The spectacular Algarve coastline of Portugal, with its long stretches of sand and beautiful sandstone cliffs, is home to a variety of dolphins and whales! The popular beach town, Lagos, is a great place to see dolphins with a variety of tours making this bucket list activity extremely easy and affordable.
There are loads of things to do in Lagos, from visiting the famous beaches to exploring the charming Old Town.
Dolphin watching tours from Lagos
- Speed boat (RIB) – Go with Dolphin Seafaris, a company with 30 years experience, book with Get Your Guide very easy with an excellent phone app, ticket on your phone, GPS pin will take you to your tour on time. They have a marine biologist onboard.
- Dolphin Watching Tour by Catamaran – Days of Adventure has an excellent catamaran with large shaded area, bathroom, and observation deck at the front of the boat, without any age or mobility restrictions. The tour can be booked here, but it only available from April to October.
- Sealife is another great company with a lot of experience to find the dolphins. They have both a speedboat (RIB) and catamaran, so check which you are booking if you have a preference.
The large populations relatively close to the coast in Lagos results in great opportunities to see dolphins with boat tours departing from the town. Dolphins are social animals often swimming, jumping and playing around the boats, presenting a great opportunity to view and photograph these amazing animals in the wild.
The boat captains usually know where to search for the dolphins and it can be close to shore or far off-shore. The majority of tours take around 1:30 to 2 hours, but there are tours that take up to 3 hours. The animals are approached in a way not to disturb them and trying to make the least impact possible. The sighting rate is above 90%.
What is the Best Dolphin Watching Tour from Lagos?
There are several companies that do dolphin watching tours, all departing from the Lagos Marina. You have a choice between two kinds of boats, a speed-boat or catamaran. Dolphin viewing from both are good with the animals swimming with both kinds of boats.
- This is a larger boat and tends to be more stable and comfortable.
- Some of the catamarans also have a section that is covered by a roof.
- Comfortable boat to walk around on when not moving and watching dolphins.
- Better suited for small children and older people (our 1 year old went with us on a catamaran)
- Some catamarans are suitable for people with mobility restrictions.
Speed Boat – RIB (Rigid Inflatable Boat)
- The lower speed boat allows you to be closer to the water for a great view of the animals.
- The faster and more maneuverable speed boat definitely had more and better interaction with the dolphins than the catamaran we were on.
- The companies we approached said the speed boat is not suitable for children younger than 2 years.
Marine Biologist Onboard
Some companies now have a marine biologist on board. They help to identify the dolphins and interpret their behavior. Some trips actually collect data that is used for dolphin conservation.
Dolphins in Lagos
The Algarve is a fantastic place for ocean lovers. Amazing marine activities is why we decided to settle in Lagos. Home to awesome beaches, spectacular rock formations, unreal caves and you can see a huge variety of marine life. The Western Algarve is known for a large variety of cetaceans.
There are a variety of dolphin species that can be seen around Lagos. The common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) and bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) are the most common species. Bottle nose dolphins often come close to the coast in shallow water and can be spotted from the beach. I have surfed with dolphins at Porto de Mos beach several times and have seen them quite close to the shore at Meia Praia
What do You See on a Dolphin Watching Tour?
The most common species are common dolphins and bottle nose dolphins, but Risso’s dolphins, harbour porpoises and minke whales are often seen. Less common, but seen from time to time are orcas, humpback whales, pilot whales, sunfish, sharks and turtles.
Best Time to See Dolphins in Lagos
Dolphin Watching Season
There is a resident population of common dolphins and bottle nose dolphins around Lagos so they can be seen all year round with tours available all year. May to October is the season with more dolphins around Lagos and better weather conditions. More companies operate in this time and a large variety of tours are available. Many tours are not available in winter.
Summer is better since there are more dolphins and weather and ocean conditions are better for boat trips. A migrant population of common dolphins comes to the Algarve coast in the summer for reproduction and food from the cold North Atlantic waters. In the Algarve they mix with the resident population. This is a great time to observe a lot of activity.
Time of Day
We recommend the morning boat trips, the earlier the better. Our experience is that the sea is usually calmer in the morning with less wind.
Dolphin Watching Tours in the Algarve
Dolphins can be seen all around the Algarve, but Lagos is an excellent place to go with a variety of tours. The dolphin tours depart from Lagos marina which has excellent facilities and is a great place to spend some time before or after a tour with coffee shops, restaurants and bars. See things to do in Lagos Marina.
Dolphin watching tours are also available from Albufeira, Faro/Olhão, Lagoa, Portimao, Sagres and Vilamoura.
Dolphin Watching Tips
- Bring a jacket – it can get chilly on the boat
- Bring some water. – You might get thirsty it is a long trip.
- Put on sun cream.
- Take sea sickness tablets – If you get seasick take tablets, rather go on the catamaran then the speed boat.
FAQ Dolphin Watching Tours in Lagos
- Where do dolphin watching tours start? You will get on and off the boat at the Lagos Marina.
- Can you swim with the dolphins? No swimming is allowed on these tours.
- Do you always see dolphins? No, but almost. Dolphins are wild animals with a 90% success rate there is a small chance of not seeing dolphins.
- How close can you get to the dolphins? Sometimes, the dolphins come close enough that you will be able to touch them from the boat, other times, they are less interested and you can only see them from a distance.
- Are the dolphins fed? No, the dolphins are not fed and there are limited interaction allowed by law, the dolphins in the Algarve are protected.
- Can you take photos or video while dolphin watching? Yes, you can take your camera or phone with you. We did not find getting wet to be a problem on any of the tours we were on with catamaran or speed boat, but you are on a boat so you can definitely get wet! Be careful to keep your camera from splashes! There is less of a chance of getting wet on a catamaran.
- Should dolphin watching tours be booked in advance? There are plenty of operators in summer, out of season or if you have a specific tour in mind, it is better to book to avoid disappointment.