This bay is our first alternative when the minimum sea conditions are not met in Lisbon. This area is more sheltered than in its neighbouring bay, the Lisbon Bay. The meeting point is still the same in Lisbon, only the departure with the boats is different.
The northern coast
Here majestic cliffs of the Arrábida Mountains rise from the calm waters, shielding all the coast from the winds. The Arrábida Natural Park was founded in 1976, after the area was recognised as a special area for Nature conservation. Forty-percent of the national flora, can be found here, including endemic species and rare orchids and wild tulips. In early XX century, even deer and wolves could be found in this area, but nowadays only the wild boar and small carnivores survived.
Here you can find the first marine preserve of Portugal. Founded in 1998, the Marine Park Professor Luiz Saldanha protects 52 Km2 of marine environment from fishing, anchoring and other human activities. The area has unique natural diversity at European level, with more than 1400 species, including the threatened seahorse. It’s not surprising that these waters are the diving Mecca of Portugal.
The park is waiting approval for expansion, specifically for protecting the food stocks of the bottlenose dolphins.
The main landscape features are the highest limestone cliffs of Europe and the magnificent coves of crystal clear waters. Small beachs can be found in these coves, namely the Inferno, Mijona and horse’s beach. All of them with hard land access as high cliffs surround them. These Jurassic cliffs extend for 23km, all the way from Cape Espichel to the sandy beaches of Troia in the East.
Here we can find two great treasures of Portugal: Portinho da Arrábida, a small bay that is one of the 7 Natural wonders of Portugal and the precious Sado’s resident population of Bottlenose dolphins.
The Sado river drains in the east side of the bay through its estuary, the 2nd widest estuary in Europe, losing to Tagus’ Estuary in Lisbon. The resident population of bottlenose dolphins is one of the most well studied populations in Europe (closely followed since 1986) and live in the area all days of the year. If Lisbon is the European capital of dolphins, Setúbal is the European city of Dolphins, as dolphins references are all over the city. After all, the dolphins settled in the area before the city did. However, since there are already more than enough boats regularly looking for them, we only consider this area as last resource (typically in winter) and we join the local boats to avoid adding additional boat pressure. We have been studying these dolphins for the past 12 years, meeting them is a different experience as your guide knows all of them by names and ages! You will get to know them at individual level!