The Algarve is known as a top destination for sea-lovers. And it’s not only the beaches, spectacular natural rock formations and the caves that appeal the visitors, but also the ocean wonders including the whales and dolphins of the Algarve.
A wide diversity of sea life inhabits or visits temporarily the Algarvian coast and gives us the opportunity to observe and learn from it. The gems of the crown in the Algarve have to be the whales and dolphins. Marine mammals and other top predators, such as seabirds, choose the south coast of Portugal as their breeding and feeding grounds. But, what does this region hold that is so special for them?
It has been proved that in the Western Algarve there are three areas with an apparently larger concentration of marine mammals: the Portimão Canyon, Caneiros (at Ponta da Piedade, Lagos) and the São Vicente Canyon in Sagres. Underwater canyons are popular hotspots for marine life and the most important for us now is the Portimão Canyon.
The Portimão Canyon is an underwater rift valley located at about 12 miles offshore (south from Praia da Rocha), by the continental shelf border, and in a north-to-south direction. This is an area with sharp sea floor slopes, where depth suddenly drops from 100 meters to 300 meters and goes down to 2000 meters. This formation influences water currents contributing to a phenomenon known as upwelling. The upwelling is yielded in the Algarve by the predominant north winds in the summer that push the surface water (usually nutrient-depleted) towards the south and is replaced by nutrient-rich deep waters that rise to the surface. This phenomenon is a primary driver of ecosystem productivity and, therefore, the starting point of the food chain, producing an increase in plankton. The upwelling occurs in a larger or lesser scale in the other two areas, supporting a complex and rich food chain. At the top of this food chain, species such as whales, dolphins, sharks, turtles, large pelagic fishes and numerous seabirds are found.
The upwelling process is stronger in spring and summer and attracts populations of different species to spend these warmer months in the area. This fact along with the excellent weather and sea conditions (absence of big waves or strong winds most of the days) make this place a fantastic watching destination.
Which are the species we can find in the Algarvian Sea?
Out of the 26 species of cetaceans that may occur in Portuguese waters, 5 are frequently seen in the watching tours of the Western Algarve: common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Risso’s dolphin, harbour porpoise and minke whale.
Besides these species, blessed tourists can still have an encounter with animals that occasionally appear in these waters. On a lucky day, you may spot stripped dolphins, killer whales chasing after bluefin tuna schools, pilot whales, humpback whale in its annual north-south migration or fin whale.
Apart from cetaceans, species of large pelagic fish in the Algarve are also reported: sharks (often blue shark and occasionally hammerhead or thresher sharks) and other fish (sunfish, marlins and the eagerly desired tuna). All these species perform remarkable migrations for feeding and reproduction, either crossing the Atlantic or entering and exiting the Mediterranean. That is the reason we may have a potential chance to see them, but not very often and sometimes, in a specific time of the year (such as the case of killer whales).
The 2 most common species found in most of the boat trips are the common and the bottlenose dolphins. Both species are resident in the area, meaning that they live in these waters all year around because they find good conditions.
As for common dolphins, there is a migrant population that comes in the summer from the cold North Atlantic waters and mixes and coexists with the resident “Algarvian common dolphins”. The summer implies reproduction time, so dolphins tend to prefer warmer waters to have their offspring, being the Algarve a good option as a birth place: good water temperature for reproduction and food provided by the Portimão Canyon. Newborns need higher temperatures until they completely develop the layer of blubber around their body that will prevent body temperatures decreasing putting them in risk of death. It is, therefore, the best time to observe a lot of activity and varied group structures: from pods of juvenile males to groups of females with calves, some lonely individuals (more difficult to spot) or even huge pods of over 200 dolphins, all mixed adult males, females, juveniles and calves. You may see them resting, feeding (usually in a spot chasing a school of sardines/mackerel, and very often associated to a group of seabirds that take profit of the situation to catch some fish), looking for prey, travelling, mating, etc. Some days, dolphins are particularly active and sociable and may take the decision to approach the boats themselves and surf the waves.
