Best time to visit Portugal

Swimming with Dolphins in Portugal

Unique opportunity to see and swim with bottlenose dolphins in their natural habitat

Best time: May–October

Swimming with Dolphins

The resident population of bottlenose dolphins in Sado estuary is a phenomenon in Portugal and rare occasion worldwide. No one clearly knows when they started to live there, but no less than 100 years ago.

Bottlenose dolphins​ can be found all over the world. They live in cold, temperate and tropical waters, and can just as easily be found in bays, coastal waters as in the open ocean.

In Sado they can be watched all year round however only during the summer months you can get into the water and enjoy snorkeling and swimming with these friendly mammals.

Practical info

When is the best time to visit Sado estuary for the dolphin swim experience?

The most favorable season for swimming with bottlenose dolphins in the Sado estuary is during the summer, which runs from May until October. The weather is delightful, and the water is pleasant enough for visitors to comfortably snorkel and swim. It is however important to check the sea conditions before embarking on the experience to ensure maximum enjoyment and safety. Show more

Where can I find accommodations near Sado estuary?

Staying in the nearby areas of Sesimbra, Setúbal or Serra da Arrábida is possible as there are a wide range of accommodations available such as Airbnb, hotels, and guesthouses, for any budget. One may come across package deals that may even include the bottlenose dolphin experience. It is better to plan ahead and book accommodation to ensure availability and a convenient stay, particularly during peak tourist season. Show more

What should I wear and bring for the dolphin swim experience?

For the dolphin swim experience, wearing a swimsuit or wetsuit is advisable. Visitors must bring a towel, waterproof camera for capturing memories, and sunscreen. The instructors will provide snorkeling gear and fins. As the swim may take several hours, visitors must carry packed snacks and water to prevent exhaustion and dehydration. Show more

How long is the typical dolphin swim experience in Sado estuary?

The usual duration of the dolphin swim experience in Sado estuary lasts for an estimated two hours. Participants are to spend about 30 minutes swimming along with the dolphins, and the remainder on a boat tour of the estuary while searching for dolphins. The time may fluctuate as it depends on factors such as weather contacts, speed at which dolphins are spotted, and group size. Show more

Are there any regulations or guidelines for interacting with the dolphins in Sado estuary?

In order to safeguard the well-being and safety of both visitors and dolphins, specific guidelines and regulations have been put in place. Visitors are to desist from feeding, touching, or disturbing the dolphins and must maintain a safe distance of 30 meters. At all times, visitors must comply with the driver and instructor's instructions while on the boat. Littering or polluting the waterways is strictly prohibited. The Portuguese Institute for Nature Conservation and Forests are implementing a variety of guidelines to reduce human impact on dolphins' habitats. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin