The ocean is at the heart of the Azores; an archipelago of islands slap bang in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean – a ‘sort-of’ half-way point between here and America. Recently gaining attention as an up-and-coming travel destination, I hopped on a plane, and found myself in a little piece of paradise – a paradise that, until recently, has gone almost completely under the radar.
Wherever you look you can see reference to the sea. Whether painted on the walls of its capital city Ponta Delgada, or on just about any delectable menu you come across, (I recommend Cais20 – go, thank me later) the sea is a huge part of Azorean culture.
When visiting the islands, I was lucky enough to have the chance to jump aboard a boat, and find myself some dolphins. Sadly not the season for whales (you’re better off in April or May), late-summer is the perfect time to see dolphins.
I took a tour with Picos de Aventura who offer a range of eco-tourism excursions and activities both on land and sea. As part of a small group, we were taken out into open water and boy did we see dolphins – a lot of dolphins.
The waters around the Azores are home to a whole host of cetaceans and we were lucky enough to spot Bottlenose, Common, Atlantic Spotted and even the rare and solitary Risso’s dolphin; which looks rather more like a whale or porpoise and is incredibly large in comparison to some of the others. We also encountered sea turtles, which is a positive sign for turtle conservation in the region!
I’d seen dolphins in the wild before, a lonely few hunting off the northern coasts of Florida – but there is nothing comparable to being within touching distance of wild pods numbering in excess of thirty or forty! And no memory will stick with me more than seeing the tiny perfect form or a baby bottlenose dolphin leap clear from the water just meteres in front of me. Breath-taking!
If you are ever in the Azores, I highly recommend getting out on the water. I certainly can’t wait to go back!