coastline of Lagos, so we were able to also admire the beautiful caves of Ponta da Piedade and the surrounding beaches, which was the perfect way to end this unique experience!

Seeing dolphins in the middle of the Atlantic is a unique experience

Seeing dolphins in the middle of the Atlantic is a unique experience

Seeing the wild dolphins in the middle of the blue ocean was a very magical encounter, and we loved every minute of it! We highly recommend this tour!

dolphins in Setúbal

Searching for the wild dolphins in Setúbal

Lianne, responsible for the Spanish market and content/translations at SeaBookings, was so enthusiastic about her experience on the boat trip to the wild dolphins in Setúbal that she wrote a nice piece about it:

There are many places to sit on the boat: in the sun, the shade or on the nets!

There are many places to sit on the boat: in the sun, the shade or on the nets!

If you are on holiday in Portugal, you want to do fun things. I’ve always wanted to see dolphins in the wild, and with SeaBookings, it became clear to me where I should be to spot dolphins, Setúbal!

The same afternoon I could join the tour (and that in the high season!). I took a bus from Lisbon to Setúbal. From Praça de Espanha I could easily take the bus and I was told that the cheapest would be buying a ticket for the bus. I believe that a single ticket cost me about € 4.- and within 45 minutes I arrived in Setúbal. Here you can find some more ideas on how to get from Lisbon to Setúbal.

SeaBookings arranged everything for me and I only had to take the bus and walk 10 minutes to the place where the catamaran would depart to see the dolphins. I made sure that I was there a little earlier, but I didn’t have to wait long before we could walk with the guide. We walked to the boat (which was really big and looked very safe and stable) and everyone was looking for a good place to sit.

Dolfijnen Setúbal (3)

Enjoy the stunning surroundings of Setúbal

Even though it was the high season (and I was afraid you had to fight for a place to sit), the boat was fully booked, but not fully loaded with people. Everyone had a good place to sit. You could sit on soft cushions at the edge of the boat, on benches in the middle of the boat (if you prefer to be in the shade) or on the big floor nets. The big floor nets looked a bit like trampolines and you could sit or / lie there and see the water under you. You can imagine that this is really fantastic for kids!

Dolfijnen Setúbal (4)

Green and blue…

The boat started sailing and after a short stop in Troia (which is a beautiful beach) we sailed to the spot where we could see the wild dolphins in Setúbal. Along the way, we got a very detailed explanation from the guide that there live 27 dolphins in the Sado River. The wild dolphins in Setúbal are each recognizable by their fins. We were even told that a baby dolphin recently was born! This explanation was in English and Portuguese.

Dolfijnen Setúbal (5)

The dolphins are pretty curious about the boat

It did not take long before we saw the first dolphins swimming in front of our boat. First a bit further away but later they came closer and also swam around the boat. It does not matter where you are, you can see them everyone on the boat! The view and the jumping dolphins made this trip really cool. I have been able to take many pictures of the dolphins and it seemed like they were performing a show for us!

Dolfijnen Setúbal (6)

A true live show by wild dolphins!

The boat trip to see the dolphins in Setúbal takes 3 hours and for me, this was fine in terms of time. Because I was enjoying the view and the dolphins time seemed to fly but at the same time it was enough. On board it is possible to buy food and drinks. I did not do this myself because I knew you could take your own food and drinks.

Watching dolphins in Setúbal was a very nice experience and thanks to SeaBookings and the operator everything was well taken care of. I recommend everyone to visit the wild dolphins in Setúbal and don’t forget to enjoy the rest of the view as well!

This was Lianne’s experience searching for the wild dolphins in Setúbal! Want to do the same? Book your seats on time!

Do you also have a nice SeaBookings experience to share? Let us know and your experience maybe featured on out blog!

dolphin watching in Luz

We went dolphin watching in Luz

Part of our team was in the South of Portugal, the Algarve, for some meetings with tour operators. The weather was amazing and the ocean was “calling” us for a boat ride. Paulo, who manages our partner company in Praia da Luz, near Lagos, immediately invited us for a trip. And so, we went dolphin watching in Luz.

Praia da Luz, Vila da Luz, or simply Luz, is a very cute town, west of Lagos. It’s actually the beach where Femke and Bo grew up so, they have strong ties to this little summer paradise.

Welcome to Praia da Luz!

Welcome to Praia da Luz!

The dolphin watching in Luz departs from the beach so you do not need to drive to the Marina of Lagos to meet these beautiful creatures.  The rich coastal waters of the Algarve are home to several species of dolphins and it’s always a true adventure. We were lucky with the weather and sea conditions. Chances of finding dolphins were extremely high.

