Dolphin watching in the Algarve
The Atlantic Ocean, near the Algarve coast, is a great place to go dolphin watching. Dolphins are some of the most well-liked marine animals because of their intelligence and playfulness. Any time you see one of these marine animals in their natural habitat you will feel the magic in the air. If you are lucky, you can even see them jump out of the water, which is truly amazing. Dolphin watching is one of the most fun things to do in the Algarve and will give you memories you won’t forget anytime soon. In this article you can read all about dolphin watching in the Algarve, including the best tour companies.
Are you excited to go dolphin watching in the Algarve? Then watch the short video below and see how magical it is.
Which dolphin species can be found near the Algarve coast?
The most common dolphin species that can be found near the Algarve coast are the Common dolphin, the Bottlenose dolphin, the Striped dolphin, the Harbor Porpoise and the Risso’s dolphin. Besides dolphins, there is a chance you might also come across the Minke Whale, the Orca, sharks or sea turtles. Usually you will also see many seabirds, like seagulls.
A dolphin watching tour
The best way to see dolphins in the Algarve is to go on a dolphin watching tour. By boat you will go to deep sea, at least 10 kilometres from the mainland. These tours are possible during the whole year, but the best time is during spring and summer. This is because the water temperature is warmer in that period, so the dolphins spend more time socializing and relaxing, which means you will be able to see them playing together. A tour usually costs between € 25 and € 45 and takes between 1 and 3 hours. Children usually pay a lower price. Life jackets will be provided and are usually mandatory.
General advice for a dolphin watching tour:
- Bring comfortable clothes and a jacket. It can get quite windy out at sea, especially when travelling at high speeds in a boat. Bring a coat to stay warm, even on hot summer days.
- Be prepared to get wet. You are on a boat, and water is all around you. It might happen that you get wet, especially when you are in a speed boat. A waterproof jacket might be a good idea.
- Bring some water. Since a tour can last several hours, bring some water to avoid dehydration.
- Visit the toilet before the tour. It will be a very long and unpleasant tour if you don’t.
- Bring sun cream. The sun in the Algarve can hit quite hard, especially when you are on the water. Bring sun cream to avoid getting a sunburn.
- Bring your phone or camera. After all, you probably want to make pictures when you actually see dolphins.
- Don’t touch or feed the dolphins. It is not allowed to touch the dolphins. You don’t know what kind of diseases they have and you don’t want to transmit stress or have a negative impact on them. After all, they are dolphins in the wild.
- If you have binoculars, bring them. This will allow you to see the dolphins from up close, even when they are further away.
- Take sea sickness pills if necessary. The sea conditions may be rough and if you are prone to sea sickness, it might be a good idea to take a sea sickness pill.
- Always arrive 15 minutes before departure. This ensures that everything runs smoothly according to schedule.
Beware that a dolphin watching tour isn’t suitable for children under 3 years old, pregnant women and people with bone or spine problems, since the boat tour can get quite bumpy.
What is the chance to actually see dolphins?
During a dolphin watching tour you have a chance to observe these magical marine animals in their natural habitat. You have to be lucky to spot one though, but with good weather conditions there is a good chance of seeing one. Remember that no one can 100% guarantee you a dolphin sighting, since the dolphins are in the wild and are not tagged. However, tour companies communicate with each other about where a dolphin has been spotted. So if one tour has spotted them, they will alert others nearby. Of course they approach carefully instead of all going there all at once. These tactics, combined with experience, make for a dolphin sighting success rate of about 90-95% on average.
There are actually boat tours who will give you a free replacement trip if you do not spot a dolphin. It comes as close as you can get to a guarantee of spotting a dolphin on your holiday in the Algarve.
Where to go dolphin watching in the Algarve
There are several places in the Algarve where you can take a boat to go dolphin watching. Below you will can find several highly rated companies that offer dolphin watching tours.
If you go with any of these tour companies, the guide will tell you all about the background of the Algarve, the coast and dolphins in particular. Some guides are professional marine biologists and it can be truly fascinating to hear them talk about this subject. Some of these boat tours also take you to the caves in the sea and the spectacular rock formations that can be found near the coast. In general, dolphin watching is a truly unique experience for families, couples, groups and individuals.
Albufeira is a great place to start your dolphin watching journey. You can take a tour with any of the following companies:
- Dolphins Driven. They offer a 1,5 hour Wild Dolphin Experience tour, as well as a 2 hour Dolphin & Caves tour, where you will also visit some beautiful caves, such as Algar de Benagil. A marine biologist or nature guide will be on board on all tours, who will tell you everything about these magical creatures. They are associated with conservation projects and the study of marine species. For example, their marine biologist collects data to understand if the dolphins that you see are the same every year.
- Dream Wave. They offer a 2 hour cruise between Albufeira and Carvoeiro. You will first visit several caves and enjoy stunning rock formations during the tour. Then on the return to Albufeira, the boat goes to deep sea to start the dolphin watching part.
