I have been travelling to the Azores archipelago, as part of my job, for the last nine years and although I have witnessed many changes – a new marina; new hotels; an indoor shopping centre; new highways and more recently the first ten-pin bowling alley – I have never failed but to be impressed by the natural beauty of the islands and the warm welcome received.

On 24 July, I travelled to the island of Sao Miguel with my colleague Rosanna. Part of the Eastern Group of islands, Sao Miguel is by far the largest of the nine islands and, as such, offers the widest choice of accommodation, activities and guided excursions. It also boasts some of the “must see” sights in the archipelago including the caldera lakes of Sete Cidades and Lagoa do Fogo; the Terra Nostra botanical gardens at Furnas; the tea plantations at Gorreana and Porto Formosa; and the national reserve of Serra da Tronqueira.

For many visitors to the islands (including me) the highlight of any trip is the opportunity to participate in a whale and dolphin watching excursion; and during our visit we were lucky to join a half-day excursion from Vila Franca do Campo with local supplier, Terra Azul.

Some 25 species of cetaceans have been sighted off the coast of the Azores, with the Sperm whale, Common dolphins, Bottlenose dolphins and Risso’s dolphins calling the Atlantic waters surrounding the islands their home. Our afternoon excursion departed at 1330hrs and with the wind in our hair and under the expert guidance of our land-based vigia (look out person), we headed away from the shore.

Within 40-minutes we witnessed the first sign of life in the shape of approximately 100 common dolphins happily dancing alongside our boat. With dolphins around you can not help but, smile and feel happy – they are such joyful mammals.

After a while, we received a call from our vigia to advise that he had spotted a whale further offshore. Our skipper changed direction and off we sped! Within a short time we saw a blow of water on the horizon (well our skipper did – I didn’t see anythinguntil we were within 100m) and sure enough there were four sperm whales relaxing on the waves.

To share the same waters as these magnificent creatures even for a short time is an amazing experience and one not easily forgotten. I can not wait to go back!

Rachel Jelley
Sunvil Discovery

Did you know that…?

During the summer months (July-September) migratory species including pods of Sperm whales, Pilot and Backed whales, Atlantic-Spotted dolphins, Striped dolphins and Turtles pass the islands?

In the winter months (October – June) larger species such as Fin whales, Sei whales, Humpback whales and Blue whales are likely to be seen?

During the week 19-25 July 2010, Terra Azul spotted:
o Bottlenose dolphins
o Common dolphins
o Risso’s dolphins
o Atlantic-Spotted dolphins
o Striped dolphins
o Sperm whales
o Beaked whales
o Pilot whales
o Northern bottlenose whales
o Loggerhead turtles