Near the Azores, you can find a special phenomenon where whales and dolphins can be observed not only during their journey through the oceans. This is because some species spend the entire year close to the Azores. Especially sperm whales and dolphins can be found there all year round. During summer time, you might also be able to observe the whales that usually only pass the Azores twice a year in spring and autumn, This picture shows a group of sei whales near São Miguel in August 2018.
Depending on the season you will observe different species of dolphins. The most common ones are the bottle-nosed dolphins, as shown on the picture, and the Atlantic spotted dolphin. Daytrips to go and see the marine mammals are possible all year round, even though the smaller operators and set-off points in smaller villages are closed outside of the main holiday season. Always be aware that the ships don’t leave the port in poor weather conditions. That’s why we recommend not leaving a planned Whale Watching trip until the very end of your holiday. It would also be good to decide ahead of time whether you would prefer a trip in a speed boat or a catamaran. The speed boat will be quicker, but the catamaran promises a slightly calmer trip. You will most likely get wet in the speed boat, even if the sea is calm, while the catamaran does not even require you to wear a lifejacket.
We would like to share with you a couple of special encounters that we have managed to capture on camera. We are not always able to take a photograph, and have, for example, also seen flying fish, sea turtles and a shark. However, on those occasions, the boat was simply travelling too fast.
In October 2019, we were first able to spot “Mr. Liable”. “Mr. Liable” is a fully grown sperm whale who measures approximately 17m. He is always around São Miguel somewhere, we had just never been lucky enough to spot him before.
Not only his size is impressive, but his entire appearance in general. You can definitely tell that he is around 40 years old from looking at his skin and his tailfin. We also saw him accompanied by his female partner, which made his size even more noticeable.
We have been lucky enough to be able to see sei whales twice now. You might get especially lucky if your journey starts off heading west. Both times, we spotted the whales more than 40km west or north-west from where we started. You can also easily recognise these fairly big whales by their pointed fins.
Sei whales usually don’t dive for very long, so you should be able to see them for extended amounts of time. Their emerging from the water causes circular areas to occur at regular distances, which may enable you to work out which direction they are travelling in.
Some “secret” tips?
- Secret tip: if you make sure beforehand that there are no cruise ships in the port, you will most likely have more room on you Whale Watching boat.
- Secret tip: If you’re taking a catamaran, we would say that the best sport is upstairs, at the very front left or right corner. There, you will be able to see the area in front of the ship as well as to the side. Because the boats always approach the animals from behind, you will be able to get the best look here. Additionally, we prefer the Futurismo “Cetus” to the catamaran “Quatro ventos”. On the “Quatro ventos”, a few areas are only accessible to a limited number of people, and also only while the ship is not moving.
- Secret tip: We have made the experience that paying extra to swim with the dolphins is not worth it. Unfortunately, the animals are usually not quite as eager to meet as the humans are. Often, they disappear as soon as people jump into the water.
- Secret tip: if you want it extra convenient or are running a little late, the path leading directly from the harbour’s garage to the pier is located near parking row 17.
If you want to enjoy some food after your return, we can recommend a couple of places at and around the port. In case you are interested in the historical significance of the whales, you can find some information about whaling on the Azores here.
If you are interested in a holiday on São Miguel, we are happy to support you by supplying further information. We can recommend providers we have had a good experience with.