Whale and dolphin watching in the Azores
The Azores Archipelago is made up of nine volcanic islands lying approximately 800 nautical miles from the coast of Portugal.
The Azores provide one of the best habitats in the world for marine mammals as more than 24 species (25% of the world's known species) have been identified off the coast. The Islands provide a natural sanctuary in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for both migrating and resident species.
|Whale and dolphin news from the Azores|
Most common cetacean sightings
Short finned pilot whales and Sperm whales are the most common off the Azores, and can be seen all year round. A huge variety of dolphins including Bottlenose, Common, Risso's, Atlantic spotted and the Striped dolphins are also regularly sighted.
From April to June many other species of whales are regular visitors (they can be seen at other times of year, but sightings are less reliable.), and you have a chance to see Blue, Fin, Sei, Humpback, Minke, Northern Bottlenose, False Killer Whales, Sowerby's Beaked whales and Orcas. The conditions particularly suit the Sperm whales providing a perfect nursery and a plentiful food supply all year round, especially since whaling was halted in 1987. All these conditions have created a unique relationship between the sperm whale and the Azoreans people.
Whale watching in the Azores
It is possible to join a half day trip to look for the whales and dolphins, or spend up to a week (or even longer) on a residential whale watching holiday. There are strict regulations governing the behaviour of whale watching boats, and on most trips you will be accompanied by a marine biologist who will provide details on the cetaceans, as well as the concepts of ecotourism and the importance of conservation.
Observation of cetaceans is usually guaranteed!
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The Blue whales off the coast of Sri Lanka.
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It is also possible to swim with whales, even orca (Click here to read about swimming with killer whales).
This is one of the best viewing areas in the world with up to 70 whales, including calves, congregating in the seas adjacent to the Bunda cliffs.
- Approach whales from the side, not from the front or the rear.
- Approach no closer than 100 metres and shift your motor into neutral or idle.
- Keep noise levels down - no horns, whistles or racing of motors.
- Start your motor only after the whales are more than 100 metres from your vessel.
- Leave the area slowly, gradually accelerating when you are more than 300 metres from the whales.
- Approach and depart slowly, avoiding sudden changes in speed or direction. Do not "leapfrog."
- Avoid disturbing groups of resting whales.
- Maintain low speeds and constant direction if travelling parallel to whales.
- When whales are travelling close to shore, avoid crowding them near the shore or coming between the whales and the shore.
- Limit the time spent with any group of whales to less than 30 minutes at a time when within 100 to 200 metres of whales.
- If there is more than one vessel at the same observation site, be sure to avoid any boat position that would result in encircling the whales.
- Minimize the time spent and the number of vessels with any one group of whales.
- Limit time, as above, and then move out to allow other vessels access to good viewing positions.
- Coordinate activities by maintaining contact with other vessels, and ensure that all operators are aware of the whale watching guidelines.
- 20th January. 6 Bottle Nose dolphins off Stonehaven. (Courtesy of Ian Sim/Seawatch.)
- November. Humpback feeding off Stonehaven, Aberdeenshire, possibly in the area for 2 weeks. Interacting with Bottle Nose Dolphins. (Courtesy of Ian Sim/Seawatch.)
- September. Minke whale found dead on Devon beach.
- August. 2-3 Minke whales off St Abbs Head/Coldingham Bay in Berwickshire.
- August. Minke whale in Fraserburgh Harbour.
- July. Northern Bottlenose whale strands in River Orwell, Ipswich.
- June. Humpback seen off North Devon.
- June. 10 Minke whales sighted off the Isle of Man.
- May. Several Minke sightings off Isle of Man, plus a Sei whale.
- May. Repeated sightings of Orcas off Orkneys
- May. Rare sighting of Bottlenose dolphins in the Channel, click here for details.
- April. Several Orca sightings off Northern Ireland
- April. Fin whale in the Moray Firth.
- April. Orca seen off Isle of Man.
- March. 2 Humpbacks seen off Anglesey/Isle of Mann.
- March. 3 Killer whales seen off Shetland.
- March. Sperm whale strands on Orkney.
- March. 6 Killer whales seen off Orkney.
- March. A pod of 15 Sperm whales seen by fishermen off Caithness.
- January. A pod of nine killer whales seen in the Firth of Forth.
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