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Travel and diving with sharks and mobulas in the Azores - Pico and Faial

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Travel Story, scuba diving in the Azores - Pico - Faial in the Atlantic Ocean on sharks, devil rays, dolphins and whales

divers azores pico faial atlantic ocean

Where are the Azores - Pico in the Atlantic Ocean?

folder azores pico faial atlantic ocean

Info about the Azores Pico and Faial in the Atlantic Ocean:

Map of the 9 islands in the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean:

Corvo, Flores, the islands Faial, Pico, Sao Jorge, Graciosa, Terceira, Sao Miguel, Santa Maria

folder atlantic islands of the azores

The Azores are a group of islands in the Atlantic Ocean, belonging to Portugal. From Lisbon, which is approximately at the same latitude, it takes a 2-hour flight to the Azores to the island Faial. For Pico you need a boat transfer. The Azores consist of a group of 9 different islands. All islands are inhabited and each island has its specific characteristics:

It's not very touristy in the Azores. The Azores are therefore the ideal place for a relaxing holiday and to enjoy the nature. Today the whale watching increases popularity. Depending on the time of year, you also come across other species. Therefore, first inform and then plan.

The climate in the Azores is pleasant and almost always soft, but it's also interspersed with sturdy squalls. The weather changes as quick as it comes. That's why you'll often hear this place has four seasons in one day. The large humidity in the Azores causes an incidental matter - a stunning green islands group.

Diving in the Azores - Pico - Faial the Atlantic Ocean:

The (average) water temperature measured during the diving in the open Atlantic Ocean south-west of the island Pico and Faial in the Portuguese Azores this season (end of July - beginning of August) was 22-degrees Celsius and near Pico Island ca 20 degrees Celsius. The visibility was on most of the dive sites ca 30 meters and when diving on sharks more than 50m. All dives had a dive duration (depending on the dive site) from 45 minutes to 85 minutes and were provided with a 15l dive bottle with compressed air for scuba diving. By the rapidly changing meteo, certain dive sites can never be guaranteed in advance. If you per se want to make a certain dive, bear this in mind when planning your trip. We spent e.g. 10 days on Pico, to dive for 6 days. 4 of these days were dependent on the weather. The dive sites are within a few hours sailing from Pico or Faial, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean with no shelter. The weather conditions need to be good enough to go diving. Two days are equipped with the boat to go scuba diving in the near surroundings of Pico Island or Faial. These diving sites may vary depending on the weather, so when it's necessary, you can opt for a sheltered dive.

Description of the diving and dive sites in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean:

Diving on the caves of Monte de Guia in Faial

Caves or Monte de Guia means diving to the south east of the island Faial. The crossing from the port of Pico to the dive site in Faial takes about a short 10 minutes with a fast zodiac. Caves or Monte de Guia is a cliff on the island Faial and rises from the Atlantic Ocean. In the cliff are some caves in which you can dive to a depth of approximately 20 to 30m. In case you dive beyond 5m in the cave, a torch is necessary to find and see the sea life. In the caverns, you'll come across e.g. beer-lobsters, morays, parrot fish, wrasses, sea cucumbers (bêches de mer), starfish, scorpion fish, oysters and groupers.

When diving in the caverns, make sure not to rub the diving equipment against the narrower upper walls. The direction of the diving depends on the current. The wall of the cliff could therefore remain on your right shoulder or vice versa. I.e. dynamic diving starts from the caves on Monte de Guia, which also gets explained during the briefing. This means that the direction you dive in, is determined under water and will be maintained during the entire dive.

A compass in the caves of Monte de Guia isn't really necessary, unless you're dropped too far from the cliff, in the blue. Orientation obviously won't be possible in this case. Even with a sight of approximately 30m.

You can go deep diving in the caves of Monte de Guia, but we limited ourselves to 30m. The soil around the cliff is sowed with old lava rocks on which moss, sea urchins and tube worms appear. Look out for the fire worms. They are beautiful, but nettle very seriously.

During the diving, there were many small jellyfish present. With a hood and gloves these won't cause any problem. The water is too cold and a light cover and thin neoprene gloves would come in handy.

Caves of Monte de Guia is an easy place to dive and is therefore also frequently used for the first check dive.

azores faial caves monte guia

Pictures - Photos of diving in the caves or Monte de Guia, rocky crevices on the island Faial in the Azores - the Atlantic Ocean

Diving on the lava blocks Il Real in front of the port of Pico

At Il Heus diving is done between the two lava blocks, protruding above water. The soil between these lava blocks under water, is completely sown with little lava blocks that are circular dished out in circles.

During the diving on Il Heus we had a washing machine feeling; 3m forward and 2m backward, this at a depth of 18m. Due to the wind that resulted in bashing water against the protruding blocks, the visibility was rather limited up to 10m.