As the observation of dolphins in the wild is not predictable, it is possible not to find them on one of the trips. However, this operator has a special policy that if this occurs, you can always board again for free on another trip. In fact, the success rate is so high that they can do this.

Ready to go dolphin watching in Luz!

Ready to go dolphin watching in Luz!

We met Paulo on the beach a bit before departure. The dolphin watching in Luz was fully booked so we were lucky we could go along (that’s why we always recommend booking ahead). From Luz, we use specifically designed boats for this type of trip: fast, secure and very comfortable. The boat is powered with four-stroke outboard engines and is ultra-silent and crew manning for 12 passengers. In fact, the boat was so comfortable such that Femke, who often gets seasick, felt just fine during the tour!

The dolphins came really close!

The dolphins came really close!

To get to the boat, we needed to get into a small rubber boat on the beach and then step over to the “dolphin-boat”. No worries, this is very easy. Even two 4-5-year-old kids did it easily. On board, life vests are mandatory. It’s recommended to keep your belongings in the beach hut, where the crew can store them in special boxes. On board, all you need is a camera (on your own responsibility) and a wind jacket is recommended too (and plenty of sunscreen, of course!). In fact, sometimes it can get quite chilly deeper in the sea.

dolphin watching from luz beachhut

The boat is very safe and comfortable

Once Paulo has given us a small briefing of what to expect, we were ready to go. The crew already had a GPS point of where the dolphins were (the tour operators communicate with each other to let know where the dolphins are). We were going to cruise about 10 miles Southwest. In fact, after about 30 exciting and speedy minutes, we found a huuuge group of dolphins.

The species we found were common dolphins. How many? Uncountable! The animals were super excited. They were jumping around as there was a lot of fish. There were dolphins of all ages, some more mature ones with babies and some 1-2-year-old playful youngsters. Paulo explained that, besides the fish, what explained the all the excitement of the dolphins was the mating season. Male and female dolphins were jumping around, next to each other. It was beautiful!  Discovering the magical world of dolphins in their natural habitat is a truly unique experience.

A boat tour is always a good idea!

A boat tour is always a good idea!

We had a blast! Many thanks to Paulo and his team! We highly recommend this experience dolphin watching in Luz. Especially to families. There were a few kids on board and it was very nice to see how fascinated and enthusiastic they were with the wild dolphins!

dolphin watching in Portimão

All you need to know about dolphin watching in Ferragudo

Dolphins are amazing creatures! Did you know, that there are only 35 species of dolphins living in the sea worldwide? Most of them prefer warm waters, but we also have a great number of dolphins passing by the Portuguese coast every year! In fact, if you’re on holidays in Portugal, you should definitely go dolphin watching!

Boat trip in Madeira

Pilot whales are some of the species we encounter in Portugal

Our partner for dolphin watching in Ferragudo gathered some interesting data about the sightings recently. Dolphin watching in Ferragudo, near Portimão, the South of Portugal, is a huge adventure! Since we’re dealing with wild animals who are not being fed, it is always a big excitement looking for some fins in the water to spot the dolphins! Together with experienced crews, you will be looking out on the blue water waiting to see some movement. We never know what species we’ll find in the immense Atlantic!

Common dolphins are seen very frequently

Common dolphins are seen very frequently

If you decide to go dolphin watching in Portimão, it is almost guaranteed that you will see at least 1 species of dolphins! During summer months, chances are very high that you will even see some whales too! Dolphin watching in Portimão had a success rate of 98,4% last year (2017). And on almost every trip, we saw two different species of cetaceans (whales and dolphins).

Even orcas can be spotted, but only a few times a year

Even orcas can be spotted, but only a few times a year

August and September are definitely the best months to go dolphin watching in Portimão! During those months, we saw a total of almost 180 common dolphins on our tours! In August we also saw the most bottlenose dolphins with a total of almost 40! These bottlenose dolphins are especially beautiful and their sighting is always special!

Wale und Delfine Beobachten auf Pico dolphin watching on Pico Observação de golfinhos e baleias na ilha do Pico

Bottlenose dolphins are some of the most playful!

Not only do we see the most dolphins during August and September, but in September we also saw two very rare whale species during the dolphin watching in Portimão! We saw 1 Orca and 1 Fin Whale in September 2017, something that doesn’t happen very often.

Even though August and September are the months where we see the biggest number of cetaceans during the dolphin watching in Portimão and other destinations in the Algarve, in June of 2017 we were lucky enough to see three very special speciesDuring the tours in June last year, we saw 5 Orcas and 2 fin whales! These are very rare sightings and it is always exciting when we see those kinds of species. And for the first time since the dolphin watching in Portimão is running, we saw Pilot Whales on a tour! And not only one, but 3 in one day! So if you go dolphin watching in Portimão in June, maybe you get extra lucky by seeing some very rare species!

