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.

Dolphin watching tour in Portimão

We went on a dolphin watching tour in Portimão

By Lianne, responsible for the Spanish market and content/translations at SeaBookings.

Fully equipped with wind jackets and life vests!

Fully equipped with wind jackets and life vests!

During our stay in Lagos in the Algarve, we wanted to do something fun. That’s why we decided to visit another place and go on a dolphin watching tour in Portimão. At the marina of Portimão, you see many different boats departing and arriving (sailing boats, motor boats, catamarans, etc.). The dolphin watching in Portimão is done on a Rigid Inflatable Boat (RIB) and this was my first experience on a boat like this. Because we were going to search for dolphins in the wild, we needed to go far into the sea. With a boat like this, you can go very fast and reach these beautiful animals in a short time. My boyfriend and I were sitting in the front and the crew told us that it was important that everyone helped to look out for the dolphins.

Our super fast RIB

Our super fast RIB

Sit back and relax…. Oh no! Hold on tight! Because the boat reaches speeds of 40km/h and on the open sea it feels like you go really fast! This is really amazing because it gives you an adrenaline-kick and you have the feeling that you fly over water.

Before getting on board we were all provided with wind and life-jackets. I thought it would be too hot, but in the middle of the sea, it can be pretty cold. We were told that during this dolphin watching tour in Portimão deals with wild animals. The dolphins live in the wild and they are not fed, which is a good thing I think, because we could really encounter these beautiful creatures in their natural habitat!

The RIB takes 12 passengers and to skippers

The RIB takes 12 passengers and to skippers

I think after 20 minutes we found another boat and the people on board were already waving to us that we could see dolphins close to their boat. We slowed down and carefully we came closer to the other boat. There we saw already a couple of dolphins swimming. It didn’t take long before we saw dolphins everywhere around our boat. It was really amazing because we could come very close to the animals because we were sitting in a small boat. Even when they were swimming underwater and close to the boat we could see them!

From the boat you can clearly see the dolphins underwater too

From the boat, you can clearly see the dolphins underwater too

After admiring the dolphins for a while, it was time to go back. Different from the ride to the dolphins we were now heading back to the coast of course, which is also a nice experience. You see the nice colorful cliffs and different boats sailing along the coast.

dolphin watching in Portimão

Enjoying the colorful coastline of the Algarve on the way back

The sea was getting rougher and although I really like this adrenaline-kick, I can understand that other people would like the sea to be calmer. Usually, it is better to go early in the morning because the sea is calmer at that time of the day (especially if you usually get seasick it is recommendable to go in the morning).

After this amazing experience, we got back to the marina. It was very nice to see some dolphins in the wild! We highly recommend this dolphin watching tour in Portimão if you like nature and adventure!

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.