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Great Whales of the Azores (Pico)

Tour Code: PRT12

An 9-day holiday on Pico in the centre of the Azores archipelago, timed to coincide with the arrival of migrating Fin, Sei and Blue Whales, which join resident Sperm Whales and dolphins each spring.

9 days from £1995(inc flights) Land Only Price: £1795 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 London to Lisbon.

Day 2 Fly Lisbon to Horta, Faial. Transfer Pico. Afternoon whale-watching.

Day 3/4 Morning and afternoon whale-watching.

Day 5 Full-day birdwatching excursion.

Day 6 Day at leisure with optional activities.

Day 7/8 Morning and afternoon whale-watching.

Day 9 Transfer Horta. Fly London, via Lisbon.

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 and the endemic 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. Pico lies in the centre of the archipelago, on the Azores Platform, just to the east of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and its surrounding seas are a particularly important stopover for migrating whales heading north to their summer feeding grounds.

Based on Pico, which reached by a flight from London via Lisbon (with an overnight stay in the vibrant Portuguese capital), this tour is well 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. Fin, Sei and Sperm Whales as well as other cetaceans are also seen regularly off Pico and neighbouring Faial. 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 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 the island, and there will be a ‘free day’ during each tour 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.

Sperm Whale, PicoFin WhalePico IslandBlue WhaleWhale watchingRoseate TernAtlantic Spotted DolphinAzores Chaffinch (George Rutter)Blue Whale (George Rutter)Atlantic Portuguese Man o' War (George Rutter)Loggerhead Turtle (George Rutter)
Mr & Mrs A
Derbyshire
From start to finish, everything was excellent. Cathy was a pleasure to be with, her knowledge and help invaluable. She worked non stop to make sure everyone had a fantastic holiday. An excellent tour leader. One of the best so far with Naturetrek.
G.R.
Lincolnshire
I thought the whole trip went smoothly, Naturetrek working with the local whale watching company and getting the job done. Our guide Cathy was always on hand to sort any minor hiccup out, or organise the day events or just talk and discuss things with.
S.B.
West Yorkshire
Very good itinerary but unfortunately the weather was a challenge with wind, rain and rough seas, however we did have excellent sightings and close sightings of blue and fin whales and dolphins.
Mr M & Mrs M
Wiltshire
Sara's knowledge, enthusiasm, good humour and organisational abilities ensured a very enjoyable trip. Highlights - all cetacean sightings, especially Blue Whale close to the boat.
C.B.
Hampshire
Fantastic sightings of whales of four species plus lots of other animals. Really nice group of people - just the right size too. Very nice, helpful people at the whale watching organisation.
B.B.
Dorset
The organisation was amazing, especially when the weather was against us. The friendliness of the local guides and the trip leader. Having never been into wildlife, this was a fun and inspiring trip that's opened my eyes.
G.S.
Dorset
I think the small group worked really well on this holiday. I enjoyed most getting close to the sperm whales, blue whales, fin whales and the common dolphins.
J.B.
Norfolk
What a trip - many thanks to Ed for such good organisational and leadership skills. No one can organise the weather but luck was with us for a superb whale and dolphin spectacular - the 'blue' icing on the cake - to see not one but two of the largest animals that have ever lived. Wow! The local guides were brilliant too!
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DeparturesAvailableCost

Sat 5th May 2018 - Sun 13th May 2018

7

£1995

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: £1795 More info

Room sharing options: Female sharing is available More info

Visiting: Azores

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Andy Tucker
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01962 733051

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Tour Reviews

From start to finish, everything was excellent. Cathy was a pleasure to be with, her knowledge and help invaluable. She worked non stop to make sure everyone had a fantastic holiday. An excellent tour leader. One of the best so far with Naturetrek.
Mr & Mrs A, Derbyshire