Whale Watching in the Azores

Although this happened a couple of months ago now (I have been very lazy with my blogs lately, despite the fact that I have done some amazing things….I will rectify!) I still feel the need to share it.

Seven days into an 11 day transatlantic crossing the ship I was on stopped in the Azores on the island of Sao Miguel.  The Azores is an Archipelago about 1500km off the coast of Portugal.  Sao Miguel is the biggest island, which is a good job as our ship was massive!

I stopped there last year and tried to dive but the weather was too bad to dive on the wreck we wanted to so we splashed about in the shallows.  Not that much fun.  This year, however, was a different story.  The weather was fantastic and I opted not to dive but instead went whale watching.

Whale watching is always a pretty risky business.  Not in terms of danger but in terms of what you may or may not see.  We did a bit of research before hand and was informed that it was quite common see humpback whales there and dolphins from time to time.  However upon arrival we discovered that we had hit the jackpot; there was a blue whale in the area and had been spotted several times that morning.  We wasted no time in slipping on our waterproofs and life jackets and running for the boat.

As it turns out whale watching is not an exact science.  It involves everyone in the boat basically looking out a the ocean and shouting at the top of their voice if they think they see something.  We had been told what to look for (a slight change in the colour and quality of the water, water shooting up in the air from the whale’s blow whole) and sat on the edge of our seats (literally, the seats were a ‘straddle’ affair that were not that comfortable!) surveying the glass like ocean.  It was intense to say the least.  Nobody spoke.  We all just waited, you could cut the air with a knife.

We were lucky because the weather was so calm and there was barely a cloud in the sky.  It was still pretty cold though but our perseverance paid off and after a few minutes a whale was spotted, the captain floored it and we sped, cameras in hand, to the suspected area…only to find we were too late.

Apparently unlike other kinds of whales that may come to the surface for air and stay there for some time, blue whales tend to surface for a minute or two, load up on air and dive straight back down staying under for maybe fifteen minutes.  As a result we knew we had a few minutes to kill but we stayed in the general area.

Again a voice cried out and a direction was indicated and we sped to the area but this time we were lucky and what we saw was quite breath taking.  We managed to see this enormous mammal surface.  It was so graceful and appeared like it was moving in slow motion.  Its back came out of the water then as we had all hoped its giant tail followed.  I am sure that the tail was as big as a car.  It was then that I felt completely vindicated in buying a new zoom lens for my camera as i managed to get a great shot of the tail exiting the water and the sea falling from it like a waterfall.

The only sounds that could leave anyone mouth we generally ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ and ‘wows’. We each momentarily lost the power to form sentences with any kind of comprehendible vocabulary.  It was quite breathtaking.  We had just caught a glimpse of what could quite possibly be the largest living thing on the planet, certainly the largest thing anyone of us had ever seen.

After it dived again there were a few moments of silence before anyone said anything.  We had all been aware that we may not see anything at all on this trip.  We had hoped to see some humpback whales, which would have been great but to have the privilege to see a blue whale, a very rare event, was quite incredible.

We were lucky enough to see this beautiful creature twice more during our trip and I was lucky enough to snap a couple of really great photos.  The memory of the experience certainly helped us to make it through the forty minute ride back to the port through some pretty rough seas!

I saw a frigging blue whale.

the end.

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4 thoughts on “Whale Watching in the Azores

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