If the weather conditions and air stock permit it, you can swim across a gap in one of the boulders. Let the skipper know about your plans, so he can pick you back up at the opening toward the rear of the lava rock. This narrow opening above water also results in greats photographs. Except for one stingray, life here is very similar to the dive site mentioned above.

Azores pico diving il heus

Pictures - Photos diving at Il Heus, the 2 boulders for Pico in the Azores - the Atlantic Ocean

Diving on Princess Alice Bank on devil rays - mabulas

When you decide to dive on Princess Alice Bank in the right period of the year, there's nearly a 100% certainty you'll see devil rays - mobulas. Princess Alice Bank is a very deep dive location, approximately 230m in depth in the open Atlantic Ocean, located on 45 nautical miles south of Pico. On the dive site rises the pinnacle Princess Alice Bank up to 35m below the water surface of the Atlantic Ocean.

Our boat sails at a speed of 24 - 25 knots per hour on a practically flat Atlantic Ocean. This allows us to reach the dive site within 2 hours. In the event of slightly worse weather conditions on the Atlantic Ocean, count on a trip of 2.5 to 3 hours.

During the boat trip to the dive site Princess Alice Bank we come across 5 schools of three different types of dolphins (common, Atlantic spotted and striped). After diving, during our return to Pico, we pass another three schools of dolphins (Bottle Nose and the common twice). On the way back, we also see a turtle, warming up at water surface and doesn't seem to mind the attention.

Diving on Princess Alice Bank means that certain safety rules and codes of conduct should be respected, included paying extra attention to depth and air stock. Since we must be able to reach the boat swimming against a strong current, using the compressed air bottle, the dive leader wants us the end our dive with at least 50 bar left. Everyone must be at or in the vicinity of the anchor line. If you've drifted off because of the current, it can be difficult to find the divers in the wild, open Atlantic Ocean. If you efflux, you should straight away inflate your OSB and the emergency operation will start. CW Azores usually anchors three boats on the dive site Princess Alice Bank. In the event of loss of a diver one of the boats immediately cuts the anchor line to look for the missing person or people. The remaining divers who hold on to the anchor line, will not experience any trouble, as the anchor is securely moored at the bottom and connected to a floating buoy with a long cord. All divers that reached 50 bar can come up to the surface and wait there, while the other two boats ensure the search.

The devil rays are not allowed to be touched during the dive, they must not be deterred and you may not dive in their direction. The rules are very simple: don't disturb the devil rays and don't leave the anchor line. If the bubbles of your co-divers are bothering you too much, you may briefly leave the anchor line to take photos, but should immediately go back and stick to the anchor line.

During the first dive, we get the choice to either descend via the anchor line to go the pinnacle Princess Alice Bank or stay and adhere between 5 and 15m of the anchor line. Together with two other Belgians, I decide to admire the pinnacle route. At a depth of 46m we reach the pinnacle Princess Alice Bank, where we can only stay for 2 minutes, since decompression diving isn't allowed at such a depth.

The soil structure of Princess Alice Bank is a lava mountain with a kind of oblique honeycomb structure, which diverges upward, and offers a lot of hiding sea life. Unfortunately, we can only stay here 2 minutes at the depth of 46m. Then the fun is over and we're forced to stick to the rules of CW Azores. We therefore increase to a depth of 8m and 5m, where we, one by one take turns to spot, photograph and film the devil rays.

During the first 15 minutes of the first dive on Princess Alice Bank we only see two loose and then a trio of devil rays swimming past. Subsequently there are some schools of 8, 10 and 12 devil rays. Great! When we reach 50 bar, we end the dive and make our way back on-board.

During the second dive on Princess Alice Bank we immediately shoot our target. First, we see about 10, then 12 and at a given moment up to 30 devil rays at the same time. Diving here is fantastic! We don't know where to look or shoot photos first. The last major group of devil rays even come to rub their weight against the anchor line to get rid of some difficult fish. They come so close, they almost touch us, but as the devil ray is about to hit one of the divers, its wing slightly tilts, near enough, but just no contact. Some devil rays are so close that the cameras aren't even able to get their full bodies in. Other devil rays prefer to swim around in the bubbles, coming from our compressed air. Some devil rays possibly like the little 'hot tub', or think it's a good massage. Subsequently, after 20 minutes we practically don't see anything anymore, as there's a wall of more than 1000 barracudas, that slowly passes by and the devil rays, behind this wall turn back. After that, a few smaller groups pass by.

After the diving, everyone is euphoric for a long time, and the devil rays are on everybody's lips. Diving on Princess Alice Bank is simply fantastic and a real must do for each diving enthusiast.