- AlgarExperience. This company offers a variety of experiences, from reef fishing to a beach barbecue to dolphin watching. They have a 2 hour dolphin & caves tour in a normal boat or a 2,5 hour tour in a catamaran. The catamaran has a toilet and free wi-fi. They also have a 5 hour tour which combines dolphin watching with a beach BBQ. The BBQ menu has grilled shrimp, fish, meat, salad and fresh fruits. You will see beautiful rock formations during all tours as well.
- Seacret Tours. They offer a 2,5 hour tour to go search for dolphins and visit caves. You will first go by boat to the Alfanzina lighthouse and see stunning rock formations and secluded beaches on the way. The highlight of the first part of the trip is a visit to the famous Algar de Benagil cave. The second part of the trip is a quest to find dolphins.
- X-Ride Algarve. During 2,5 hours you will go look for dolphins in the wild, as well as visit beautiful caves. You will also have the opportunity to take a swim during the journey. The trip is done on a relatively large boat: a catamaran (capacity 23 people) or a cruising boat (capacity 50 people). Toilet facilities are on board.
Buy your tickets for dolphin watching near Albufeira already online:
- Natura Algarve. They offer a 2 hour dolpin watching trip outside the Ria Formosa. You will also come across other marine wildlife animals, such as sea turtles, seabirds or even sharks. They depart from both the marina of Faro and the marina of Olhão.
- Sabino Boat Tours. They offer a 2,5 hour dolphin observation tour. On the trip you will see the beauty of the Ria Formosa natural park. Departure is from the marina of Olhão.
- Ecomarine Algarve. This company offers dolphin watching tours in the Ria Formosa with a local guide who will tell you about the different dolphin species. Before the tour they will give you a small briefing about the trip and the route.
- Carlos Boat Tours. During this 2 hour boat tour in the Ria Formosa you will go search for dolphins in the wild. An experienced guide will tell you all about these fabulous creatures.
Are you interested in a dolphin watching tour near the Ria Formosa? You can already book your tour below.
Near Lagoa you can find the following dolphin watching tour companies:
- Wildwatch Algarve. They offer a 1,5-2 hour wild dolphin tour, a 3 hour wildlife explorer tour and a 2,5 hour caves & dolphins tour. Departure is from Ferragudo. A marine biologist is on board during all tours. They guarantee a dolphin sighting, and will give you a new tour or refund half your money if you don’t spot a dolphin.
Are you in the area of Lagos? Then you can enjoy a dolphin watching tour by any of the following tour companies:
- Seafaris. They were actually the first company in the Algarve to offer dolphin watching tours. Their sighting rate on tours is over 95%.
- Sealife. They have a lot of experience and know exactly where to look for dolphins. A marine biologist is on board and will tell you which dolphin species you are seeing, as well as explaining dolphin behaviour. Very informative tour, with a focus on raising awareness about how to preserve the marine wildlife.
- Algarve Water World. They offer 1,5 hour dolphin observation tours in a rigid-inflatable boat that is low on the water, so you can get very close to the dolphins.
- Bluefleet. This company offers a 1 hour and 45 minute boat trip to go look for dolphins. They have small boats, with a maximum of 4 tourists per boat. Departure is from the marina of Lagos.
- Days of Adventure. In a family catamaran you will go look for dolphins in their natural habitat. This catamaran has a toilet and a bar on-site. The boat is even accessible by wheelchair. Trips last for 1,5 hours.
If you are intested in a tour near Lagos, you can actually book your tickets already online:
In Portimão you can take a dolphin watching tour with any of the following companies:
- Seadolphins. This company offers 1,5 hour dolphin observation tours. On the tour you will get to know about the marine ecosystem in the area. Departure is from the marina near Praia da Rocha.
- Seafaris (see description above at Lagos).
Staying near Sagres? Then see if you can join any of the following tour companies for a dolphin observation tour:
- CapeCruiser. They offer a wide range of sea activities and are one of the few companies near Sagres to do so. Their dolphin watching tour in the Atlantic Ocean focuses on both fun and education. They participate in scientific research projects and collect data about the dolphins in partnership with the Marine Environment Research Association (AIMM). Departure is from the Baleeira harbour in Sagres.
- Marilimitado. This company specializes in marine wildlife watching. Marilimitado literally means ‘unlimited sea’. Their 1,5 hour dolphin watching tour starts with an educational briefing, after which you will go out to the deep sea of the Atlantic Ocean. Departure is from the Baleeira harbour.
- SeaXplorer. During this 2 hour tour you will observe dolphins in their natural environment. The guide is quite knowledgeable about the area and the various marine animal species.
Hop on board for a dolphin watching tour on a boat owned by any of the following companies based in Vilamoura:
- AlgarveXcite. They offer a range of water sport activities and boat trips. Their dolphin watching tour lasts for 2 hours and also shows you some of the stunning rock formations of the Algarve coastline.
- Ocean Quest. This company offers a 2,5 hour dolphin quest tour with the aim of finding these magnificent creatures in the wild. You get a bottle of water for free with the tour. Departure is from the marina of Vilamoura.