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Dolphins in Sado Estuary, an unique experience

por 2serependiters
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Portugal is a country with a deep connection to the sea and its rivers, always, part of the past, our present and certainly part of our future. In other posts we have already reinforced the effort that has been made to demonstrate the importance of nature and species conservation  (see post about the Lisbon Oceanarium) and this is one of the themes that we have as very important for the sustainability of our country and the environment. So we had the idea of ​​going to visit the famous population of dolphins that reside in the Sado estuary.

Dolphins, well known to everyone who has done a trip to the Lisbon zoo or Zoomarine, are extremely intelligent cetacean mammals and, in most situations, quite friendly. The species resident in the estuary is the Roaz (Tursiops truncatus), which usually lives in cold and temperate waters all over the world.

Since the 1980s it has been known that there is a resident population in the area that is concentrated in the estuary of the Sado River and that extends from the arrábida mountain to the zone of Comporta. The first count was for 40 dolphins, currently 28, 4 of them babies. In order to take us to know this magnificent zone and to see the dolphins, we chose the Vertigem Azul company!

Vertigem Azul

Vertigem Azul

Interior do escritório

Founded in 1998, this is undoubtedly the benchmark in dolphin watching boat trips on the Sado. The choice of Vertigem Azul was simple for us because we already knew the excellent work they do and because when we went to search for more information about the company, we were very pleased with all the awards they have collected over the years: Best tourist animation in Alentejo in 2014 , Best Tour Operator of Lisbon and Tagus Valley in 2011, among others.

The prices charged are quite affordable, costing € 35 the base experience per person. Tickets can be booked online (Here) and there is one trip to the sea in the morning and one in the afternoon, with the trip lasting 3 hours, which occasionally can be extended for longer if it is difficult to find the dolphins.

We would like to point out the very pleasant space in the Vertigem Azul office, with a decoration alluding to the sea and dolphins and a pleasant living room. The sympathy of all employees of the company was a constant and often information was given to the group about the departure of the boat.

We advise you this company fully, and if you want to know more you can consult on their facebook or tripadvisor.

Vertigem Azul
Escritório da "Vertigem Azul"
Vertigem Azul
Interior, com a sala de espera

The trip to the Dolphins

We arrived in Setubal around 8:45 and having left behind a radiant sun we were now surrounded by a fog, which was not very dense, but it was stubborn in not lightening up. We were soon told that we were going to delay our departure a bit to see if the fog would lighten up a bit. One coffee later (in the good Portuguese way!) It was 10:30 when we went to the quay.

Waiting for us we had a catamaran that really impressed us. Large, modern and above all, adapted so that the whole front could also accommodate more people and so we quickly headed for the support nets, getting only the blue-green water of the sea beneath us.

Barco Vertigem Azul
Barco "O esperança" na doca de Setúbal
Barco Vertigem Azul
Posto de condução do barco
Barco Vertigem Azul
Chegada à doca
Barco Vertigem Azul
O barco no regresso a Setúbal

We slowly began to leave the dock of Setúbal and in an instant we were with the arrábida hills to our right. We highlight here that this tour also allows to contemplate the beauty of the natural park of the Arrábida, being possible to see several beaches, palaces excavated in the slopes and also much of the wild life of this zone, especially seabirds.

Before we went to meet the dolphins, the boat made a stop at the marina of Tróia, where it is also possible to board, usually half an hour after the departure in Setúbal. We were very pleased with the route that the ship’s commander took to make this approach to Tróia, since he tried to pass by the beach of Tróia and offer everyone the possibility of observing a natural and quite attractive human scenery that invites you to take photos.


Vista para Tróia na chegada à marina


After the very short stop at Tróia, we began to sail towards the sea and everyone in the boat opens their eyes wide in the eagerness to be the first to find the fin above the water line. Near us were also other dolphin-watching boats, and in a sense, they all indirectly communicated what direction to go.

Vista para a Serra da Arrábida
Estuário do sado
Vista para o mar

We waited perhaps 45 minutes, having already passed by the beaches of Comporta, when the first “suspicious” sound was heard. Immediately we redoubled attention but only 20 minutes and a few nautical miles later we finally saw the population of resident dolphins. The moments that followed were truly fantastic! We were able to observe at least 6 dolphins, grouped 3 to 3, that now were passing on one side or another of the boat, while interacting with us, making it difficult to take photos to record the moment.

Golfinhos do Sado
1º grupo de Golfinhos
Golfinhos do Sado
1º grupo de Golfinhos
2º grupo de golfinhos
2º grupo de golfinhos

We can say that no one remained indifferent to these magnificent 30 minutes! To ensure that we do not create stress to the dolphins and that pollution does not become excessive, after a half hour of direct observation, vessels must return to the port of departure. The return trip was made mostly along the coast of the Serra da Arrábida with passage very close to the beach of Galapos and Figueirinha, as well as the fort of Outão and, near Setúbal, near the beach of Comenda.

Vista para a praia da figueirinha
Forte do Outão

Around 2:00 p.m. we were already docking at the Dock of Setúbal with the certainty that this was an experience that we will not forget so soon, not only for the moment of contact with the dolphins, but also for all the natural beauty that the boat route offers.


To realize this experience we had the support of Vertigem Azul that from the beginning has always been interested in making us an offer and providing all the clarifications about the experience itself. We emphasize all the professionalism and friendliness, from the reservation until the moment we landed in Setúbal, and we are sure that they are clearly an option of excellence for those looking for a moment of contact with Sado dolphins.


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