Biology page of the devil rays - mobulas.

azores pico evil rays mobula

Pictures - Photos diving with the devil rays - Mobulidae on Princess Alice Bank in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean

Diving on the blue shark

Diving on blue sharks means that certain safety rules and codes of conduct should be respected. The blue sharks may not be challenged and the diver may not in any event touch the luring pannier or the luring food. Next to that, divers are prohibited to touch the blue sharks, unless the sharks come too close. In this case, the divers may gently push the sharks on the gills, which will lead to them swimming off naturally, without biting. If you nudge them too hard or sharp however, there's a chance that the blue shark bites you or one of the other divers in its vecinity.

If the blue sharks get too wild, an evacuation must be proceeded. The emergency belt will immediately send to the skipper, or if necessary dumped in the Atlantic Ocean. The BCDS will blow up and taken off straight away, in order to get back on board as soon as possible. If possible you help the other divers to get out of the water as well. Then, when everyone on board, all jackets will be hoisted from the Atlantic Ocean. The safety of the divers precedes on the possible loss of expensive diving equipment.

From Pico or Faial there are 2 places in the Atlantic Ocean where the blue sharks can be spotted. We sail 1 hour and 20 minutes to the nearest point that's situated to the south of the west point of Faial. Our knots are considerably impaired by the relatively heavy sea that shows many waves and foam cups today. Arrived at the spot, the spotting position of the blue shark is approximately 140m deep.

On site, we get out a basket with food attached to a cord and an odour track. The Atlantic Ocean is huge and there are relatively few blue sharks. We therefore calculate a short waiting period, to see if one or multiple blue sharks respond to the bait. On our trip, it took 1 hour and 30 minutes before the first blue shark appeared!

The blue sharks gets some time to get used to the odour, the dive leader estimates the situation, while the divers get ready to enter the water. Due to the extreme waves, the boat can't keep still, making it feel like all we do is hanging on a string. The depth of the diving in this case, really isn't important, but the ideal depth is situated around 5m, so the blue sharks can swim to both the surface and the depth. On 5m there is sufficient light to take beautiful photos and movies of this elegant creature.

The dive ends at 40 bar by a signal of the dive leader. In total, we had 85 minutes to enjoy this incredible spectacle, whereby we got to see 7 blue sharks. The smallest blue shark was about ca 2.10m and the largest was estimated at 2.60m.

The flash light of my camera, attracts an increased amount of attention of the blue sharks. Therefore I had to give them over 10 gentle pushes on the gills. Although they kept coming back and even bit me slightly, as I couldn't get rid of another intrusive blue shark soon enough.

It's such a unique experience to dive with an open water blue shark in its own territory, which is why I highly recommend this experience to every diver.

Biology page of the blue shark.

azores pico blue sharks

Pictures - Photos of diving with the blue sharks in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean

Diving in the shrimp cave in Faial

Shrimp cave is located south of the island of Faial and is easily reached from Pico after 10 to 15 minutes by boat. When the waves on the Atlantic Ocean are to forceful, but the wind direction is correct, shrimp cave, due to the protection of Faial, is an ideal dive site.

On a depth of approximately 32m, you'll find the entrance of a cave without the side aisles. It's narrower upwards and after 20m you come into a kind of room, located higher up. When diving on shrimp cave, you certainly can't have any problems with your ears, as you'll need to descend a few meters deeper at the end, for your return and exit at the one and only entrance.

During the dive, we see two large congers, many striped brushing shrimp, a beer-lobster and two cod. As the temperature in the cave during the dive was only 16 degrees Celsius and we couldn't go deco diving, the time of the stay is limited to a maximum of 10 minutes. Subsequently the dive continues at the much shallower wall of the cliff of Faial. As our dive comes to an end, we get to admire fire worms, large tube worms, wrasses, parrot fish, monk fish, and more.

azores diving faial shrimp cave

Pictures - Photos diving on shrimp cave in the Azores - Faial - the Atlantic Ocean

Diving on Il Entre Mortes in Faial

In the east of Faial, you'll find the Dive Resort Il Entre Mortes in a bowl, sheltered by two large high hills. At this period of the year, people especially dive at the shallow and sandy soil with the intention to spot eagle rays. In addition to these eagle rays we also see peacock flat fish, octopus, wrasses, monk fish, parrot fish, between the rocks a cod, hiding in a rocky gap and on top of the bill a sea horse.

azores faial diving il entre mortes

Pictures - Photos diving at Il Entre Mortes in the Azores - Faial - the Atlantic Ocean

Dive Travel Story scuba diving in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean:

Thursday and Friday 25 - 26 July 2013:

From Brussels to Lisbon in Portugal for a city trip

On the 25th of July, we took a flight from Brussels - Belgium to Lisbon - Portugal. Since Lisbon - Portugal obliges a connection to Horta in Faial - the Azores, we decided, to first take a city trip to Lisbon - Portugal. From there we flew from Lisbon - Portugal, to continue our trip to Pico - the Azores - the Atlantic Ocean. Please also read the Travel story of the city trip to Lisbon - Portugal.

