As warm waters attract a plethora of underwater sea life and magnificent whale species this spring and summer, the Azores, now one of the world’s top whale and dolphin sanctuaries, will this year celebrate the 30th anniversary since the last whaling factory closed in the islands.
Once a vital part of the Azores’ economy bringing in much of the local revenue, nearly every family on the islands once had a connection to the whaling industry. Thirty years since the last commercial whaling factory closed in 1984, whale watching boats have replaced fishermen’s barges and the fate of these beautiful creatures in Azorean waters has dramatically changed for the better.
Today, the archipelago is a world-class whale watching destination which embraces the 25 resident and migratory species which roam its waters – with conservation, preservation and trips to spot whales in their natural habitat key to its tourism strategy. Popular with visitors, some specialist tour operators have even seen an increase of up to 83% in bookings for such trips in the archipelago over the last 12 months alone*.
Spring and summer offer the best chance of spotting beautiful species such as sperm, pilot, beaked, and false-killer whales, and this April enthusiasts can go in search of the magnificent and rare Blue Whale as it migrates through the islands’ waters. The common dolphin, common bottlenose dolphin and the spotted dolphin can also be seen here and often swim alongside RIB boats on exhilarating wildlife trips.
Travellers can discover the Azores’ whaling heritage on the island of Pico at sites such as Museu dos Baleeiros, an old whaling boat house-turned whaling museum, or Museu da Industria Baleeira de Sao Roque do Pico, an old whaling factory. Fabrica da Baleia de Porto Pim, a museum which houses traditional equipment once used for whaling on Faial Island is also a short distance from Peter’s Café in Horta Marina, which was once a local haunt for whalers, but is now a colourful and popular meeting place for passing international sailors.
Semana dos Baleeiros is a traditional Azorean festival on Pico which celebrates the archipelago’s whale heritage (25-31 August 2014). Dedicated to Nossa Senhora de Lourdes (Our Lady of Lourdes), patroness of the whalers, the festival dates back to 1882 when a storm threatened the lives of the whalers who were trying to return to Port Lajes on Pico. As well as the religious celebrations, there are music performances, traditional shows, and sporting activities which take place around a whaling museum in Lajes.
Whale watching holiday in the Azores during the Blue Whale migration from £900 per person
Price includes 7 nights (based on two sharing a double room) at the stylish Hotel do Canal in Horta Marina, Faial Island overlooking Mount Pico. This holiday also includes return flights from London, return airport transfers, one full day whale watching trip, another half day whale watching trip, and a trip to swim with dolphins.
To book, call 0207 978 0505 or visit www.originaldiving.com
To find out more about the Azores, please visit www.visitazores.com