Bottlenose dolphin is the most popular of the dolphin species, worldwide known as the classic “Flipper”. The population of bottlenose dolphins in the Algarve is resident and they are commonly spotted in family groups. In the Algarvian Sea, there have been two subgroups ecologically differentiated and very territorial. The inshore bottlenose dolphins are very often found within 3 miles off the coast, feeding on shallow waters. The offshore bottlenose dolphins live in deeper waters far from the coast and can be found in the surroundings of the Portimão Canyon. Particularly in the Portimão Canyon area, their connection with the local bottom trawlers is widely known. It is very common to find these groups of dolphins following the trawlers and opportunistically feeding on their catch. In other regions south of Spain, it has even been recorded on film their intentional movement in and out of the trawling bag, for feeding, during the fishing operation. The intelligence of these creatures is underrated!
In the last few years, ecologist movements and scientists from universities have been worried about the effect of the decline of sardine stocks on the dolphin’s population but long-term studies are needed. In the Algarve region, catches of sardine has fallen to less than a quarter of the numbers of the mid-1990s in only 10 years. Local authorities decided to establish some restrictions concerning the catching, landing and marketing of sardines. Nowadays, fishing vessels with surrounding nets need to keep a quota and fishing season goes from May to September. That is why you find the best sardines in the Algarve in the summer months and even the Sardine Festival takes place in Portimão during the month of August.
The touristic season in the Algarve is trying to extend and the boat trip operators are not an exception, although they are more restricted by sea conditions that can be harsh from November until March or April. The watching companies provide sightseeing trips and dolphin safaris to tourists, allowing them to observe these animals in the wild. They use speed-boats or catamarans with a large passenger capacity. A typical trip takes around 1:30–3 hours and a protocol for boat approaching to the animals needs to be followed in order not to disturb them and trying to make the least impact possible. The sighting rate overall is above 90% and the majority of these operational companies offer a quality product that amazes the visitor.
A very positive thing is that every year more and more operators are into educational programs and work with marine biologists on board who will guide the tourists through the sailing and encounters. Their role as a guide is crucial to show not only the amazing biodiversity of the region but also to explain about the impact of human activities on these ecosystems, making a big effort to raise awareness on this special and fragile habitat and its inhabitants.
What time of year are dolphins in Algarve? ›
The best time to spot schools of dolphins is from June to September. In spring and at the end of the summer from September onwards it's cold out on the sea in the morning; bring a warm jacket. Usually, the sea is calmer in the morning, and spotting dolphins is easier.What is the best time to see dolphins in Algarve? ›
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.Are there whales in the Algarve? ›
In the 2021 season, we had seven encounters with two whale species in the Algarve! The Minke Whale is one of the smallest baleen whales species, and can be seen all year round in the Algarve as our waters are temperate. They tend to be curious animals, so they approach boats quite often!Is there whale watching in the Algarve? ›
The Algarve is known as a top destination for sea-lovers. And it's not only the beaches, spectacular natural rock formations and the caves that appeal the visitors, but also the ocean wonders including the whales and dolphins of the Algarve. Common dolphins surfing on the waves.Can you swim with dolphins in the Algarve? ›
If swimming with dolphins is your dream, it will come true here at Algarve Zoomarine in Portugal, the only place in Europe where you can do this, just 30 minutes from Faro airport and 2 hours from Lisbon.What is the best time to see dolphins in Portugal? ›
While in most locations, bottlenose dolphins can be seen all year round, the peak for dolphin watching activity is reached during the summer months, mainly from June to September. Dolphin watching vessel off the coast of Portugal.Is the sea warm in the Algarve? ›
The further you go towards the west, the colder the water gets. For example, on the west coast the sea water temperature is usually between 17 and 20 degrees, while east of Tavira the sea water temperature can reach up to 26 degrees. Also, the sea is warmer in the summer than in the winter.Is the sea calm in the Algarve? ›
A mild climate, with sunshine for about 300 days a year. A clear sea, almost always warm and calm.What beach has the most dolphins? ›
The California coastline between Santa Barbara and San Diego is home to one of the densest populations of dolphins in the world, according to the Dolphin Project. Bottlenose dolphins, Risso's dolphins, Pacific white-sided dolphins, and short-beaked “common” dolphins have been known to form megapods in the thousands.What sea life is in the Algarve? ›
The underwater world awaits the divers with rocky reefs, soft and hard corals and in good conditions also with morays, conger eels, octopus, seahorses, sea needles, sea spiders, a variety of colorful nudibranches etc. If you are lucky, you may encounter rays, file and trigger fish, squid and cuttlefish.
