Sleeping in during the holiday? Nope, rise and shine, cause today we’re going to Rota dos Cetáceos headquarters in Funchal to visit some very special Madeira residents. Let’s hop on a boat for some dolphin watching!

This ocean boat tour starts with a short meeting in the office of Rota dos Cetáceos. Together with about twenty other marine mammal enthusiasts we listen to an introduction by our marine biologists for the day: Sara and Anja. They start by telling us about the way the organization works, and how they think respecting nature and wild animals is very important. Specific rules are applied during every trip, all to make sure we don’t intrude to much on the animals. Great, absolutely agree with them on that! They also tell us all about which species of cetaceans (meaning dolphins, whales and porpoises) we could possibly see today. This makes the entire group excited: which animals will we get to see!



Two zodiac boats are waiting for us in the harbor. Some last instructions and here we go: we leave the harbor and we’re out on open sea in search of dolphins and whales! But even if you would not see any dolphins or whales during your trip, the boat trip itself is already so worth it. The ocean offers a stunning view on Funchal, Cabo Girao and Madeira’s mountainous inland. And another thing: this endless blue ocean around you, it’s impressive to say the least.


But fortunately we do encounter dolphins during our trip! We come across a huge group of Atlantic spotted dolphins. Wow, what an extraordinary experience! They swim next to our boat for quite a while. We can see them swimming just under the surface, playing, catching small waves from the boat and jump from the water. 

After swimming around the boat for a while, all of a sudden the entire group heads for the horizon, moving completely in unison. According to our guide, they probably spotted or heard food and went for it. Although we were sad to see them go, their departure was such an amazing sight at the same time! To see an entire pod of dolphins move in almost complete synchronicity, jumping high out of the water every few meters….. This was something I had never seen before, and I will never forget this incredible sight. 


Our guide Anja passionately explains all there is to know about the Atlantic spotted dolphins we saw and she patiently answers any questions people have (in Portuegese, French, English and Spanish!). It’s clear she likes her job and still very much enjoys seeing dolphins and whales in the wild. We had a nice chat with her and asked her some questions.

When people book a boat tour with Rota dos Cetáceos, they obviously really want to see dolphins or whales. What’s the best time of year to see some dolphins or whales around Madeira? 

Some species of cetaceans only visit Madeira during certain periods of the year, others are here all year round. From April to October most of the visiting species are present, so during these months we have a large variety of different dolphins and whales around the island. But species like the bottlenose dolphin, sperm whale and pilot whale are here all year round. Therefore, a successful boat trip can actually be made at any time during the year.

You offer boat trips in the morning, at noon and late in the afternoon. What’s the best time of day to see dolphins and whales? Or doesn’t it really matter? 

No, not really. I used to think that morning trips were the best, because in the morning the ocean is often a bit calmer. But after being a guide on many trips, I can say that the time of day doesn’t matter. It’s better to check the weather. The best circumstances are little wind and a calm sea with little to no waves.

It seems you have a dream job! You get to go on the ocean every day, to meet these magnificent animals in the wild and you can share your enthusiasm with other people. You must have seen lots of different cetaceans already. What was you most memorable experience during your job so far? 

I can mention only one? That’s too hard, there have been so many! Well, if I really have to choose one moment, it will be the first time I saw a sperm whale during a boat trip. This sperm whale was so close to the boat, it was a really powerful experience. And we were lucky enough to see THE photo moment: the tail dive!


Rota dos Cetáceos also offers swimming with dolphins experiences. This is only allowed with certain species of dolphins and under the perfect circumstances. Safety for the swimmers and the dolphins are the main criteria. When swimming with dolphins you will be secured to the boat by a rope on your arm. Because you are secured, you can just let yourself float next to the boat and take the time to look around you. While the dolphins swim around the boat, you’ll feel like you’re part of their world for just a little while. Words really can’t describe how incredibly impressive it is to be face to face with dolphins, in the wild, and see and hear them all around you. You can hear them calling out to each other, which is such a beautiful and cute sound! Most of all, it feels really special to be able to see them free in their natural environment, instead of in captivity where they don’t belong. It truly is an unforgettable and unique experience. 


Thank you so much, Rota dos Cetáceos, for providing this boat trip. Thanks for your enthusiasm, the friendly and capable guides and thanks for this great experience. Until we meet again! For more information and reservations, take a look at Rota dos Cetáceos’ website. If you’re visiting Madeira, don’t miss out on a chance to see dolphins and whales! 

rota dos cetaceos and madeiramazing in office


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