I’ve done my share of whale watching tours.
Unless you own a boat or have friends who own a boat, your options are limited to get out on the open ocean to see these magnificent mammals in their natural environment.
But let’s be honest. Like me, you could probably do without being loaded like cattle onto a boat where you will spend the next two hours with new parents struggling with strollers, youngsters wildly running
about the ship’s deck, messy food in their little hands, with minimal supervision, rowdy, half-drunk 20-somethings still drinking the beers they sneaked aboard; loud, obnoxious teenagers trying to one-up each other with foolish antics; iPad-toting seniors baffled by the technology and trying to figure out how to take pictures with the device yet blocking others from the best shots. So it is.
I try to go it alone whenever and wherever I can, but crowds often come with the travel turf. You just have to bring your patience.
An opportunity came my way to see dolphins outside of an aquarium and although the chosen tour company stated emphatically that there were no guarantees, they also stressed that the chances of seeing dolphins were good to excellent.
So off we went.
From Lagos, Portugal, I took the boat to see common dolphins on the vast Atlantic Ocean.
I was not disappointed.
Less than an hour out to sea, we – or should I say, Zuka the dolphin-spotting Portuguese water dog aboard – spotted countless dolphins feeding. (He barks in the direction of the pod to alert the boat crew).
Soon we were surrounded by dolphins. Like pets, the dolphins came to us, curious creatures that they are, some taking advantage of the boat’s wake to surf. They apparently love the waves.
Others swam right alongside the boat or darted under. In pairs, they seemed to be dancing with each other, happy and free.
Each time the boat picked up speed to leave, the dolphins also stepped up their pace and swam faster to keep up with the boat.
They seemed as curious about us as we were about them and also appeared to enjoy the visit just as much as us humans enjoyed seeing them.
Out of Lagos, dozens of tour companies offer dolphin and whale watching tours. The two-hour tours include a cruise along the coastal cliffs, but the boats are too large to actually go inside. For that you have to hire smaller vessels, which charge between 10 and 15 euros. Prices for the dolphin tours vary and also depend on the season. Still, they are worthwhile.