Whale-watching in the Azores

Dolphins in the channel between Pico and Sao Jorge (image courtesy of Marinhera Fernanda).

Nine green dots in the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean, the Azores are currently considered one of the best places for whale-watching in the world. Located about halfway between Lisbon and New York (map), the Azores are a volcanic group of islands that belong to Portugal. Its crystal-clear waters, the abundance of food, the absence of large scale pollution, and the legal protection provided to the cetaceans, make the Azores a real sanctuary for 24 different species. Whale-watching tours are available from the larger islands such as São Miguel, Terceira, São Jorge, Pico and Faial, making it a popular activity for visitors to these beautiful islands. I recommend joining a tour with marine biologists who can tell you a lot about these amazing creatures.

Which whales can be seen in the Azores

The most sighted are the sperm whale, sei whale, fin whale, pilot whale, mink whale, common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin, Atlantic spotted dolphin, striped dolphin, and Risso’s dolphin. These animals can be seen in many places around the Azores but the waters around the islands of Pico and São Jorge harbour some of my favourite spots. It’s simply an amazing experience to be out in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean and to see a massive whale swim by gracefully against the backdrop of the magnificent conical peak of Pico or the awe-inspiring cliffs of São Jorge. Blue whales, humpback whales, orca’s, false orca’s, pigmy sperm whales and Northern bottlenose whales can sometimes be spotted passing through the channel that separates these islands.


Best time to see whales in the Azores

The whale-watching season in the Azores lasts from April to October, though sperm whales can typically be spotted all year round. Depending on the time of year, different whales can be spotted in the Azores. The larger whales such as blue whales can be seen in April-May whilst humpbacks are easier to spot in October.

Sperm whales in the Azores

The sperm whale is one of the largest cetaceans currently in existence, and the largest of the toothed whales, reaching 18 to 20 meters (50 – 65 feet) in length. The average size of adult females ranges from 11 to 12 meters long, whilst males can reach 15 to 18 meters in length. There is a resident sperm whale population in the Azores which can be sighted throughout the year.

Mother and baby sperm whales in the Azores (image via Wikimedia Commons).

Females and calves live in reproduction groups of 20 to 25 individuals. Loners in general, or living in small groups of up to 6 individuals, the older males join the females and calves during the mating season, but just for a few hours. Holding the record for deep-diving, an adult male sperm whale is able to reach depths below 3000 meters (> 10,000 feet) and to be submersed for more than 2 hours. In these deep waters, they hunt for large squid which can also reach up to 18 meters in length. It must be a strange wild hunt in the dark – the scars on the skin of some of the sperm whales which are caused by the huge tentacles of large squid can often be spotted.

Sea turtles, sharks and flying fish are some of the other fascinating sea creatures which are often sighted during boat trips around the Azores.

The volcano of Pico seen from the lush, green island of Sao Jorge (image via Wikimedia Commons).

In short: the Azores is a must for adventurous nature lovers and avid whale-watchers. For more information on these magical islands in the Atlantic Ocean, please visit the website of Azores Tourism.

Tours in the Azores




Share or Save this post:



Follow Velvet Escape on:

7 Responses to “Whale-watching in the Azores”

  1. Cardinal Guzman 25/07/2012 11:58 am

    Looks great! Going there in a few weeks!

  2. Whale Watching Iceland 18/03/2011 11:49 am

    Thank you for posting this. Very nice videos.

    I would love to take a tour in the Azores someday.

    Look us up if you guys visit Iceland.

  3. João Paulo Martins 13/09/2010 3:58 pm

    Pico Island it’s the right place to experiment.

  4. velvet 07/09/2010 3:37 pm

    Thank you Rich, Gwen & Isabelle for your comments. I absolutely love the Azores. As Rich says, they’re remote while convenient and relatively inexpensive. The nature is awesome and a lot of the people speak English too. My favourite islands are Sao Jorge, Faial and Pico. Stunning places!


  5. Rich 07/09/2010 3:33 pm

    The Azores are amazing. Remote and isolated, while convenient and not-so-expensive.

  6. Gwen McCauley 06/09/2010 1:53 pm

    Hey Keith

    Are you there? I can hardly wait until I get back to the Azores. I am so very envious!

    Tell us more about your experiences.

  7. IsabellesTravel 06/09/2010 1:35 pm

    It`s great isn`t it?! I went whale watching in New England two years ago and this summer I saw wild dolphins doing tricks, it`s just an amazing experience!

Leave a Reply