Risso's dolphins are in some ways an unusual species

Risso’s dolphins are in some ways an unusual species

Whenever you decide to go dolphin watching in Ferragudo or anywhere else in the Algarve, there is a chance of over 98% you get lucky! On the Portuguese islands of both Madeira and the Azores you can also see many different cetaceans all year around. Portugal is very popular amongst whales and dolphins!

Spotting fin whales is a true experience

Spotting fin whales is a true experience

We hope we could help you decide when to go dolphin watching in Portimão! Seeing these magical creatures in their natural habitat is always very unique and we’re sure you will love it!

In 2016 we sighted 8 species of cetaceans in the Algarve

We chatted with our partner tour operator, Dream Wave, about the sightings of cetaceans in the Algarve. This tour operator, based in the Marina of Albufeira, specializes in dolphin watching tours in the Algarve (among other boat trips). The operator revealed that in the course of 2016, they spotted eight species of cetaceans in the Algarve.

cetaceans in the Algarve

Happy common dolphins! By Dream Wave.

The most observed species of cetaceans in the Algarve:

  • Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) – very dynamic and fun species. Bottlenose dolphins are the most famous and known species of cetacean in the world. These dolphins can be sighted anywhere in the globe except the polar seas. In addition, it is the most common species in the theme parks. Bottlenose dolphins can reach 4 meters in length.
  • Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) – is the most common species in the temperate waters of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and can also be sighted in the Caribbean and Mediterranean Sea.

 

Other species of cetaceans in the Algarve are always present but are more difficult to spot. The harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena), for example, is not often seen because they are rather shy. The risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) and the orca (Orcinus orca) were also sighted this year, as in previous years.

cetaceans in the Algarve

Fin wahles are really impressive! By Dream Wave.

As far as whales are concerned, the maritime operator recorded the sighting of three species:

  • Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) – is the second largest animal after the blue whale. The Fin whale can reach a length of up to 25.9m!
  • Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis) – reaching a length of up to 20 m and weighing up to 45 tonnes, it is the third largest balaenopteridae.
  • Minke whale (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) – these marine mammals are distinguished from other whales by a white band on each flipper. They have a length of up to 9m, with females being larger than males.

 

The maritime operator says that in recent years the public interest in the observation of cetaceans in the Algarve has grown significantly. However, the operator is concerned about the amount of trash that they find in the sea and which can affect this interest, as well as affecting turtles, seabirds and cetaceans in the Algarve.

So the crews of Dream Wave are concerned with trying to fulfill their civic role, collecting most of that garbage they find. This is one of the reasons why we like working with this operator. The operator has an attitude of dedication, professionalism and a deep respect for the sea.

Cetaceans Algarve SeaBookings (4)

This year we also found orcas. By Dream Wave.

If you’d like to get to meet some of these species of cetaceans in the Algarve, yourself, book your dolphin watching boat trip now.

In 2016 there were two births of wild dolphins in Setúbal

Good news for dolphin watching tours in the Sado River and for nature! This year there were two births of wild dolphins in Setúbal, one in August and another in October.

Dolphin Sado Out16

This calf was born in October 2016

It was the Portuguese Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation that confirmed that two baby bottlenose dolphins were born in the Sado estuary in 2016. Thus, with these two births, the number of dolphins in Setúbal rises to 29 elements of this species in the resident community in the Sado River. The names of the two calves will be chosen by the students of a primary school of the municipality of Setúbal.

The pod of wild dolphins in Setúbal are a particular case in Europe. In fact, the community of 29 bottlenose dolphins is resident. Only two more dolphin communities living in estuaries are known: one in Scotland and another in Ireland.

Dolphin Sado Aug16

This calf was born in August 2016

Unfortunately, in the 1980s and 1990s, the dolphin population on the Sado River declined. The minimum number of animals was recorded in 2011: 25 elements. However, the Portuguese Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation points out that this trend seems to have been reversed.

Boat tour to observe the wild dolphins in Setúbal

For the observation of the wild dolphins in Setúbal, SeaBookings collaborates with a maritime operator of excellence. This operator has been recognized for its merit with several awards and certifications of quality and respect for nature. This operator also collaborates with the Portuguese Institute of Nature and Forest Conservation to monitor the Sado River dolphin community.

dolphins in setúbal

Dolphin watching in Setúbal is done on a luxury catamaran

We invite you to come and meet the dolphin community of the Rio Sado and the two new cute calves on a boat trip. The tour lasts 3 to 4 hours and departs from Setúbal. We recommend booking in advance to secure your seat. Dolphin watching in the Sado can be done all year round and this is the ideal family trip as kids love it and all ages are welcome!