Five of the 26 species of cetaceans that can be found in Portuguese waters – the common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, harbour porpoise, and minke whale – are commonly spotted in Lagos dolphin watching trips.
Besides these species, lucky visitors can still come into contact with animals that sporadically show up in these waters. If you’re lucky, you might see fin whales, humpback whales migrating north to south, pilot whales, stripped dolphins, killer whales pursuing schools of bluefin tuna.
Large pelagic fish species other than cetaceans have also been observed in the Algarve, including sharks (typically blue sharks, but sometimes infrequently hammerhead or thresher sharks) and other fish (sunfish, marlins and the eagerly desired tuna). Whether crossing the Atlantic or entering and leaving the Mediterranean, all of these species engage in impressive migrations for feeding and reproduction. Because of this, there is a chance that we might encounter them, although infrequently and occasionally just during certain times of the year (such as in the case of killer whales).
The common dolphins and bottlenose dolphins are the two kinds that are most frequently seen on boat tours in Lagos. Both species are local residents, which means they spend the entire year in these waters due to the favourable conditions they find here.
The permanent “Algarvian Common Dolphins” live with a migrant population of Common Dolphins that travels there in the summer from the chilly North Atlantic waters. The Algarve is a fantastic choice as a birth spot since it has a good water temperature for reproduction and food offered by the Portimão Sea Canyon.
Because the summer is when dolphins are most likely to reproduce, they tend to prefer warmer waters to have their offspring. In order to fully build the layer of blubber around their bodies that will stop their body temperatures from dropping and placing them at risk of death, newborns need greater temperatures. Because of this, it is the optimum time to watch a lot of activity and diverse group structures, including large pods of over 200 dolphins that comprise a mix of adult males, females, juveniles, and calves as well as pods of juvenile males and females with calves. You might observe them resting, eating (often in a location pursuing a school of sardines or mackerel, and frequently in conjunction with a group of seabirds who take advantage of the situation to capture some fish), searching for prey, travelling, mating, etc. On some days, dolphins are especially social and active and may decide to approach the boats and surf the waves themselves.
The most well-known dolphin species is the bottlenose dolphin, also referred to as the iconic “Flipper” worldwide. The bottlenose dolphin population in the Algarve is permanent, and it is normal to see them in family groups. Two distinct and fiercely territorial subgroups have existed in the Algarvian Sea. Within three miles of the coast, inshore bottlenose dolphins can frequently be seen feeding in shallow waters.
The Portimão Submarine Canyon’s surroundings are home to offshore bottlenose dolphins, which are found in deeper waters farther from the coast. They have a well-established relationship with the neighbourhood bottom trawlers, particularly in the Portimão Canyon region. These groups of dolphins frequently follow the fishing boats and opportunistically eat on their catch. Even their deliberate migration into and out of the trawling bag during the fishing operation has been caught on camera in different places south of Spain. These critters’ intelligence is underappreciated!
Here in Lagos, The Algarve is seeking to extend its tourism season, and boat tour providers are no exception, albeit they are more constrained by the sea conditions, which can be challenging from November until March or April. Tourists can view these animals in the wild by participating in sightseeing tours and dolphin tours offered by the observing companies like Zawaia Experience. Dolphin Watching operates large passenger-capacity catamarans or speedboats. A usual journey lasts between 1:30 and 2 hours, and in order to avoid disturbing the animals and to have the least negative influence, a strategy for boat approach to them must be followed. Most of these operational businesses provide a high-quality product that astounds the visitor, and the total sighting rate is over 90%.
A really encouraging development is that more and more businesses engage in educational initiatives and employ marine biologists on board to lead tourists through sailing and interactions. They play a vital role in raising awareness about this unique and vulnerable habitat and its people by demonstrating not just the region’s incredible biodiversity but also the effects of human activities on these ecosystems.
We really hope that you liked this article, if you are decided to take on a wonderful dolphin watching tour in Lagos with us, please take a look at our boat trips, we are looking forward to show you these wonderful treasures in Algarve and we are waiting for you to sail from the Marina of Lagos.