Special boat trips in Los Gigantes
Meeting at the foot of the cliffs
Although I've known Jennifer since 1995, I'm actually a little nervous about this interview. This enterprising woman has accomplished so much in local tourism that capturing her journey in a single-page article presents quite a challenge.
We meet in a cozy café at the foot of the stunning cliffs of Los Gigantes. It's been a while since we've seen each other, so there's a lot of catching up to do. I tell her about the plan to feature successful expats who contribute that special something to the island and its visitors.
The fact that she's saved in my phone as Jennifer-from-the-Flipper says it all. Jennifer, even in her recent retirement, remains closely associated with the Flipper Uno boat excursions.
The dynamic duo
Thanks to the business instinct of Adolfo, the visionary behind the Flipper Uno, and Jennifer's determination to promote the boat, the Flipper Uno quickly became one of the most beloved excursion boats on the island in the 1990s.
Even now, 27 years after the company's founding, Flipper Uno's excursions continue to be incredibly popular. It's no surprise that these excursions consistently receive the coveted Traveler's Choice Award from Tripadvisor.
Jennifer, thank you so much for taking the time for this interview. Flipper Uno has been around for 27 years now, that is truly an achievement. What is the key to your success?
"I think first and foremost, it's due to the amazing team. In our company, every team member is crucial to ensuring our guests have the best possible experience. Whether it's someone from ticket sales, the bus driver, the onboard crew, or Kim, our anchor in the PR department. Our goal is to provide guests with an unforgettable experience, and the entire team contributes to that.
Besides that, the quality of our boats and the stunning natural surroundings are significant factors. We navigate along one of the most beautiful natural reserves on the island, the cliffs of Los Gigantes. It's a unique experience because the best way to appreciate these 600-meter-high cliffs is from the water.
And finally, the most important part of our success: the whales and dolphins that can be observed in their natural habitat, out in the wild. Definitely a timelessly beautiful experience!"
How do you ensure that guests get to see the animals?
"We observe these wild marine mammals in their natural habitat, so they are not trained to approach the boat. Between Tenerife and La Gomera, there is a year-round population of more than 400 pilot whales and bottlenose dolphins. This region boasts the highest biodiversity in Europe, with a total of 21 different species. In September 2011, it was designated as a Special Protection Area, known by its abbreviation ZEC, which stands for Zona Especial de Conservación
Our specially trained guides provide information about the various dolphin and whale species you'll encounter during the journey, as well as share other fascinating facts about these unique creatures and their natural habitat.
You are sailing in a protected nature reserve. Doesn't that bother the animals?
“There are strict rules to protect the animals and not to disrupt their natural behavior. The excursion boats are inspected annually and receive the Barco Azul certificate if they comply with the rules. We are not allowed to conduct any excursions without this certificate, which can be recognized by a yellow/blue flag.
This means, among other things, that we must not interrupt the swimming route of dolphins and whales. Furthermore, we must adjust the speed as soon as we come within a radius of 300 meters from the animals. The minimum distance from the animals is 60 meters."
Are you always able to maintain a safe distance?
"It frequently occurs that the dolphins approach the boat on their own initiative and engage in playful interactions with the bow or stern waves. This is permissible because the dolphins voluntarily choose to do so. In such instances, the boat must adjust its course and speed to align with theirs."
It's evident that there are many factors to consider during a whales & dolphins excursion.
"Absolutely! Striking a balance between delivering a fantastic experience and safeguarding the animals is paramount. We aim for our guests to relish these extraordinary creatures and the stunning scenery while understanding that we are visitors in the animals' domain, not the other way around. As part of this commitment, we also take care to ensure that people do throw any litter into the water."
Besides the Flipper Uno, you also have 4 other boats, El Rápido, El Rápido Dos, Masca Express, and Marina Princess Dos. What sets these boats apart, and which one is the most enjoyable?
"They are all a lot of fun, of course! Each boat has its own unique character, so there's something for everyone.
