Diving#4 in Best Things To Do in The Azores
Ever thought about learning how to dive? If you want to go to the Azores, now is the time. The Azores is overflowing with vibrant sea life. In addition to being a whale sanctuary (that sees more than 20 different species of cetaceans), the Azores is also home to plenty of fish, sharks, octopuses, turtles, mobulas (a type of ray) and so much more. Along with its diverse marine life, the archipelago's underwater topography is just as varied. Take a dive in the Azores and you'll be greeted with volcanic formations, such as crater lakes, caves and pinnacles. Shipwrecks are a common sight here, too. What's more, the archipelago exercises a strong commitment to preserving its natural landscapes, meaning you won't find dive sites that have clearly seen one too many visitors.
You can find dive centers on every island except São Jorge and Corvo. If you know where you want to go, it's best to center your Azores itinerary around the island that has your desired dive site. Popular spots around the islands include Princess Alice Bank in the waters surrounding Pico Island, the Terceirense shipwreck on Graciosa Island and Dom João de Castro Bank between the islands of São Miguel and Terceira, to name a few. New divers should, on the other hand, seek out dive centers that offer lessons or cater to beginners, as they will know the best sites to take novice divers to. The highly-rated Best Spot Azores Dive Center and Season Challenge Azores Island Diving Center, located on São Miguel, both feature dive courses taught by PADI-certified instructors. Summer is the best time to go diving thanks to the warm water temperature and calm ocean conditions. Though if you are intent on spotting whales, the best chance of seeing them is in the early springtime.
Hours and prices vary by dive center around the island. For more information about diving in the Azores, visit the islands' tourism board website.
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#1 Whale Watching
The Azores is probably one of the best places in the world to go whale watching. That's because it is one of the world's largest whale sanctuaries, with more than 20 different species of cetaceans that either call the archipelago home or pass through during their yearly migrations. At any given time, you'll be able to spot common and bottlenose dolphins and sperm whales on your tour. Different seasons also bring different species through the islands. Summer is a good time to see spotted dolphins, pilot whales, striped dolphins and bearded whales while the beginning of spring is great for blue whales, sei whales and fin whales. Because so many cetaceans live and pass through these waters, the probability of venturing out on a boat and seeing nothing is extremely unlikely.
Whale and dolphin watching tours in the Azores tend to last for a few hours and can be arranged on multiple islands. Highly rated tour operators include Futurisimo, which departs from the Pico and São Miguel islands, Terra Azul, based in São Miguel and OceanEmotion, located on Terceira. Recent tourgoers agree that this is undoubtedly a can't-miss experience while in the Azores. Visitors across a number of tours were complimentary of their knowledgeable guides, some of whom are marine biologists, as well as the crew. Additionally, many were happy to report that they saw a number of dolphins and whales during their trip.
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