Saturday 27 July 2013:

From Lisbon to Faial and final destination; Pico Island

It's a painfully early start as our flight from Lisbon to Faial in the Azores departs at 8am. At 6.00am, our taxi picks us up at the hotel and after 15 minutes near enough speeding, we reach the airport. Here again we have no problem at all at the check-in and the luggage doesn't even get weighed. This leaves us with plenty of time to slowly stroll around the duty-free shops and have breakfast.

After a prosperous flight of ca 2 hours and 40 minutes, we land at the airport of Horta on Faial. Beforehand we were recommended to take some necessary clothing in the hand baggage, as for this flight it's not uncommon to accidentally leave behind several suitcases. Fortunately, this isn't the case for us and all luggage came along.

Then we take another taxi to the ferry terminal of Horta in Faial, where we opt for a boat transfer to the neighbouring island Pico. During the 20-minute drive to the terminal, we get a great taster of the views of the Azores. The green, well-kept nature of Faial definitely appeals to us.

We are just too late to take the ferry from 10.30am to Pico and normally the following ferry doesn't leave until 13.30pm, but, for one reason or another, today there's an extra service at 11.30am, so we fortunately don't have to wait too long. The transfer from Faial to Pico costs EUR 3.40 and takes approximately 20 minutes.

azores pico port

Pictures - Photos of the port of Pico

Once arrived in Madalena on Pico, we only need to cross the bumpy quay and road to get to Hotel Caravelas, which incidentally is the only hotel in Madalena. According to the price list displayed the price per room is 110 EUR in the high season. We booked this hotel through Jetair and paid only 81 EUR per room. Book everything in advance to find out and compare prices is therefore really recommend! Unfortunately, shortly after noon, we can't check-in at Caravelas, as the room isn't yet available. We're requested to come back within a couple of hours, but can leave the suitcases at the hotel.

No problem, we'll look for the dive centre CW Azores in the meantime, with which we've made an online reservation for a diving and snorkelling package. Of course, we found them like all other dive centres, at the water front. We are warmly welcomed by Dania, who goes through all the necessary clarification and planning for the next ten days. During the completion of the paper work, the a-typical Italian manager, Enrico joins us for a chat.

In the meantime, we started to get extremely hungry and so we go for some food at the restaurant which is located right next to the hotel. A real godsend as our chosen dishes contain the most delicious flavours. After we have satisfied ourselves and tummies we go back to hotel Caravelas, where we now can check-in. Hotel Caravelas has recently carried out renovations, allowing us to sleep in a spacious and comfortable room with bathroom.

We conclude this long day in glory, with a glass on a sunny terrace with a view of the Atlantic Ocean. Cheers!

Sunday 28 July 2013:

Diving, dolphin and whale watching

Morning: 2 dives around Pico toward the caves of Monte de Guia, south-east of Faial and Il Heus, that contains two prominent lava blocks, just in front of the harbour of Pico. Description of the Diving in the caves of Monte de Guia or Diving at Il Real.

At 13.30pm, we once again are expected at CW Azores to take part of the whale watching expedition. The group first is provided with some information about the different types of whales and dolphins that occur in the near surroundings. They also report that we'll mainly see sperm whales and the smaller dolphins. After the briefing, we step on board of the zodiac and leave at full speed to the open ocean.

The first sperm whales we get in our reaping hook, are still on a reasonably far distance and we remain a little unsatisfied, but after a while we approach closer and closer and are even lucky to see the creatures jump up from the water several times. Also, the promised dolphins (common dolphin, Bottle Nose Dolphin and Atlantic spotted dolphin) show their tricks by cheerfully swimming along and making deflected bends.

azores pico dolphins

Pictures - Photos of dolphins (common dolphin, Bottle Nose Dolphin and Atlantic spotted dolphin) in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean

Having followed the dolphins for a while, we return to a group of whales, that includes a number of little ones. The scenario is reasonably foreseeable: the sperm whales get up to the surface to breath a few times, to then disappear under water for a long time. The sperm whales normally rest at this time of the day, which results in rather 'shallow' dives. We wait till after 16.00pm for the first one to start hunting at a deeper depth, which causes his tail to completely stick up from the water. All photo devices click at the same time, as this is a moment everyone has been waiting for. This is the icing on the cake of a successful whale watching trip!

azores pico sperm whale

Pictures - Photos of the sperm whale in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean

On the way back, we also stop at some caves on Faial and at the rock in front of Pico, which appears to be a remnant of a former volcano.

Since we've planned a dive at the distant Princess Alice Bank the following day and we therefore need to leave early in the morning, all participants are expected for the briefing, necessary info and the staging of all diving equipment of this dive at the office of CW Azores at 18.30pm tonight.

Subsequently it's time for a quick bite and call it a night, rather early.

