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Great Whales of the Azores (São Miguel)

Tour Code: PRT11

An 8-day holiday on São Miguel in the eastern Azores, timed to coincide with the arrival of migrating Fin, Sei and Blue Whales, which join resident Sperm Whales and dolphins each spring.

8 days from £1595(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1400 SRS: £350


For this new whale-watching holiday to the Azores we are offering two separate itineraries. The first, based on São Miguel, involves direct flights from London to Ponta Delgada (on São Miguel), a short transfer to a marina-side hotel and whale-watching excursions focusing on Fin and Sperm Whales with a chance of seeing a passing Blue Whale and other cetaceans. The second is based on Pico, which is reached by a flight from London via Lisbon (with an overnight stay in the vibrant Portuguese capital), and is more suited to those who are very keen to have a higher chance of seeing Blue Whales, as statistically this iconic species is more frequently recorded in this central part of the Azores than in the east. Both Fin and Sperm Whales as well as other cetaceans are also seen regularly off Pico. The Azores archipelago is thought to provide a convenient ‘midway stopover’ for populations of Blue and Fin Whales to re-fuel during their journey between southern breeding grounds and their summer foraging sites in eastern Greenland and Iceland to the north, and this holiday (both itineraries) is timed to coincide with their migration. There will be a day’s birdwatching on each tour, as well as a leisure day for relaxing or doing additional activities.

  • Fin & Blue Whales stopover in Azorean waters on migration each spring
  • Choice of: 8-day tour to São Miguel focusing on great whales; 9-day tour to Pico with greater chance of Blue Whales
  • Fin Whales most common great whale seen during May in the Azores
  • Chance of Blue, Sei & Minke Whales off Pico & São Miguel
  • Sperm Whales, plus Bottlenose, Risso’s & Short-beaked Common Dolphins seen year-round
  • Striped & Atlantic Spotted Dolphins possible in May
  • Look for Azores Bullfinch, São Miguel
  • Look for the island ‘races’ of birds such as Chaffinch & Goldcrest
  • Cory’s Shearwater, Roseate Tern, Whimbrel, Atlantic Canary & Azorean race of Common Buzzard
  • Leisure day with optional activities including more whale-watching excursions and swimming with wild dolphins
  • Led by expert naturalist guide

 

Food

Breakfasts are included, lunches and dinners are excluded from the tour price. Allow £30 per day for these.

Accommodation

A comfortable hotel near the sea. All rooms have private facilities.

Outline Itinerary Download

Day 1 Fly direct from London to Ponta Delgada.

Day 2/3 Morning and afternoon whale-watching.

Day 4 Full-day birdwatching excursion.

Day 5 Day at leisure with optional activities.

Day 6/7 Morning and afternoon whale-watching.

Day 8 Fly direct from Ponta Delgada to London.

Far out in the Atlantic Ocean, where the Eurasian and North American tectonic plates meet, the nine islands of the Azores archipelago lie in an arc along the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, rising to just over 2,347 metres at their highest point, Mount Pico. The Azores offers the best whale-watching opportunities in Europe, and each spring the resident Sperm Whales are joined by other great whales, including the largest animal thought to have ever lived, the Blue Whale. The islands are also home to many breeding seabirds such as Cory’s Shearwater, several endemics including Azores Bullfinch and Monteiros Storm Petrel, plus a host of island ‘races’ of familiar birds such as Chaffinch and Goldcrest. All of the islands in the archipelago have volcanic origins. Situated in the eastern Azores, São Miguel is the largest and boasts impressive bubbling calderas and iron-rich thermal pools as well as gardens nestling in secluded valleys and hiking trails with wonderful vistas at every turn.

This tour, based on São Miguel, involves direct flights from London to Ponta Delgada (on São Miguel), a short transfer to a marina-side hotel and whalewatching excursions focusing on Fin, Sei and Sperm Whales with the chance of seeing a passing Blue Whale and other cetaceans. Several species of large baleen whale migrate annually north and south through the Atlantic Ocean, their journeys taking them across vast areas where food is seldom abundant. The Azores archipelago is thought to provide a convenient ‘midway stopover’ for populations of Blue, Sei and Fin Whales to refuel during their journey between breeding grounds further south, and their summer feeding sites in eastern Greenland and Iceland to the north. Studies have shown that individuals typically remain around the Azores from between a few days and two months and that the highest number of baleen whale sightings occurs in May. Fin Whales are the most frequently recorded species at this time, although small numbers of Minke, Sei and Blue Whales are also seen each spring. They join the resident Sperm Whales, plus three dolphin species: Bottlenose, Risso’s and Short-beaked Common Dolphin. Striped and Atlantic Spotted Dolphins arrive with the warmer currents during the late spring and early summer.

During our stay in the Azores, we will join expert local marine biologists and guides — on either a large, comfortable catamaran or on exhilarating RIBs — to search for Fin, Blue and Sei Whales, as well as other species of cetacean, on half-day boat trips (weather permitting). We will scan the ocean for signs of these cetaceans, which are attracted here by the annual spring plankton bloom. Being close to these huge animals is one of life’s most moving and exciting experiences. Whalewatching guidelines are strictly adhered to in the Azores, allowing us to only approach within a comfortable distance for the whale. Feeding animals move quickly, however, and we may find that a whale chooses to swim alongside our vessel; it is an unforgettable thrill to see the vast outline of an animal the length of two school buses end to end just metres away!

There will also be an opportunity to explore some of the different birdwatching sites on São Miguel (a chance to see one of the rarest birds in Europe and the only endemic land bird in the archipelago, the Azores Bullfinch or ‘Priolo’) and there will be a ‘free day’ which may be spent at leisure. We are also likely to come across a variety of other species during our stay including Cory’s Shearwater, Roseate Tern, Whimbrel, Atlantic Canary and the Azorean race of Common Buzzard.
Please note that our exact itinerary will be kept flexible, taking into account the weather conditions during the course of each holiday. After a week of exciting whale-watching, some gentle birdwatching on land and tasty Azorean cuisine and wine, it will be time to leave our island home and make the short drive back to the airport for our flight to London.

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C.M.
Hertfordshire
Tom was brilliant. He was enthusiastic, made sure all of us saw the animals or birds we were looking for. Spent time searching out interesting restaurants for our evening meal. I loved the island, the hotel was superb and I have fallen in love with the dolphins. I have never seen them in the wild or a zoo and thought they were fantastic. In fact the holiday has rekindled my interest in wildlife again.
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Sat 6th May 2017 - Sat 13th May 2017

6

£1595

more details

Flights: Flights are included in the tour costMore info

Regional Departures: Regional Departures are available. Call 01962 733051 for detailsMore info

Land only cost: £1400 More info

Room sharing options: Female sharing is available More info

Visiting: Azores

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Dan Free
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Tour Reviews

Tom was brilliant. He was enthusiastic, made sure all of us saw the animals or birds we were looking for. Spent time searching out interesting restaurants for our evening meal. I loved the island, the hotel was superb and I have fallen in love with the dolphins. I have never seen them in the wild or a zoo and thought they were fantastic. In fact the holiday has rekindled my interest in wildlife again.
C.M., Hertfordshire