Wild volcanic landscapes and rampant greenery offer plenty of great land-based activities for visitors on their Azores holidays. For many however the main attraction of the islands is the chance to get wet and enjoy an adrenaline rush by taking on one of the many water-based adventures for which the Azores are well known. Here are just a few suggestions for great water adventures in the Azores.
Swimming with Dolphins
Few experiences can match the wonder of swimming with dolphins in the ocean. The summer waters around the Azores are home to numerous Common, Bottlenose, Risso and Atlantic Spotted dolphins and while nothing is guaranteed (after all, you’re in the Atlantic Ocean and not an aquarium) the chances of an encounter are very high.
The dolphins are completely in charge of how long the encounter lasts, but they are inquisitive creatures and will quite likely swim around you, dive under you and generally have a play before realising you don’t have possess any of their swimming skills, at which point they move on.
The Azores are renowned as one of the best whale watching destinations in the world, with sperm whales, baleen whales and pilot whales in particular passing by the islands in the summer months. Peak season is July and August, although whale watching trips run from the islands well into October.
There are numerous places in the Azores where you can learn to dive. For experienced divers one of the main attractions on the islands is the chance to explore the wreck of the Dori, a cargo ship that sank here in 1964. The Dori took part in Normandy D-Day landings in 1944 and lies 22m below the surface, off the island of São Miguel. During its 50 years on the seabed the wreck has been a favourite spot for a huge variety of marine life including groupers, congers, flatfish and flounders. It is said that divers who touch the boat’s propeller blade will receive good luck.
Sao Miguel offers great opportunities for surfing. The beaches have mild swells in the summer months, offering perfect conditions for beginners to try their luck at staying on board. For hard-core surfers the north-facing beaches of Sao Miguel provide their biggest swells in the winter months, although spring and autumn are favoured for their decent wave sizes and cleanest swells. The water temperature does get up to a respectable 22 deg C in the late summer although the Azores weather is notoriously unpredictable.
The Azores has recently developed a reputation as a great destination for canyoning enthusiasts. With several new routes being opened each year, the islands offer a range of canyoning experiences, including a few gentle courses suitable for beginners. Flores offers the greatest challenges with one 500m route that will take several hours to complete. Sao Miguel and Sao Jorge also have canyoning routes and on Sao Miguel there are trips organised by qualified and licensed guides.