Monday 29 July 2013:

Diving on Princess Alice Bank fir devil rays - mobulas

Today we're on the hunt for devil rays - mobulas near Princess Alice Bank, a dive location 45 nautical miles of Pico. As there's a significant number of participants, we get distributed over three boats, with their own departure time. The first group leaves at 6am, the second at 7.00am and the last group, in which we belong, at 7.30am. We speed for a couple of hours with a loud droning engine and a pacey of 25 knots on a relatively smooth Atlantic Ocean, but are in fact firmly shimmied. We also pass five groups of dolphins, which swim along the boat for a little while.

Once arrived at Princess Alice Bank, it's a question of finding a suitable place to anchor the boat. Subsequently everyone wants to enter the water as soon as possible, as we can't wait to encounter the devil rays - mobulas.

Diving on devil rays - mobulas. Description box of the Diving on Princess Alice Bank.

azores pico mobula

Pictures - Photos diving at the devil rays - mobulas Princess Alice Bank in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean

Once back on board, we get our packed lunches consisting of a double sandwich with cheese, ham and lettuce, a piece of cake, a fruit juice and two sweets. Scanty, but tasty!

After the pause of an hour, it's time for our second dive on Princess Alice Bank.

Around 14.00pm everyone is back on board and we all come to agree: Princess Alice Bank is an mythical dive site. A real must see for diving lovers!

Then we return to Pico. Due to the fierce noise from the engine it's nearly impossible to get into a decent conversation, so everyone keeps themselves to themselves and opts for a spot in the sun to snooze for a bit. Even now we come across a few darting dolphin groups, enthusiastically trying to follow the rhythm of the boat. At around 16.00pm we arrive tired, but satisfied in the harbour of Pico.

Tuesday 30 July 2013:

Diving on blue sharks and swimming with dolphins

This morning we've some shark diving planned on the program. Description box of the Diving on blue sharks.

azores pico blue shark

Pictures - Photos of diving at the blue shark in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean

Today we're also registered to go swimming with wild dolphins, but due to the turbulent ocean we first have to wait and see whether we can even set off the zodiac. Around noon we get a green light and start looking for the offing 'docile' dolphins.

First, we sail along the south coast of Pico before we withdraw the wide ocean, where we quite quickly come across a first group of dolphins. We are in total with six participants, but enter the water per duo, so we don't disturb the creatures too much. We are very unlucky to be the last ones released into the water, so we only see the last two dolphins swimming off. Everyone is hauled back on board and we start looking for the following group of dolphins. This time, we're fortunately let in first, in a group of more than 25 Atlantic spotted dolphins, cheerfully swimming around and among us. What a unique experience!

The third time we are let in the water, we have to use all our strength to follow the Dolphins. Ultimately, we must make an effort to recognize ourselves in the animals, as they easily swim away from us.

Subsequently we head over a roughening ocean to Pico. We pass a group of dolphins that excitedly swims and jumps along the zodiac, so doesn't leave us a choice, but enter the water for one last 'close encounter' with these special animals.

Then it really is 'over and out'. On the way back we get showered by the salty seawater, which isn't too pleasant, but part of the trip!

At night, the clouds get themselves together and we're treated to some heavy rain. The weather in the Azores is very unpredictable and volatile. One moment the sun is bright and shiny, but 10 minutes later it can be the total opposite. That's why it'll probably never be a pure, sunny destination!

Wednesday 31 July 2013:

Pico Island region by car

Since we haven't got any diving trips planned, we opt for some other activities through CW Azores. We have a nice sleep in and enjoy a rich breakfast. Moreover, perfect timing because the wind has turned around, causing a roughening ocean. Diving in such conditions is strongly discouraged.

We decide to explore Pico and rent a car (KIA) at Tropical Rent a car (77 EUR - unlimited mileage and fully comprehensive insurance). We are optimistic and plan to drive around the entire island in a clockwise direction along the coast line.

azores pico roads

Pictures - Photos of the roads of the tour around the island of Pico in the Azores

First, we pass along the north coast of Pico, where you can find many authentic vineyards that are arranged between walls of lava stone, so the vines are protected from the wind and the seawater. Up until the town Sao Roque, the landscape is completely dominated by lava stone. We even drive through small villages of which the houses are increased in this dark porous material. It's something different, but we can't call it very charming.

azores pico unesco vineyards

Pictures - Photos of the UNESCO listed vineyards in the Azores - Pico

azores houses lava stone pico

Pictures - Photos of houses built from lava stone

Just off Sao Roque we are treated to a heavy rain shower. It's raining cats and dogs and we therefore give up on our excursions of enjoying the scenery here. Fortunately, the weather clears up very fast, so we can continue our trip along the idyllic villages on the coast line with a view of the neighbouring island, Sao Jorge.

azores atlantic coastline pico

Pictures - Photos of the Atlantic Ocean on the coast line of Pico

We are now approaching the most eastern point of Pico, where the main line of the road curves 180°, to walk back along the south coast to Madalena. It's in this 'Turn' that we see a small terrace for the first time since our departure from Madalena. Since we are very thirsty, we must of course make a little pit stop. As none comes out to take our order, we take the initiative and order inside, for a very scummy old lady to bring our drinks out reluctantly. We can't really recommend this place.

