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Lisbon: the only European capital with wild dolphins

Lisbon: the only European capital with wild dolphins

The local oceanarium offers dolphin watching tours until September

The dolphins have returned to Lisbon. The Portuguese capital sits at the mouth of the country’s largest river – the Tagus (or Tejo in Portuguese), which empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Reportedly, dolphin sightings there have been increasingly more common since last summer, making the city the only European capital visited by the marine mammals.

The Oceanarium in Lisbon has decided to use that opportunity to provide a new experience to the residents and guests of the capital city with its offer for dolphin watching tours. It began at the start of August and will be available until September.

The iconic Belem Tower and dolphin fins

Anyone who has visited Lisbon knows that two of the city’s cultural symbols are located also on the Tegus River: The Belem Tower and the Age of Discoveries Monument. Now dolphins are adding a third reason to make a daily sojourn to that water body.

The Oceanarium offers tours, accompanied by a marine biologist, which last 2 and a half hours and give visitors the chance not only to see dolphins in their natural (and slightly urban) habitat but also to find out more about the other wildlife there.

Dolphins in the Tagus have been reported ever since Roman times but have been a much rarer sight in recent years. Many were quick to explain their increased frequency up the river stream with the pandemic restrictions last year. Said measures naturally led to reduced shipping traffic and thus a cleaner waterway that was not disturbed by engine noise.

That was even the official local government’s position, with the mayor Fernando Medina expressing joy and satisfaction, last summer, that the return of the dolphins indicated a vastly improved water quality.

However, biologists offered an alternative explanation saying that maritime traffic did not as such scare dolphins. Perhaps the calmer waters did, or did not, contribute to the attraction of more sea fish into the river mouth, which in turn brought in the dolphins feeding on them.

Whatever, the reason, we hope that the cetaceans decide to spend more of their summers in Lisbon.

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