There are numerous companies on the island that offer dolphin/whale watching tours. We chose Picos de Aventura (and recommend that you do too), for two reasons:
1) They don't disturb the cetaceans
Other companies on the island go out on bigger boats (with bigger engines) which can have up to 60 other people on board! That's not nice for the whales - and incidentally, not nice for the people either: Do you really want to be with a massive group of people all pushing for a front row seat? Or would you rather be with just a handful of others?
2) They help research projects and are concerned about the animals and the environment
Picos de Aventuras are working with Monicet which is a research project that wants to build a long term database of cetacean sightings. They are clearly passionate and knowledgeable when it comes to the preservation and protection of the animals - and the environment in general.
We knew Picos de Aventura were dolphin and whale friendly, next we wanted to know how likely we were to see whales and dolphins
Picos de Aventura employ a clever technique - they have lookouts on the mountains who use military binoculars to spot the whales, then they radio/phone the boat and tell them which direction to go!
Ultimately, as long as you're at the Azores for long enough, you will see dolphins/whales. By long enough I mean at least a week (but ideally a fortnight - or a whole month like we did ;) ).
The Azores weather is very volatile and if you come here for just three or four days, yes even in the middle of June, you could get four days of rain and you won't see the whales.
The boats go out three times a day, and we opted for an afternoon one:
We sat right at the front of the boat, we were warned that it would be less bumpy at the back, but we wanted to 'Jack and Rose it' and pretend we were the kings of the world. It was indeed bumpier at the front, but not that much bumpier and the views were worth it:
|i.e. we didn't have to see the backs of people's heads|
It was so cool to see them in the wild, they came right up to the boat, so the engine was respectfully switched off. There were lots of dolphins and we even saw pups! It really was magical.
It was so exciting! After ten minutes or so of observing the whale, we turned back to shore. We were quite far from Ponta Delgada at this point, but luckily our guides kept things interesting by showing us the Islet of Vila Franca do Campo - where Red Bull do Cliff Diving!
- Sit at the front of the boat if possible - it's lots of fun
- Make sure your camera is waterproof
- If you have limited time on the island, whale/dolphin watch on your first day - that way if you don't see any, you still have time to come back another day!
We were invited on this boat trip as a guest of Picos de Aventura, but, as always, all opinions are our own.
We're Laura and Tanbay, a British/German couple who have successfully weaselled our way out of the rat-race and want you to do the same! We also want to make it clear that we sometimes use “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we use personally and believe will add value to our readers.