Do you know that Azores is one of the best spots to do whale watching? And why is it? Well, since 1986 when the whaling was forbidden in the Azores a total of 28 cetacean species have been registered here. This is a third of all the species that can be found on the earth!
But what should we know before going whale watching? In this post we explain all the things that you should know before you do this activity.
What do we see?
Around Azores we have 4 resident species; sperm whale, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and Risso’s dolphin. However, when it is said that they are resident it doesn’t mean that they are found on all the tours. Instead it means that we can have encounters of these species during the whole year. As a comparison, all of us are resident in our house, but when we are going for the tour we are not at home, even though it is our place of residence.
Now you should be thinking “well and what about the rest of the 28 species registered around Azores?” The chance to see a specific species depends on the season that the tour is done. During the spring there is a increase in life in the water, referred to as the “Spring bloom” and the conditions are really good for the biggest animals of the world, the baleen whales (Blue whale, fin whale, sei whale…) so the probability to see at least one of these giants is really high. Then in summer and autumn when the water is warm enough the Atlantic spotted dolphins are around and also it is easier to find huge groups of dolphins and more sperm whales due to it being the reproductive season.
If you would like more information about the species that we have around our waters see this article.
How do we find the animals?
It is important to know that even the people who are working for our company don’t know what is going to appear in each tour. Every tour is a surprise for all of us, starting with the lookouts who wake up really early in the morning to go to a high point from the coast and look for blows and splashes with powerful binoculars, ending with the people are on the boats. The lookouts decide if the sea conditions allow us to do whale watching, because we are going to the middle of the Atlantic and sometimes it is too rough to go out. Just remember that we are not going to a swimming pool.
Strategic points where our lookouts are based, looking for blows and splashes with powerful binoculars:
Whales and dolphins every day?
We try to do our best to show you what we have along the south coast of São Miguel, but the whales and dolphins are wild and they are wherever they want to be, so sometimes we just see whales, sometimes we just see dolphins and often we see both. The average number of species that we see per day is between 1 and 3 and we have the guaranty that if we don’t see anything, it will be possible to book another tour for free. So remember, you are dealing with wild animals not trained ones, so we have to deal with them with respect going slowly, quietly, respecting the distance and being behind them to don’t disturb them.
Catamaran or zodiac?
If you prefer more a more adventurous experience and to be closer to the water, the zodiac is your boat, but you should be ready to wear a lifejacket during the whole trip.
Ready to go out with our zodiac and on the second one it is a zodiac with a bottlenose dolphin:
On the other hand, you can choose the catamaran, it is bigger than the zodiacs and you are able to move in the boat without wearing a lifejacket. But remember to hold on please!! We are in the ocean and there are always some waves.
What do we recommend for you to bring?
Important things to bring for a whale watching tour:
· A warm and waterproof jacket (even in summer). On the sea it is always colder than on land, there is always some wind and sometimes rain.
· Sun protection and sunglasses (if you have polarised sunglasses even better).
To finish, the next three pieces of advice are in case may help you to avoid seasickness: Bring water and some snacks with you, it can help during the tours that are around 3 hours, don’t eat a heavy meal before the tour and look to the horizon while searching for some whales.
Written by Víctor Ojeda
Photos by Ida Eriksson, David Rodrigues and Miranda van der Linde