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Whale Watching in Spain

07 December 2021

Spotting majestic water creatures on a Spanish sea tour

It’s always a fun day spent with an aquatic trip, trying to get a closer look at the magnificent wildlife that inhabits our oceans and seas. Amongst the most popular activities to do, and certainly most peaceful as well as non-intrusive, is whale watching. This fun activity doesn’t limit you to catching glimpses of whales alone as they surface; you just never know what you might encounter from dolphins and orcas to sea turtles and the countless types of fish down there – but trust us, your trip will primarily be centered around cetaceans! Spain, with its extensive coastline stretching from its furthest north eastern point and to its south western meeting point with Portugal, in the addition of a shorter coastline north of the country, offers a plethora of fun activities on Mediterranean shores: from Sailing, kite surfing, windsurfing and water skiing to boat and water pedaling rentals, fishing trips and scuba diving. Whale watching, however, stands out for its incredible serene quality and remote locations within the Mediterranean waters, offering a close up look at the sea’s most majestic creatures. Here is why, where and when you should go on a responsible whale watching trip in Spain!

Spanish waters offer unique opportunities for whale and dolphin watching, with a variety of over thirty species reported in Spain’s territorial waters in recent years. With the coastline bordering the Balearic and Andorran Seas in the Mediterranean and the Bay of Biscay and the wider Atlantic Ocean, various ranges of marine habitats contribute to the aforementioned high diversity of species. Whale watching is a wonderful opportunity to get close to whales, dolphins and other sea mammals in their natural habitat. As well as providing entertainment to the watchers, the activity also educates passengers and fosters strong conservation principles. Get to connect with these remarkable marine mammals in their natural habitat, become one with nature as you take in the fresh air and serenity that accompanies it, and connect with fellow participants on a fun and unique trip that’s just one boat ride away from the coast of Spain.

Many places across the coastline of Spain offer their whale watching experience services. Organized whale watching takes place principally in the south of the Spanish Mainland (Tarifa and Malaga) and all seven of the Canary Islands, and to a lesser extent in the Bay of Biscay (Cantabrian Sea).  A total of 76 tour operators with 106 vessels of different carrying capacities offer tours throughout Spain’s territorial waters. Here are some of the most prominent whale watching services within the mainland of Spain.

Whale Watching Experiences

Starting up north in the Basque Country, Verballenas offers an unforgettable and close adventure with the Cetaceans of the Cantabrian Sea. With extremely biodiverse waters, the Bay of Biscay offers unforgettable images and experiences with all its splendor. With whales and dolphins constantly sighted on the Basque coast, visitors get to observe a variety of cetaceans and seabirds, as well as sail with a pod of dolphins and get up close to a whale (close enough to hear its breathing!). Verballenas promises a peaceful and majestic experience to everyone willing to hop on their aquatic adventure.

Then comes the Andalusian municipality of Tarifa, famous for its beach activities and mostly whale watching in the Strait of Gibraltar which directly faces Morocco. This is where marine mammals thrive, specifically the points where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Mediterranean Sea, in the narrow space between the southernmost point in Spain and the continent of Africa. This stretch of water is only 13 miles wide at its narrowest point, and it is there that whales are regularly sighted, especially towards the middle points of the area. With a handful of tour services to choose from such as Marina Blue Whale Watching, Firmm Espana and Turmares Whale Watching, the activity is certainly one of the most popular in this southern region of Spain.

Up north again, we head to Murcia’s Rustas de Tierra y Mar, where a variety of marine fauna from dolphins and turtles to birds and much more awaits your visit. Select your trip with a crew that is ready to instruct and help you spot the animals. Their trips include food and drinks, as well as a guaranteed sight of dolphins.
Just bring your cameras, sunglasses and caps for a day to remember at sea.

Further north in our beloved Barcelona is Mar a la Vista, a local sustainable leisure project based on respect for their natural resources and the protection of their marine biodiversity. Sail the traditional navigation from Barcelona and the Costa Brava, and delve into the world of sea giants on an eight-hour trip, all while being on the authentic and traditional sailboat. Not only is Mar a la Vista a unique sailing adventure to remember forever, but also a powerful initiative that is dedicated to protecting marine biology in the region and responsibly observing cetaceans.

Cetacean Species

You never know what magnificent creatures you could encounter when on one of these unique aquatic adventures. Amongst the most popular cetaceans to find in the Mediterranean waters of Spain are:

Dolphins and Pilot Whales, which can be seen anytime throughout the year and could be easily spotted resting at water’s surface during the day.

Orcas are beautiful dark colored dolphins that follow the tuna migration into the Mediterranean Sea and then out. Spotted between the months of June and August, they are most commonly found snatching tuna from the hooks of fishermen during the tuna fishing season. In 2018, a very big surprise occurred with the sighting of Orcas during the month of October, only proving how unpredictable nature could be.

Sperm Whales are sighted mostly between the months of April and August, and are easier to spot as they surface for an approximate eight minutes to breathe before diving again.

Fin Whales are mostly seen as they cross the Strait and are spotted by the beginning of April. July of 2021 saw a group of three Fin Whales spotted at the Strait of Gibraltar.

It is always great fun to engage in aquatic voyages that not only entertain and thrill us, but also educate us on the diverse life present in the depths of our oceans and seas. For the next time you find yourself touring the Spanish coast, make sure you book yourself and your loved ones a soothing whale watching trip. Make sure you book with a responsible boat touring operator, as smaller scale boats are recently being banned in both Spain and Portugal because of numerous incidents involving boisterous orcas. Keeping your visit to the sea respectful and fully responsible is the only way to ensure a fun and safe trip in Spain.

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