The Azores archipelago is located in the heart of the Gulf Stream, in the Atlantic Ocean, far off the coast of Portugal on the edge of the European continental shelf.
Teeming with marine life, the archipelago is one of the most interesting and diverse in the world. We have chosen to visit two islands : Pico, with its never-ending clear blue water, and Santa Maria Island, the southernmost and warmest of the Azores. Diving at these locations means stunning visibility in summer season : over 30 metres in the peculiar chromatism of Atlantic Ocean, a true blessing for observing the blue shark, one of the most graceful and elusive pelagic, usually totally uninterested in human contact. Being lured by the smell of bait, once you will have gained their faith, they will quietly swim close by instead of rush away as they usually does.
Santa Maria island is well worth more than a visit for diving with schools of fishes, resident schools of mobula Tarapacana (at a dive sanctuary only 15 min of navigation from the marina), groupers, snappers, huge sting rays, moray eels, sea turtles, schools of dolphins and birds feeding on bait-balls, invertebrates, and the drama of the underwater scenery that makes this place so special.
When we add the chance of snorkelling with various species of dolphins, and sometimes the elusive mola mola (sun fish) or the manta birostris (Oceanic manta), this trip converts in a visual feast and photographic opportunities truly not to be missed. Occasional encounter with whale sharks can occur, even if it is totally unpredictable.
Unless abnormal phenomenon, usually in August and September there are the better weather and sea conditions to head out to the ocean and dive, at the mercy of potentially strong Atlantic ocean currents. In case of winds and high waves, Santa Maria offers sheltered dive-spots along the coasts, but be prepare to bump a little on the zodiac and remember we will partly navigate in the open ocean.
The group size is limited to max 6 participants plus the guides.
ins and outs
The first part of the journey will be in Pico island, for sighting and diving up close with blue sharks (Prionace glauca) in the blue, without cages. In the second part, we will move to Santa Maria island, for endless dives in different locations and sceneries, among them the off shore site of Formigas / Dollabarat and three Marine Protected Areas specifically established and reserved for the divers (no other activities are allowed) : Baixa do Ambrosio, Baixa da Maia and Baixa da Pedrinha. The islands’ traditional food is delicious and the local people friendly and helpful.
Classic tour. 12 days, 11 nights : 3 full days dive off shore Pico; 1 full day off shore to Formigas and Dollabarat; other days off shore are possible on demand; 5 days scuba diving and snorkelling Santa Maria Island; 4 nights’ accommodation in apartment in Madalena; 7 nights’ accommodation in hotel or private house in Vila do Porto; services bed and breakfast and taxes; shared transfer return-trip; private use of the zodiac. Accommodation in Lisbon, in case of overnight, on demand. All activities will be brought by skilled guides.
Is this trip right for you ?
Expect an active journey. This trip is perfect for divers who have a good balance and strength, who have already experienced close encounters with large pelagic and want to improve their skills in taking pictures of fast moving animals. In order to safely dive with sharks in the blue, without cages, a serious discipline is mandatory. Our guide is a biologist specialized in sharks, and we need to follow his advices. For fellows who are not addicted on schedules, as the program- me might change without prior warning in order to grasp the better opportunities.