The Flipper Uno, a wooden schooner with room for 91 passengers, takes you on a pirate adventure. Definitely fun for both young and old. Children are often impressed by our cool pirates. This wooden ship is undoubtedly the flagship of our fleet.
On this excursion, we begin by searching for whales and dolphins, followed by a journey along the stunning cliffs, and finally, we anchor in Masca Bay. Depending on the circumstances, we may occasionally visit another bay, such as Barranco Seco or Juan López
In the bay, you can enjoy a refreshing swim, go snorkeling, or take a plunge into the water with the swing rope, just like a real pirate. Following these activities, a delicious lunch is served. We prepare fresh, gluten-free chicken-based paella on board every day. For vegetarians and guests with special dietary requirements, we can provide an alternative meal upon request; please let us know when booking. All beverages and lunch are included in the 3-hour cruise.
We also offer pick-up services for guests on the west coast from their accommodations or a nearby location. The journey from Costa Adeje to Los Gigantes is approximately 25 km, so you won't be on the bus for too long, and you'll get a chance to see some of the island's scenery along the way.
We also offer a 2-hour trip on the Flipper Uno, which includes drinks but does not include food or pick-up service.
The Masca Express and Marina Princess Dos are large speedboats that can accommodate 32 and 36 guests, respectively. They are a bit smaller than the Flipper Uno, creating a more intimate atmosphere. Both boats have a shaded area where you can sit. This excursion follows the same itinerary as the 2-hour trip on the Flipper Uno. We start by searching for whales and dolphins, and you have the opportunity to swim in one of the bays. Guests on this trip are offered one drink, but food is not included.
These boats may be more suitable for people who prefer a calmer experience.
El Rápido and El Rápido Dos are a bit smaller in size, each accommodating 12 seats. They offer a mix of a speedboat and a Zodiac experience. The outcome of the excursion is similar to that of the Masca Express & Marina Princess Dos, but these boats, as the name suggests, are very fast, providing a thrilling ride. Both boats have a retractable cover on board that can be opened and closed as desired. These boats are enjoyable for individuals of all ages but may not be suitable for families with small children.
Oh, and perhaps not unimportant: only the Flipper Uno has restrooms on board, so keep that in mind."
Do you have any tips for people who are afraid of getting seasick?
"Yes, no need to worry! We monitor the weather daily, and if the sea is rough, we don't sail. Guests can then choose to reschedule for another day or receive a refund. Thankfully, we rarely have to cancel due to weather conditions.
Our captains have years of experience and skillfully navigate the boat to minimize the effects of any swell, so you won't feel uncomfortable. But if you prefer, you can take over-the-counter travel tablets from a pharmacy as a precaution against seasickness.
Just make sure you don't board on an empty stomach. If you start feeling dizzy, focus on the horizon to help your vestibular system adapt quickly.
I read that the jetty in Masca Bay has been repaired after it was destroyed by a storm in 2018. Does that mean that you will pick up hikers again in the future?
"The jetty has indeed been repaired again, but is not yet available for the excursion boats.
Thank you very much for providing us with a glimpse behind the scenes of your unique company. Now that you're retired, I bet you will go out sailing every day?
[laughs] "Well, no, I'm actually quite busy. I enjoy painting and crafting, and I also have several grandchildren, so I want to engage in fun activities with them as well."
Do you have any tips for people interested in starting their own business in Tenerife?
Sure. Firstly, ensure that you can speak Spanish. This is not only a sign of respect for the local community but also crucial for handling the administrative procedures required to start a business here.
I arrived on the island in 1994 without much preparation. Honestly, I had no idea how I was going to make a living here. I met my husband, Adolfo when I started working as a guide on a boat he co-owned at the time. He was already planning the construction of the Flipper Uno. I did my best to support him in every way I could, and well...the rest is history."
Back then, it was somewhat easier to work and establish a company here. Nowadays, there's a noticeable shift in the type of tourism. Striking a better balance between preserving nature and promoting tourism is crucial, so it's something to consider if you're planning to start a venture in Tenerife."