Group enjoying the Belize Boat Party Group enjoying the Belize Boat Party Group enjoying the Belize Boat Party

Dolphins in the Wild Boat Trip

Watch the Video of this Trip:

Trip Summary:

Best thing about this trip: There is always a marine biologist on board who explains to the passengers the different marine species that can be observed. This trip is part of an environmental education program that includes a video of the trip that is offered to passengers after the tour. At the end of the tour there is a time of debriefing on the cetacean or marine species of the area as well as the threats of marine life, and passengers can view the video of the trip.

Departure Point: Ferragudo.

Route: There is no route, the skipper takes the boat where the cetaceans are.

Duration: Between 1h30 and 2 hours on the boat and 30 min after the trip for the debriefing time.

How likely are we to see dolphins? The success rate of 2016 was 97%. There is a guarantee of dolphin watching, passengers can re-book the trip for free or receive a 50% refund if they do not spot dolphins.

Boat Summary:

Best thing about this boat: Semi-rigid, fast, stable and safe.

Type: Semi-Rigid.

Motor or Sailing: Motor.

Maximum Capacity: 12 passengers + 2 crew.

Head out to sea to watch dolphins in the wild along the Algarve coast on a Dolphins Wild Boat Trip tour from Ferragudo in the central Algarve.
The team behind the tours is made up of young marine biologists and those with a passion not only for the Algarve coastline, but also for the preservation of this unique natural environment.

On these tours you are taken out to well-known spots to watch the dolphins as they play in the waves, allowing you to get as close as possible to these amazing marine mammals without disturbing them or adversely affecting the environment.

Tours take place on the Eco Explorer boat with up to 12 passengers at a time able to head out to see for the one and a half hour trip.

The team offer a guarantee of seeing dolphins and if you do not see any on your trip then you will be offered the chance to rebook to ensure you have the full wild dolphin experience.


Trip report by Algarve Fun’s writer Sara Fernández. Sara is a marine biologist and sea-lover that has been living in the Algarve and spent a long time working on dolphin watching boats. Continuously amazed by these magnificent creatures, she strongly believes that tourism is a powerful tool towards conservation. She loves sailing, diving and showing our visitors the spectacular marine life of the Algarve.

I’ve been in many places where dolphin watching boats operate and this trip in the Algarve was a very special experience.

Ferragudo river and city view
The beautiful city of Ferragudo

We met early in the morning in Ferragudo, around 30 minutes before departure. Upon arrival, we did the check in and had time to use toilets. There is a team of Marine Biologists working and one of them, María, will be our guide. Front desk staff helped us wearing the life vests. Once we were all ready with life-vests on, they saw the boat was approaching to Ferragudo’s pier so we went on board. They use a RIB boat with capacity for up to 12 passengers and 2 crew members. The skipper, Rolf, welcomed us with a huge smile and assisted us to jump on the boat. He is from the Netherlands but has been living in the Algarve for the last 15 years and working with dolphin watching companies for a very long time. He knows everyday where the animals are – they joke.

María kindly provided us a safety briefing while Rolf steered the boat slowly towards the mouth of the Arade River. Then she explained that every day is different and really they put a big effort to find the animals because they are in their natural habitat moving constantly. A good suggestion was “live the moment when we are with the dolphins instead of spending time trying to film them with your camera or mobile phone. There would be not the first time someone drops a phone into the sea, and there is nothing like watching these animals with our eyes rather than through a screen”. When she finished the briefing, she got the goPro camera and filmed the “welcome shot”, the beginning of a video of the trip that they will send us home to have a great souvenir.

As soon as we left the river behind, Rolf headed southwest and sped up. We had the chance of viewing the coast of Portimão and Alvor, beautiful long beaches, while we sailed off shore. María went at the back of the boat and, along with Rolf, started looking for animals or signs that might belong to dolphin activity. The sea was so calm and that makes it easier to spot animals.

Praia Dos Três Irmãos
Praia dos Três Irmãos

After about 45 minutes of search, spotted! An amazing pod of common dolphins right in front of us! Rolf slowed down when approaching to the animals in order to minimize the impact and trying not disturb them. María was recording the encounter with the goPro and so our faces of the first sighting were saved in the movie. That was a glorious moment! The dolphins came close to the boat although, apparently, they don’t necessarily have that predisposition every day. We spent quite a long time with the animals and María explained their biology, reproduction, food habits and social behavior. They are very social animals and this pod was composed by adult males, females and we had the opportunity to see a few calves playing around the boat, by their mum’s side. Summer is the breeding season so observing calves becomes very usual. Then, María took a long and heavy stick where she attached the goPro camera to film underwater.

Dolphin surfing on the waves from the Lagos RIB
Dolphins who are playing near to the boat

After this adrenaline and successful trip, it was time to come back. The trips takes 1.5 hours but time flies! We all get back to our seats after the “bye bye shot” and ready for a full-speed journey into Arade River again.

It is a great feeling to be back on land and receive the smell of grilled fish from the local restaurants by the pier in Ferragudo.

We headed to the office where front desk staff assisted us to take our life vests off while María uploaded the video of the trip into the computer. There was a set table for us with some tea, coffee and biscuits and a big screen on the wall where the video as played. On a side, a huge map of the coast of Western Algarve and bathymetry information is displayed. Lots of colorful pinpoints are on the map representing sightings of different species. María points out to our location on the map where we stayed with the pod of common dolphins today. After watching the video of the trip with the underwater footage, we really had to applause to María for her awesome job on board.

debriefing with tea and coffee
Debriefing with tea and coffee

Afterwards, she provided us with a debriefing about the dolphins we had seen and other species that occur in the Algarvian Sea. Some of them are frequent sightings and some others are not found in this area very often. She explains about marine mammals, their evolution, their way to communicate among them and some very interesting data. At the end, she mentions some of the human activities that have an impact on this ecosystem, such us contamination, uncontrolled fishing activity, climate change or microplastics. María really seems to feel worry due to all the threats that may influence dolphins in the Algarve. This 30-40minutes speech is part of an educational program to raise awareness about human habits that are harming the planet. So it made us think twice about this worrying situation.

On top of this program, the Marine Biologists’ team records all sightings and are compiling a database, very relevant for scientific reports and to get a better understanding on these species in the Algarvian Sea.

Thank you Rolf, María and all the staff that made of this trip an incredible experience!

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