Are there sharks in Portugal Algarve? ›
Are there sharks in Portugal? The easy answer is yes, and probably more than you would first think. Don't panic though, they're mostly hunting small fish such as sardines and mackerel. Sightings are quite rare, and Portugal has a safe history of no recorded shark attacks.Why is the Portuguese Algarve famous? ›
Anchoring the south of Portugal, the Algarve is famous for its cliff-backed beaches, mouthwatering seafood and picturesque villages. It's also a remarkably easy-going region, with a welcoming vibe for every kind of traveler.Can you swim in the sea in the Algarve? ›
If you are looking for a beach holiday, then the Algarve is the perfection destination. You can swim in the ocean comfortably from March until October. And in the winter months, you can take long refreshing beach walks.What is the best month to see whales? ›
Summer Whale Watching (June, July, August):
The Summer months are the best months to witness the world's largest animal…the BLUE WHALE!
The orcas that roam the Portuguese and Spanish coasts are known as Iberian candorcas, a subpopulation of the Atlantic candorcas. These orcas live in the waters of the Strait of Gibraltar during the spring and summer and then move along the Portuguese coast to Galicia Spain.Where is the best place to swim with dolphins? ›
- Akaroa, New Zealand. ...
- Oahu and Kona, Hawaii. ...
- Azores Archipelago. ...
- Bimini, Bahamas. ...
- The Red Sea.
Go to their website http://www.zoomarine.pt/en/prices-dolphin-emotions (it's in English) and you can find out. Be sure to be sitting down. Not sure in pounds sterling but it is 164 euro. The cost of the admission is included in that price.Is there dolphins in Albufeira? ›
The most common species you'll find are the common dolphin and the bottlenose dolphin. Also, visit the stunning caves and other rock formations in the region, between Albufeira Marina and the famous Benagil cave or “Algar de Benagil”.Where is the best place to see whales and dolphins? ›
- COSTA RICA – FIN WHALES, SEI WHALES, SPERM WHALES, HUMPBACK WHALES. ...
- PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO – HUMPBACK WHALES, GREY WHALES. ...
- MADEIRA, PORTUGAL – HUMPBACK WHALES, SPERM WHALES, PILOT WHALES, ORCAS. ...
- MALDIVES – SPERM WHALES, BRYDE'S WHALES, ORCAS, BEAKED WHALES.
The coastline of Lagos, Algarve, is known for its stunning rock formations, caves and secluded beaches. Did you know that the Atlantic along the Algarve is also known for wild dolphins? Yes, it is, and you can go and observe them closely on our boat tour with dolphin watching Lagos.
Where is the most common place to see dolphins? ›
- Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand. ...
- Plettenberg Bay, South Africa. ...
- The Florida Keys, USA. ...
- Hong Kong. ...
- Moreton Island, Australia. ...
- Vancouver Island, Canada. ...
- Bohol Sea, Philippines. ...
- Falkland Islands, Argentina.
The risk for mosquito activity is extremely high. Wear long-sleeved shirts and pants when spending time outdoors to prevent bites. The risk for mosquito activity is high.Why is Algarve water so cold? ›
The “culprit” of these lower temperatures, is a weather phenomenon typical of the Portuguese coast, which experts call upwelling. Due to the winds, the warm water in the surface is diverted, causing the upwelling of deep and colder ocean waters.What is the coldest month in Algarve Portugal? ›
January is the coldest month in the Algarve, but compared to the cold winter months here in the Netherlands, the temperatures are still very mild. The Algarve has a Mediterranean climate, which refers to the countries around the Mediterranean Sea.Which beach has the clearest water in Algarve? ›
Praia do Vale de Centeanes is where you'll want to go to see some of the clearest water in the Algarve. On a clear day, it's easy to see the bottom of the ocean without even setting foot in the water. This beach is located near Carvoeiro, so it won't be hard to travel from here to Praia da Marinha or Praia de Benagil.What is the nicest beach in Algarve? ›
- Carvoeiro Beach. ...
