Boat trips to explore the sea and skies
When in the Algarve, there are some activities visitors simply shouldn’t miss. One is exploring some of Europe’s best beaches, but another unmissable attraction lies just beyond the Algarve’s golden sand, diving among and over the waves. Home to a vast array of sea creatures big and small, the waters off southern Portugal are teeming with life, just waiting to amaze those willing to venture out to meet it… and the same can be said for the Algarve’s skies.
From several species of dolphins to whales, turtles, and birds of all sizes and colours, the region’s warmer waters and underwater canyons make it the perfect habitat for a whole host of creatures.
Want to find out more? Then keep reading to find out where and when to spot some of the best wildlife in the Algarve.
Dolphin and whale watching in the Algarve
Though Portuguese waters host a whopping 26 species of cetaceans, some are easier to spot than others due to their preferred habitat and migration patterns. However, two species of dolphin call the Algarve home all year round – common and bottlenose dolphins – and a further three species of cetaceans can often be seen off the shores of the Western Algarve at any time of year: Risso’s dolphin, harbour porpoises, and minke whales. The numbers and sociable nature of these beautiful marine mammals mean that dolphin-spotting boat trips have a sighting rate of 90%, amazing visitors with the elegance of the creatures.
Orcas are also sometimes spotted in the Algarve, though they’re only ever here in passing, and can be seen hunting bluefin tuna as they migrate through the Strait of Gibraltar in spring and summer.
In fact, spring and summer are the best times to spot all of these larger marine species, thanks to the geographical characteristics of the area. It all comes down to the Portimão Canyon – a rift valley offshore from Praia da Rocha where the seabed depth plunges from 100 to 2000m. This feature produces upwelling that drives ecosystem productivity, attracting countless sea creatures, from dolphins and whales to birds and fish, to spend the warmer months in the area. All of this comes to a head in spring and summer when an increase in upwelling coupled with a lack of big waves and strong winds provides the perfect conditions.
Bird watching in the Algarve
With the Algarve hosting more species of birds than anywhere else in the country, it has quickly gained prominence as a birdwatching destination of excellence. Varied landscapes, protected natural parks, and its location, so close to Northern Africa, make the Algarve the perfect nesting and breeding ground for over 130 species, promising variety, no matter the time of year.
If visiting in summer, visitors to Sagres and Cape St Vincent are likely to catch migrant species, such as eagles and vultures, that head south to warmer climes in winter. In contrast, winter visitors should head to the wetlands of Castro Marim or the Formosa Lagoon to spot large numbers of waders and waterbirds.
While a boat trip in the central to western Algarve will show you life in the water, heading to the very edges of the region will take you to the best birdwatching spots.
A boat trip in the Algarve: an experience to remember
Whether heading out onto the water to spot life in the sea or the sky, a boat trip will certainly provide a memorable experience for the whole family. From a catamaran or yacht to a semi-rigid inflatable boat or even a pirate ship, there are endless options of tours from the western to eastern Algarve to cater to every taste. In fact, because boat tours have become so popular in the Algarve, tour operators have actually begun to work with marine biologists, who are often on board, ready to share information about every animal spotted while also talking about conservation and ensuring best practices when approaching the different types of wildlife.
Ready to ride the waves alongside creatures sure to take your breath away? Then it’s time to book your trip!