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Tenerife Whale Cruise
I knew Tenerife was great for spotting whales and dolphins, so because we did not manage to see any whales neither in Iceland nor in South Africa, I thought: third time’s a charm.
And it was.
But I would much rather talk about how to plan your cruise, and what to avoid, to make the whole experience worth it.
While the Hiking trip in La Gomera’s Cloud Forests was something planned well ahead of time, we decided we’ll wing it and just decide on the spot how to spend our long weekend in Tenerife.
So the day we got there, we went by the pop-up travel agencies along the beach in Los Cristianos and checked ou tour options.
Melinda was busy joggling with 4 groups of tourists in 3 different languages. She briefly answered our question about whale cruises by plopping 3 glossy flyers on the desk.
‘This once carries 80 people, a nice catamaran with two nets in the front.’
‘This other one is with sails, but pretty crowded, up to 200 people.’
The 3rd option wasn’t even commented – perhaps a smaller commission for Melinda.
Thinking back to our awesome catamaran cruise in Mauritius, the decision was quickly reached. We’d soon learn there was nothing to compare the two.
So, for 49 euros/ person, we booked a 5-hour cruise including lunch and drinks. We would be heading out to the Atlantic ocean coastline up to Los Gigantes and Mazca, where we would stop for a dip in the clear, warm ocean waters.
Pilot whale sightings would be pretty much guaranteed – if we’re lucky, we might also see dolphins.
On paper, it looked great! Now for the actual experience:
The Failed Catamaran Experience
We reached Puerto Colon just as a large, white catamaran was entering the harbor. The first thing I noticed: pretty damn crowded!
As the catamaran approached, I started changing my mind: yes, it was big and it looked crowded with what was possibly 200 people.
But it had both outdoor and indoor (read: AC) seating, quite a few sunbeds, and a high deck where the captain was – and which would be perfect for any whale sightings.
In my head, I had already picked my spot next to the skipper. Then I read the name of the catamaran: Free Bird One. Looking at my ticket and nope – not ours.
The Dreaded MaxiCat
A red, unappealing catamaran parked right next to Free Bird One five minutes later. This was our Tenerife Whale Cruise ride: The MaxiCat.
In a far cry from the white catamaran I had already judged and deemed acceptable, MaxiCat looked like it would topple over any minute from the number of passengers it was carrying: only 100 people!
Completely flat, no AC, poor shelter from the sun, and cramped benches where people would awkwardly face one another for the most part of 5 hours. Oh boy!
It did have two nets in front, but they were obviously not many people’s first choice for a 5-hour cruise in the fierce August sun.
As people were coming out of the MaxiCat, their faces also expressed very different feelings from those of the Free Bird One passengers. Boredom and annoyance were not telling me a good story of how I’d be spending my whale cruise.
Tenerife Whale Cruise: The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
Here’s a rundown of the stuff that worked and didn’t – and reasons you should pick a different boat.
Tenerife Whale Cruise: The Good
1. We saw Whales! We saw a bunch of pilot whales, probably more than 15 in total, most of them swimming lazily in pairs of two.
An amazing sight, their black bodies bobbing in and out of the clear waters, in no hurry to get anywhere in particular. Pilot whales that live in the Tenerife coastal waters are not migratory, and this was practically their home.
2. The staff was nice. Not overly nice, as I imagine no one would be able to sustain a cheerful mood on that particular boat, doing this twice a day for 100 gawking tourists. But they were friendly, and tried to make the best of it.
3. Our Seating: Not The seating, mind you – but I was lucky to have a two-person bench for us: next to the bar, and not having to cramp with 10 other people. The only highlight of the catamaran.
Our seats were covered by the roof, so we were mostly protected from the sun, but the people seated on the side benches had no such luck.
Now For The Bad & Ugly
1. Too long. It’s not worth it, you’re guaranteed to either get bored, seasick or annoyed by someone in the large group.
A two-hour cruise to see the whales, which you’d most probably see, seemed more than enough for the experience.
2. Seasickness. We didn’t get seasick, but at least 5 people quickly got friendly with their puke bags. And in the crowded space of the catamaran, that’s something you can’t avoid.
3. Food and Drinks. I am mostly not a picky person, and I will say this – I ate the ‘paella’ they served. However. This was not paella, and it would make any honest Spaniard ashamed by sight alone.
The drinks offered were sangria, beer, and sodas; I only tried the Coke – that is until they ran out of ‘gas’ and the soda lost all its bubbliness.
4. Crowded. The main advantage of a small boat is smaller crowds, so you are less likely to run into annoying people. Which, for 5 hours out on sea, is a pretty big deal.
With our MaxiCat carrying over 80 people (total capacity allowed was 104), we were unlucky enough to sit in between a large group of Italians, who whistled, drank and shouted for most of the cruise. I hope you all have better luck.
Also, it was some of the passengers did the whale spotting instead of the cruise, who seemed pretty disinterested in the task.
The Souvenirs. The overly insistent cameraman and the snappy girl who took everyone’s picture and wanted to sell it for 20€ (when everyone has a smartphone?!) Telling them you don’t want your picture taken is not quite effective – try being more firm than I was!
Plus, uselessly printing out hundreds of photos that not even 20 people will buy them – this surely doesn’t fit with their tagline as an Ecological Catamaran.
The overall experience was – save for the whales – mediocre to be generous!
Tenerife Whale Cruise: Final thoughts
Do your research well and see what boat you’ll go out to sea with. In hindsight, Free Bird One looked pretty good compared to our uninformed Tenerife Whale Cruise choice.
Choose a small(er) boat. Make sure you ask about the boat size&capacity, to avoid disappointment.
Don’t go on a 5-hour cruise! You’re pretty much guaranteed to see whales in August, so a 2-hour cruise will be enough to get what you want.
So skip the swimming, the food & drinks, and to be honest, the Mazca wall wasn’t that much impressive either – I’m sure it’s more enjoyable to visit on foot.
Hope you find my post helpful. Let me know about your own experience – leave me a message below!