- Estudantes Beach, one of the best beaches in Portugal. ...
- Monte Clerigo Beach. ...
- Bordeira Beach, one of the best beaches in Portugal. ...
- Falesia Beach. ...
- Barril Beach. ...
- Ponta da Piedade. ...
- Algar de Benagil. View of the Algar de Benagil cave from its skylight.
The best times to visit the Algarve
Avoid the scorching sun and large crowds by visiting the Algarve between late April and early June or from mid-September to late October. The spring season may still be a bit too cold for swimming, but it's the perfect time to sit on the beach and enjoy the water's aesthetic appeal.
Dolphins are most active at the crack of dawn, between 10 am and noon, and from 2 pm till dusk. A great pair of telephoto lenses or binoculars can be invaluable tools to spot dolphins easily.What is the best time to see dolphins from the beach? ›
If you're wondering when is the best time to take a dolphin cruise, it's recommended to go when the boats are less crowded and the water is the calmest - Morning or Noon. When the afternoon rolls around, the temperature rises and the wind kicks up. Having calm water allows for better visibility.What are the best conditions to see dolphins? ›
Check the weather The best day for watching is a bright but cloudy day – high winds, heavy rain, mist, fog and bright sunshine make it hard to see what's on the surface of the water. 3. Make a day of it Whales and dolphins are wild and free so don't always show up when we want to see them.
What animals are in Algarve Portugal? ›
Larger animals such as the Iberian Hare, Red Fox, Egyptian Mongoose, Otter, Rabbit and Weasel are sometimes seen, while at night bats feed on insects - the Serotine bat is quite a common sight. Wildcat and Iberian Lynx are always worth looking out for, but they are very rare.What type of sharks are the in Algarve? ›
A common shark in these waters is the Shortfin Mako Shark. These sharks have been notably fished in Spain and Portugal. They can grow to about ten feet in length and 300 pounds in weight. They are not really considered to be dangerous to humans as there have been very few attacks on humans over the last few centuries.Where do most expats live in the Algarve? ›
Where do expats live in the Algarve? The majority of expats in Algarve are in Tavira, Vilamoura, Lagos, Faro, Albufeira, Alvor and Ferragudo. These towns also happen to attract a large amount of tourists each year, so they can get quite busy during high season.Can you drink tap water Algarve? ›
The short answer is: yes, you can drink the tap water in Portugal. It isn't as nice as tap water from other parts of the world (Ireland and Scotland, for example), but it's perfectly safe to drink. You'll see plenty of Portuguese people buying bottled water, but that's just because it tastes nicer.Do you get mosquitoes in the Algarve? ›
While it can transmit diseases and parasites, this only happens under some conditions. “They (mosquitoes) are here, but the diseases they transmit are not here. They need to find an infected person at the right time to bite and become carriers.Are there mosquitoes in Algarve Portugal? ›
I have to admit, I've never had a problem with mosquitos in the Algarve. It's hot and dry so they probably won't be a huge battle for you. Just a note to anyone interested, if you ever have stagnant water near you that attracts mosquitos, dump some washing-up liquid into the water.What food is Algarve known for? ›
- Frango da Guia. ...
- Conquilhas à Algarvia. ...
- Cataplana de marisco. ...
- Sardines (in Portimão) ...
- Shrimp. ...
- Javali. ...
- Doce Fino do Algarve. ...
- Tarte de Alfarroba.
Normally the Portuguese eat toast with butter or a sandwich or croissant with a slice of ham or cheese. With this, they usually have Portuguese drinks such as drinking a milky coffee or freshly squeezed orange juice. The Portuguese usually eat just enough to get through to 11 am.Is the Algarve at risk of tsunami? ›
In the area you have selected (Portugal) tsunami hazard is classified as medium according to the information that is currently available. This means that there is more than a 10% chance of a potentially-damaging tsunami occurring in the next 50 years.Where is the warmest water in Algarve? ›
Praia da Manta Rota, Algarve.
