On our recent trip to the beautiful Algarve, the only excursions we could coax the girls (ages 7 and 10) away from the swimming pool at the Hilton Vilamoura was the chance to spot some whales and dolphins off the Western Atlantic Coast.
Dolphin and whale watching is one of the most popular excursions when visiting the Algarve and because of this popularity there are lots of companies around Vilamoura marina all vying for your attention and money, but not all offer the same experience.
As part of our research we always try to get a local’s perspective, and our concierge at the Hilton Vilamoura recommended Ocean Quest Algarve. This recommendation was backed up by the fact that they were ranking no1 for boat trips out of Vilamoura and had excellent reviews.
What we liked about the experience offered by Ocean Quest was that unlike many other boat trips operating out of Vilamoura who use speedboats they had a brand new 18 metre long catamaran which would provide a more relaxed and enjoyable cruise.
We paid €25 per adult and €12.50 per child and I truly think the trip was worth every single cent. There might be cheaper trips operating out of the marina, but they do not offer the same experience that we were looking for with children.
With our tickets booked we arrived at Vilamoura Marina on the morning of our dolphin quest trip, and were greeted by staff from Ocean Quest before being taken along the jetty to where our catamaran was moored.
As we stepped aboard we were greeted with complimentary bottled water and got comfortable at the front of the boat before we set off on our 2 and a half hour journey.
It was really nice to see the beautiful marina at Vilamoura along with its super yachts from a different perspective as we set sail out into the West Atlantic.
What you do notice when out at sea is just how beautiful the coastline and beaches are in the Algarve, there are very few places in the world that can rival its beauty.
One of the reasons why we chose this excursion was because of the on-board marine biologist who was great with the girls.
He explained what marine life we may see on our journey and some of the dangers they face from plastic pollution in the waters – the girls were transfixed!
Bottlenose dolphins are the most common species of dolphin in the waters surrounding Southern Portugal, but dependent on the season you might see common dolphins, striped dolphins, risso’s dolphin etc
There was so much information to learn but the girls loved it, especially when Chloe went onto the bridge to help the crew look for any signs of dolphins.
All of a sudden after travelling 12 miles offshore, we spotted our first pod of dolphins.
Seeing this pod of bottlenose dolphins playing just metres away from our boat was just a breathtaking moment and one of the most exciting experiences we have undertaken as a family.
The look of awe on the girls faces was amazing as they excitedly watched these amazing mammals following our boat curiously, any questions we had (and there were plenty) were expertly answered by the marine biologist on-board.
We have got close to dolphins before but nothing compares to seeing them in their natural environment – it was a truly unforgettable experience that will stay with us forever.
Tip – Look out for seabirds, they usually gather on the surface around where dolphins and whales can be seen.
Although we got to see dolphins we didn’t have much luck with the whales, though we did manage to spot an orca in the distance.
But it’s the dolphins that stole the show, and in the end I think they liked our attention. They were either leaping in and out of the water, swimming around our boat, or just frolicking in the water.
Finally we headed back to shore, thoroughly satisfied after having such an amazing experience with Ocean Quest Algarve who we can’t recommend enough. If you want to see the Algarve from the ocean then these are the people to go to.
They are a family run company offering three different boat trips out of Vilamoura on their brand new 18m catamaran, fully equipped with bar, toilets, and music which made our cruise as comfortable and enjoyable as possible.
The crew on-board they really were a credit to Ocean Quest as they were all so knowledgeable and friendly and made us feel so welcome.