Extent of whale and dolphin watching
Spain’s waters offer unique opportunities to view whales and dolphins, with over 30 different species having been reported in Spain’s territorial waters in recent years. This high diversity can be attributed to the range of marine habitats that are found along Spain’s varied coastlines which border the Balearic and Andoran Seas (in the Mediterranean), the Bay of Biscay and the wider Atlantic Ocean.
Organised whale watching occurs principally in the south of the Spanish Mainland (Tarifa and Malaga) and all seven of the Canary Islands, and to a lesser extent in the Bay of Biscay (Cantabrian Sea). As of 2017, a total of 76 tour operators with 106 vessels of different carrying capacities offer tours throughout Spain’s territorial waters.
The Canary Islands offer some of the most spectacular and unique whale watching opportunities in the world. Islands of volcanic origin, they are surrounded by waters several thousand meters deep, making them the ideal location to view deep diving and oceanic species like sperm whales, and Risso’s dolphins. The islands also host resident populations of short-finned pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins.
Target species, peak times of year and locations:
Weather and sea conditions in the Canary Islands are conducive to year-round whale watching, and on average it is possible to participate in a whale watching excursion on 8 out of 10 days. Success rates in finding whales or dolphins on these tours is generally high for the resident pilot whale and bottlenose dolphins, and other species may be seen depending on the time of year, especially in May and June. While all of the species below have been recorded in Spain’s waters, a bold cross indicates the species that are the most likely to be observed on whale watching tours.