Brings you the best marine ecotourism experiences in Europe

Sesimbra and Cascais are on the two peninsulas which sit either side of Lisbon on Europe’s far wild west coast. They are both 30 minutes’ drive from Lisbon airport, making them arguably the closest dive sites to any European capital, yet they have the feel of an unspoilt, natural coastline

Sesimbra is a fishing and resort town in the Setúbal district, whose coastline is largely protected by the 38km-long Professor Luíz Saldanha Marine Park, Portugal’s largest marine reserve. Its coastline is prized for its south-facing aspect and sheltered turquoise and emerald waters. Not surprisingly, year-round diving and night dives are popular in Sesimbra, including a New Year’s Eve midnight dive for true fanatics. 

Thanks to the protection of large parts of this coast by a marine reserve, the diversity of species is extensive. Through clear, clean water divers will see vast forests of Gorgonian sea fans, particularly at the aptly named Jardim das Gorgónias, which also hosts sponges and anemones. Nudibranchs, spotted lobsters, seahorses and cuttlefish are also common. Near Espichel Cape, the wreck of the River Gurara, a 175 metre-long ship that sank in 1989, offers a diverse range of habitats which are home to species such as pargo breams, European seabass and conger eels.