The weather conditions on this side of the island are striking as it's a lot sunnier, compared to the north side. There is also considerably more wind. Again, we pass several picturesque villages and beautiful look outs on the ocean, but that's all there's to see and do here.

Along the way, we discover that our bright-red Kia doesn't contain the most powerful engine, as it struggles to reach the top of the slopes, even in the first gear. At some point, it's so bad, we have to stop and put some real effort in to get back on the road. Henceforth, we therefore decide wisely to only follow the main roads and don't drive into the steep inland anymore.

Around 5.00pm we get back to Madalena, where we are welcomed with a serious cloudburst. We see everyone running and searching for a shelter, but for some it unfortunately is too late which results in soaking wet, dripping clothes. After a few minutes, the sky clears up and we get to see a radiant sun. Typical for this island!

We hand in our red KIA at the rental company and quickly check the following statistics for completeness: we have driven 120 km along the coast line and were gone for six hours, which means we've driven very slowly and took lots and lots of photo stops!

Thursday 01 August 2013:

Diving and lazing on the pool

Due to the weather condition today, we've planned two dives from Faial. We are diving on shrimp cave and Il Entre Mortes. Description box of the Diving on Shrimp Cave or Diving on Il Entre Mortes. This afternoon we enjoy the swimming pool and laze about.

Friday 02 August 2013:

Diving on blue sharks and lazing by the pool

At 9.00am we are expected at CW Azores for our second day of diving with blue and mako sharks. The sea is extremely restless, making the trip very bumpy. It almost takes two hours to get to the dive site. Fortunately, we come across three dolphin groups (HPCR, Atlantic spotted and Bottle Nose) again, which cause some distraction. Description box of the diving on the blue shark - blue shark.

Just like the previous times, it takes a while before the sharks discover our luring trace, but after 30 minutes, the first blue shark makes an attempt. The dive leader is the first to enter the water, to check if the animals are in their natural habitat or could be a threatening risk for the divers. After about 10-minutes he comes up to the surface and tells us everything is safe. He's even spotted a mako shark, but from the moment the first diver jumps in the water, the elusive mako shark decides to look for a more peaceful and quieter place. Too bad!

Fortunately, there are still 5 blue sharks to observe, photograph and film. After 70 minutes, the dive comes to an end and everyone gets hoisted up on board. Subsequently, we'll have to wait for the following boat of CW Azores that comes to redeem us. Many of our stomachs are put to proof, as the sea on our way back, is as stormy as when we set off. This time we unfortunately don't come across any more dolphins.

We conclude the afternoon with some chilling at the pool of our hotel.

azores pico blue shark

Pictures - Photos of diving at the blue shark in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean

Saturday 03 August 2013:

Diving on blue sharks and swimming with dolphins

When we open the curtains in the morning, we see a clear blue sky with here and there a tiny white cloud. This is the first time on our trip to Pico we see so little clouds.

Third day of diving with sharks. We saw 7 sharks and dolphins (common and risso which are very rare). Description box of the Diving on blue sharks.

At 13.30pm awaits another snorkelling trip with dolphins and in contrast to the last time we now have a full boat with up to 10 enthusiastic snorkelers. First, we go to CW Azores for a briefing about the 5 types of dolphins that occur in the Atlantic Ocean and got told the best ways to approach the animals. Thereafter, we're all provided of the necessary snorkelling equipment and hop on the zodiac.

First, we sail along the south coast of Pico, until we come across a group of dolphins. The supervisor invites everyone to get 'snorkel ready' and after a few minutes the first duo is allowed to enter the water. Soon it's our turn to study and admire the lovely shape and colour of the common dolphins up-close.

At a given moment the zodiac is literally surrounded by more than 50 dolphins. Everyone is wildly enthusiastic; certainly the 'lucky basterds' that are currently in the water and do not know where they should look first!

Since we are dealing with a large group of people and we may only enter the water in twos, the Snorkel time with the dolphins is rather limited. Luckily everyone has a fair chance to enjoy the beast to the utmost, while the crew looks for other dolphin groups until everyone has had the chance to enter the water to swim with the animals at least three times.

During the return trip to Pico we get acquainted with other Belgians, who also appear to be divers. Once we get ashore we go for a drink together on a sunny terrace to exchange some tips and tricks. Cheers!

Sunday 04 August 2013:

Visit to the geological lava formation, Gruta das Torres

In contrast to yesterday there's some extreme overcast and the sun is nowhere to be found. Tanning at the pool there clearly won't be part of our day, today.

