• 2018.03.02
  • Cetaceans in the Ligurian sea
A few decades ago the Ligurian sea was populated by dolphins, reef sharks and whales but, for a few years, these animals disappeared because they couldn’t find food anymore, given the extensive fishing which was destroying their natural habitat.
Luckily, new laws were implanted to safeguard the cetaceans’ habitat and to repopulate the Ligurian sea with fish so now the dolphins and the whales are slowly returning.
A few sharks have been spotted too but, luckily, they are harmless reef shark we call verdoni (the green ones) due to the color they reflect from the seaweed they nestled into.
Many are the proposed tours to observe these beautiful animals and many children are taken on a school-trip to do some whale-watching. But it’s not an activity for children alone.
There are new ways of observing cetaceans in the sea, by ferry or speedboat you can reach in a short time the furthest areas of the Ligurian Sea, where it is easier to meet these marine species, and to observe them at water surface.

On a whale- and dolphin-watching tour around the Ligurian coastline, you’ll normally meet Italians, French and English, both adults and children, and among them you’ll easily find nature lovers, tourists and photographers alike. The tour is usually run by a marine biologist and an environmental guide specialized in the Ligurian territory who explain the characteristics of the region and talk about the animals’ life. At times, on the bigger boats and the longer tours, there is also a licensed excursionist who takes the groups ashore to explore the territory and observe the sea from a different perspective.
Around Genoa, there is also a protected international marine area which was created by an agreement signed by Italy, France and the Principality of Monaco. On a hill, facing such marine area, is a visitors’ center with an interactive room showing a video presentation about the International Sanctuary of Cetaceans founded in 1991.
With the help of photos and videos the visitors’ center’s displays explain, in Italian and in English, that in this part of the Mediterranean live and reproduce different species of cetaceans and precisely: the sperm whale, which can reach up to 18 meters in length and can weigh up to 50 tons, the sperm whale, that after the blue whale is the largest animal on earth, the striped dolphin and the common dolphin, both widespread in our sea.

The use of smaller boats with groups of only a few passengers and a small crew is the solution that allows to travel faster and reduce the environmental impact on the marine ecosystem. They are often referred to as sea safaris.
After a short safety briefing, you normally get onboard a rigid-bottomed rubber boat, in between a raft and a speedboat. On such a boat it’s possible to ride the waves and breathe in the fresh sea air because you are traveling at over 20 knots of speed while the profile of the Ligurian Riviera behind you slowly fades away and you can really feel alone ‘in the middle of the sea.’
After about an hour of navigation and after more than 10 nautical miles from the coast, the skipper puts the engines to a minimum and starts a first careful phase of research to view the cetaceans.
It’s very emotional when you suddenly spot something emerging in the distance, whether it’s a pack of friendly dolphins or a huge sperm whale. Sometimes it is even possible to see some sea turtles, looking around for jellyfish.

Whale-watching around Genoa


  • Patrizia Margherita
  • Jobtranslator, interpreter, teacher

Although she was born in Italy, she is half Italian and half American and she has become a "multicultural person" who can speak five languages. She has lived and worked in the US, Brazil, Australia, France and the UK so she considers herself a citizen of the world. When she is not teaching or translating, she likes cooking Italian food, hiking and traveling around the world...She has traveled to 80 countries and counting!

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