Extent of whale and dolphin watching
Whale and dolphin watching can be enjoyed in three different areas under Portuguese jurisdiction. These include the waters off the Portuguese mainland, and the offshore islands of the Madeira and Azores archipelagos. Whale watching opportunities off the mainland focus mainly on bottlenose dolphins, although other species are also observed. The Azores are currently one of the world’s largest cetacean hotspots. More than 25 different cetacean species have been reported in the Azores waters, and the archipelago is one of only a few locations in the world where sperm whales can be reliably viewed year-round. Madeira also hosts resident populations of short-finned pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins that can be observed year-round, and provides opportunities to see other rare, deep-diving species like beaked whales.
Target species, peak times of year and locations
The presence of a resident population of bottlenose dolphins in the Sado estuary (ca. 40 Km south of Lisbon) triggered the development of a flourishing year-round dolphin watching activity in the area. In recent years this activity extended into the southern Algarve region where bottlenose and common dolphins are most regularly observed, but striped and Risso´s dolphins, minke and fin whales, can also be seen. Killer whales are regular visitors in the summer when migrating towards the Mediterranean to feed on tuna around the Gibraltar Strait. Other species that can be seen along the Portuguese mainland coast include the harbour porpoise, and the pilot whale and less frequent the humpback whale. Some other harbours located on the most wind- exposed west coast (ex.: Cascais, Nazaré and Peniche) also offer dolphin watching excursions. 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.