Therefore, we decide to take a taxi (10 EUR) to the Gruta das Torres. This lava cave is located 11km of Madalena and is a geological formation of volcanic origin, which was formed from the current and cooling of the underground magma rivers. Guided tours (EUR 7) leave daily, but the capacity per group is limited. Arrive early or make a booking in advance, is therefore advisable.

The tour starts with a multimedia video that explains more about the emergence of the lava cave. The video is in Portuguese and subtitled in English, but due to the technical content it's quite difficult to follow. The necessary material then gets distributed for a successful expedition: flashlight, helmet and hair net for hygienic purposes! Hilarity everywhere when we all put the hair net on.

Afterwards our guide leads us in the dark, cold (ca 13 to 16°C) and damp cave. Sturdy walking shoes are definitely a must as you walk on irregularly shaped lava soil, which is also covered with demolished rocks and stones. The guide provides information and explanation both in Portuguese and English, which gives us more than enough time to take photos. Ultimately, we only walk a few hundred meters through the cave, but because of the many stops and the difficult hop toad, it feels like it's much more.

The entire trip takes a long hour and subsequently we're picked up by the same taxi driver and driven to the centre of Madalena.

The Gruta das Torres isn't necessary a top attraction, but will provide you with enough distraction on a rainy day like this.

azores pico lava gruta das torres

Pictures - Photos of the lava Gruta das Torres in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean

Monday 05 August 2013:

Rest day, saying goodbye to the diving school CW Azores and packing

Our last day in Pico starts with all-around heavy-overcast. Annoying, as we can't go diving today and we're out of alternative activities. We decide to go for an extra-long shower and an extensive breakfast. Subsequently, out of sheer boredom, we start packing our stuff.

Shortly after noon we step inside the tourist office with the question whether they'd be able to arrange a rental car on the neighbouring island Faial for tomorrow. The lady at the desk barely speaks English. Typically the Azores (or Portuguese?) to assign someone like that to a tourist information point! She opens Google translations and asks us to type in everything so that she can get an idea of what we actually want to say. What a fascinating scene! In the end, she knows what we want and contacts one of the car rental companies on Faial. They fortunately have a carriage (Opel Corsa or equivalent) available and we fix our reservation.

Then we go to the ferry terminal to obtain our tickets for the transfer boat tomorrow (3,40 EUR). This to be prepared and spare ourselves from any unpleasant surprises.

In the meantime, the sun has come through and we lay down our lazy bodies at the pool. After a while, it even gets too hot, as there's no wind at all.

When we have baked and roasted for a while, and feel satisfied, it's time for an invigorating shower and to make our way to the diving school CW Azores to say farewell to all team members who have assisted us so well and carefully this holiday.

We conclude the evening with a tasty grilled octopus and a delicious cod dish. Then it really comes to and end and it's time to pack everything we hadn't yet.

Tuesday 06 August 2013:

Transfer from Pico to Faial with round tour and return flight

Since the ferry terminal at Pico is directly opposite our hotel Caravelas, we take it easy and walk within 5 minutes to the Quay, where the ferry sets off promptly at 9.45am to the port of Horta on neighbouring island Faial. The Atlantic Ocean fortunately is very mild today and after a short sailing trip of 30 minutes, we set foot ashore in Horta.

azores horta harbor

Pictures - Photos of the city of Horta in Faial - the Azores - the Atlantic Ocean

Fortunately, the car hire (Autoturistica Faialenze) is located at the ferry terminal, which saves us from walking with our heavy luggage. Handy! Ultimately, they don't have a Corsa or equivalent type available on the parking and we get a free upgrade to a 4x4 jeep. Cool, although it's an old vehicle with more than 130,000 km on the numerator! But the engine of 2800cc is still outstanding, with this beast, we definitely won't have any trouble to concur the hilly landscape!

We decide to drive along the island Faial in a clockwise direction. Since the marina is closed for festivities, we first need to take the old car through the cosy old towns of Horta. Almost all streets are one way directions and rather narrow, no sinecure with our wide chariot!

Once we get back to the main road, we make way to Monte da Guia and Morro de Castelo Branco, two rocky headlands along the south coast of Faial, where we see some breath-taking views.

azores horta morro de castelo branco

Pictures - Photos of the view point Morro de Castelo Branco in Faial - the Azores - the Atlantic Ocean

Then we drive to Ponta dos Capelinhos, the most western point of the island. The green and lush hillsides suddenly change in a barren moon-like landscape, with only lava sand and no single grass sprout. Fascinating! When the volcano Capelinhos erupted here in 1957 - 1958 it really left its mark, as vegetation since hasn't been possible again. Some wind gusts occasionally ensure a heavy sand storm, which is still noticeable after a few hours, as we keep finding sand in our ears!

azores ponta dos capelinhos faial

Pictures - Photos of the view point, Ponta dos Capelinhos in Faial - the Azores - the Atlantic Ocean

We continue our journey further along the North- and east coast of Faial, where we find some stunning view points, but nothing too special.

