Golfo De Aranci is a port town in Sardinia which offers regular tours to go dolphin watching.
Dolphin watching is often something of great appeal when on holiday. It certainly was of appeal when my bride and I were on honeymoon so we decided to give the tour from Porto Golfo Aranci a go. We also found out that dolphin watching in Sardinia can be found by Alghero, however this is on the west coast of Sardinia and we were located on the east.
Getting to the port at Golfo Aranci was quite easy for us. We were located in a town (Tanaunella) just outside of Budoni so we were just less than an hour’s drive away.
We were to register at the Alpha Diving Centre in the harbour area of the beautiful town of Golfo Aranci.
The diving centre in Golfo Aranci is part of a non-profit organisation known as CRiMM. This stands for Centro Ricerca Mammiferi Marini (or marine mammals research centre). Dolphins are mammals after all.
The primary focus of research for CRiMM is in the habits and movements of bottle-nose dolphins off the Sardinian north east coast. They also participate in whale watching programs. Their tours include bird watching, snorkelling and diving. (I didn’t bring my PADI card with me so diving was not something I’d pursue this trip.)
At a cost of €25 each (June 2013) for a 2 hour evening trip seemed like a good deal to us. In fact there were 9 paying customers in total plus three crew on our excursion.
We left the harbour at 17:45 on what was in my mind a large dinghy with an engine on. Who said dolphin watching was glamorous? With no safety instructions, seats or ropes to hold onto we all just clambered aboard and made ourselves comfortable.
Thankfully the water was calm so the ride was pleasurable.
Just outside of the harbour of Golfo Aranci is a large fish farm. This is where most of the dolphin watching takes place. Particularly at feeding time for the fish the dolphins like to come around, see what is going on and maybe what is in it for them.
As we pulled up the engine was switched off and we waited, and waited and waited. Then we waited some more as the boat glided around the fish farm. Dolphin watching in Italy does require patience.
Our patience proved in vain though as we couldn’t see a dolphin anywhere, not even with 12 pairs of beady eyes on board.
That is the thing with dolphin watching, you just can’t make it happen. They say never to work with animals or children and there is a reason for that. You just don’t know what they’ll do, or in our case not do.
So dolphin watching was a bit of a write-off for us in Golfo Aranci.
As you may remember the Alpha Diving Centre perform lots of research off the bay of Golfo Aranci so all was not lost. We began to circle the prominent and uninhabited island off Capo Figari. This is home to lots of sea bird life and, we were told also has moufflon present. Moufflon (also spelt as Mouflon) is a wild goat which is present on the islands and mainland of Sardinia and Corsica.
We could also see from the distance the other stunning islands in the area such as Isola Tavolara and Isola Molara.
Bird watching in a moving or floating boat is not easy for photograph taking but we tried our best. We saw a large range of gulls plus a type of bird that our guide described as like an albatross. It lived on the water most of its life and only went to land to mate.
Our trip was rudely interrupted as we approached the edge of an island when we received an unexpected visitor.
Rushing towards us was the well to do Coast Guard!
They pulled up alongside us and seemed to have quite a few things to say to the crew of our boat. They checked the paperwork, made our crew count out the number of life jackets to see that they matched the number of occupants. They then checked the on board fire extinguisher and the CB. I think the only thing they didn’t check was if we had a safety flare on board! Satisfied that everything was in order the Coast Guard then left us on our way.
I found it a little ironic that when we did return to harbour, our mooring position was right in front of the Golfo Aranci Coast Guard boat!
Following our rude interruption we continued on and took more pictures whilst bird watching. We also saw some caves and an example of stalagmites and stalactites.
We also saw some very fancy yachts and boats.
We returned to the fish farm to attempt some more dolphin watching in the bay of Golfo Aranci. Yes, you guessed it we didn’t see any.
Approaching the sunset
At this point we saw another boat heading towards us. This was also one not to argue with but for a different reason. It was the Sardinian Ferries sailing from Livorno to Golfo Aranci. We watched it pull into dock and even contemplated catching it some day so we could make a trip to Pisa which is close to Livorno.
Returning to the harbour around 19:45 we certainly had 2 hours of adventure. We’d seen lots of birds, dramatic scenery and a stunning landscape. I had my first ever encounter with a Coast Guard.
Our only successful dolphin watching
It was not until we reached dry land that we were able to see any form of dolphins in Golfo Aranci.
We did however get the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful sunset.
Overall we did quite a bit of bird watching yet the dolphin watching in Golfo Aranci was an epic fail.