Which part of the Algarve has the best beaches? ›
The best beaches in Algarve are between the cities of Albufeira and Lagos. In this part of the Algarvian Coast, you find beaches with crystalline blue water surrounded by yellow-orangish limestone cliffs dotted with caves and grottoes for which the Algarve is famous.What is the whale capital of the world? ›
Dave's Dolphin & Whale Watching Safari have joined forces to let the world know that Dana Point is the Dolphin & Whale Capital of the World®.What time of day are whales most active? ›
Whales are never diurnal, but they can be crepuscular. This means they are most active during twilight hours which are both before sunrise and after sunset.Where is the best place in the world to go whale watching? ›
Monterey Bay, California
Enjoy year-round whale-watching in Monterey Bay. Running alongside California's central coast, the bay sees humpback and blue whales from April to December, and gray whales from December to April. The coast also attracts killer whales, who hunt gray whales during their migration north.
Of the world's 80 whale species, over 20 can be found here, including sperm, humpback and sei whales. The best time to visit is from mid-April to mid-October when the seas are calmer. Further south lies the stunning volcanic island of Madeira.Have killer whales attacked boats off coast of Portugal? ›
Matt Johnston was steering his boat near Sines, Portugal, when a pack of killer whales slammed into his boat — and actually tore off pieces of the vessel. Similar reports have been made in Portugal involving boat damage due to killer whales.Why are orcas attacking boats in Portugal? ›
Scientists hypothesize that orcas like the water pressure produced by a boat's propeller. "What we think is that they're asking to have the propeller in the face," de Stephanis says. So, when they encounter a sailboat that isn't running its engine, "they get kind of frustrated and that's why they break the rudder."What time of year do you see dolphins? ›
During the summer, the locals are joined by transient pods who swell the numbers, increasing the chances of an exciting encounter. The calmer summer seas also make these marine animals easier to spot.What is the best time to see dolphins? ›
Mid-morning, between 10 a.m. to noon, and 2 p.m. to sunset are the best times of the day to spot dolphins.What season are dolphins most active? ›
They don't migrate as the waters of the Emerald Coast remain warm all year. From late spring to the end of summer, female dolphins from other areas flock to Destin when mating season rolls around. As such, this time of year is perfect for dolphin watching.
Do dolphins come close to shore? ›
Marine experts say dolphins “follow the food” and that warm weather means fish such as mackerel and herring remain nearer the shore rather than moving to colder waters further out to sea.What is the best time of day to see whales and dolphins? ›
Morning is the best time of day for whale watching in California. Weather is the key component to ideal whale watching conditions. Typically, there is less wind in the morning making for calmer seas, which is most enjoyable for both marine life and boat tours.What ocean has the most dolphins? ›
Bottlenose dolphins are found in most oceans around the world, but their numbers are most abundant in the Atlantic Ocean. However, you'll also find the Atlantic white-sided dolphin, the humpback dolphin, and the spotted dolphin swimming in these waters.How do you spot dolphins on the beach? ›
Find a comfy spot and keep watching for tell tale signs The following signs often mean that there are whales or dolphins in the area: feeding birds circling above a particular spot, areas of still water or oily slicks (footprint), breaking wave crests or waves moving in the 'wrong' direction, big splashes and bursts of ...Can you swim in the ocean in Lagos Portugal? ›
You can spend time strolling or swimming on the beach. There is also a restaurant and a gift shop on the headland. Note that if you visit Ponta da Piedade during peak season in summer, you may not get a chance to swim due to heavy sea traffic.Are there whales in Lagos? ›
Dolphin and Whale Watching in Lagos
A unique adventure to see and meet different cetaceans (Dolphins/Whales) in their natural habitat.
2. Praia do Camilo – sheltered Lagos beach for swimming. Sunset on Praia do Camilo, a perfect Lagos beach for swimming.