Once we return to Horta, we have a quick snack and drive towards the mountains to see some of the volcano with our 4x4. Unfortunately, we lack time to reach the top and have to take a turn to the airport instead.

When we reach the airport at 16.15pm, the jeep counts 105 kilometres on the numerator. The car rental company at the airport has a little office, so we can leave the jeep on the spot. How convenient! The price to rent the car for one day turns out to be a bitter pill to swallow: EUR 80 (59 EUR as a starting price + 16% VAT + extra omnium insurance).

The airport of Horta proposes nothing and is rather tiny. For this reason, lining up for check-in only takes a little while, where after everyone makes way to the first floor to watch the planes landing and taking-off. There is only one snack bar and one tax-free shop. That's all!

At around 18.45 we set of (with negligible delay) toward European mainland. Another short flight of 2 hours and 15 minutes to Lisbon. There we take a taxi (18 EUR) to Hotel Turim Suisso Atlantico. In contrast to our previous stay, we're now assigned to a smaller corner room on the fourth floor (probably due to our late check-in, after 22.00pm). Since the room only functions as a place to sleep and shower, we don't bother asking for another room, take out the most necessary luggage and finally fall asleep like a block.

Wednesday and Thursday 7 - 8 August 2013:

City trip in Lisbon - Portugal, to subsequently fly to Brussels - Belgium

We stayed for another 2 nights in Lisbon, to conclude our city trip. On Thursday the 8th of August we booked a late flight to arrive back home on Friday the 9th of August at 01.30pm, after an amazing and very pleasurable holiday. Please also read the Travel story of the city trip in Lisbon - Portugal.

Dolphins in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean:

There are 5 types of dolphins found around the islands of Pico - the Azores and call the Atlantic Ocean their habitat. From Pico and faial, there are organised excursions so you can snorkel with the dolphins.

Dolphin and whale watching in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean:

In the Azores, there are organised trips leaving from Pico, Faial, Terceira and Sao Miguel, to spot and watch whales and dolphins. The legendary giants of the sea, can only be admired in certain periods of the year. So is the trek from the Blue Whale, with a length of max. 30m, the largest animal in the world is in March. But this phenomenon is also still regularly up to mid-May.

From April to mid-May you can spot the following whales.

In July and August you can spot the following whales and dolphins:

Whale species:

As well as 5 dolphin species:

The following species sometimes occur :

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Useful information about the Azores - Pico:

Medical information about the Azores in Portugal:

Hyperbaric chambers and emergency contacts in the Azores on the islands of Faial and Sao Miguel:

Emergency Numbers:

Diving school in the Azores - Pico - the Atlantic Ocean:

The crew of CW Azores - Cetaceanwatching is knowledgeable and cool. They want to show you as much as possible and you to enjoy yourself even more. Please note, wildlife doesn't have ears to listen to your wished and always does its own thing. Especially when we're speaking about large fish. But CW Azores - Cetaceanwatching managed to maintain our expectations in terms of the diving.

The diving school CW Azores - Cetaceanwatching has a total of 3 ribs and 1 aluminium boat. All the boats are very well maintained and have powerful engines. If the Atlantic Ocean permits it, the 4 boats of CW Azores - Cetaceanwatching could cruise at a speed of 25 knots per hour without problem. All skippers are very skilful license holders and will make the trips as pleasant as possible. Of course, the duration time of the sailing is therefore often a little longer than originally planned. The meteo gets continuously checked and communication about coordinates to other boats is very consistent. All of this to make the divers, snorkelers or whale spotters - whale watchers as comfortable as possible.

The CW Azores - Cetaceanwatching speak Dutch, French, English, German, Portuguese and Italian. It is nice to ask your questions in your own language, but the general language obviously is English. Most tourists we met on board could speak (a little bit of) English, which made if fun and easier to exchange experiences.

In addition to the diving CW Azores - Cetaceanwatching also organises whale watching and swimming with dolphins. They have some very strict rules for this, so that the whales and dolphins are disturbed as little as possible in their natural habitat. CW Azores - Cetaceanwatching does this by keeping sufficient distance (in which it's still easy to see them), to adjust the speed of sailing or let in a maximum of 2 people to swim with the dolphins. The dolphins must show interest in the group as well, otherwise you won't see them. Of the 5 types of dolphins in the Azores, they only go snorkelling with 3 of them - the common dolphin, Bottle Nose Dolphin and the Atlantic spotted dolphin. CW Azores - Cetaceanwatching always respects the wildlife, while you still feel like you're on a expedition. Lovely people and a fantastic experience!

The climate in the Azores:

The time difference in the Azores vs. Belgium

Language Use:




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