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Diving in The Azores

A hidden gem that has been referred to as "the last hidden treasure of Europe", the Azores holds spectacular underwater landscape and nutrient rich water which acts as a passing refuge for marine species from the colossal blue whale to the miniscule sea horse.

Diving in The Azores

Quick facts

Seasons in the Azores play a huge role in what can be seen and the conditions of your dive. The winter months are empty of tourists with Atlantic storms battering the rugged coastline, yet the diving is surprisingly abundant with life, despite the water temperature dropping to 58F (14C). The spring is when tourists start arriving, night diving at this time is fantastic with sightings of tope shark, squid, thornback rays and clouds of krill to name a few. July to October is high season in the Azores, due to the blue shark and manta seasons that operate from Pico, Faial and Santa Maria islands.

Princess Alice Bank, 50 nautical miles (93km) from Pico Island is one of the Azores’ world class dive sites. Two and a half hours by boat, the site is a pinnacle that comes within 95ft (27m) of the surface. Here shoals of pelagic fish swarm, attracted by the nutrient rich water and current. The bottom of the pinnacle is starkly beautiful with deep ridges and gorges, so explore the vast pinnacle within your dive limit and seek huge rays, morays and pelagic life. On the accent keep your eyes on the blue, where Mobula glide towards you, sometimes in groups as large as 30-40 individuals.

Visibility off the coast of the Azores varies from 15ft to 120ft (5m to 40m) due to the numerous upwellings and thermoclines, however the offshore dives enjoy constant 105ft (35m) visibility due to the deep water that exceeds 7000ft (2000m).

The majority of dive companies in the Azores dive operate with Zodiac (R.I.B) boats for the dives, allowing easy access in and out of the water.

Dive companies in the Azores offer dive packages that include a number of coastal, offshore and deep blue dives.

When to go

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USD 2,255Per trip

What to see

Due to its location the Azores has an abundance of life, from multi-coloured nudibranchs to record breaking mako sharks - the slogan of the Azores is ‘expect the unexpected’. Coastal diving offers various highlights such as slipper lobsters, 9ft (3m) pregnant stingrays that glide in the current streams and dusky groupers the size of a door. However it is the offshore diving that is really astounding, the rich and deep Atlantic water lures in shoals of pelagic life such as barracuda, marlin, wahoo, tuna and jack fish. The Azores is also one of Europe's premier shark diving destinations, where blue, mako, hammerhead and even whale sharks are seen in visibility that exceeds 120ft (40m).

The landscape of the Azores is a factor that makes the islands unique. Due to its relatively young geological age, the underwater strata is constantly changing, full with steep drop offs and volcanic arches, gorges and canyons that beg to be explored.

Calendar

For better readability of the table, pass into the landscape mode.

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Area

The Azores are located 850 miles (1360km) from mainland Portugal and 1,200 miles (2000km) from Newfoundland. For years the Azores has been the mid point for transatlantic sailors on their voyage across the ocean. Located on the Mid Atlantic Ridge the Azores is young in age with the coast still covered with ash, lava and pumice, remnants of the islands violent volcanic activity.

As part of Portugal the main spoken language in the Azores is Portuguese however the majority of dive centres and tourist attractions speak English due to the influx of tourism.

Each of the eight Azorean islands are different in terms of landscape and culture, Pico Island is dwarfed by Pico Volcano, the tallest mountain in Portugal at 7700ft (2350m). Faial Island and San Miguel are famed for their lagoons and highland calderas, while Sao Jorge has a number of waterfalls and dense forests to explore.

Temperatures in the Azores rarely fall below freezing however due to it’s location in the gulf stream, the climate is often humid, with temperatures reaching 95F (35C) in July and September.

Other attractions

Although diving is the premier allure of the Azores, tourists flock from around the globe to partake in other activities that the islands offer. The Azores is home to over 30 species of cetacean that either migrate through islands or are resident inhabitants. The baleen whale season from March to June sees one of the largest concentrations of ocean giants in one place at one time and is world renowned for whale watching and dolphin swimming. Don’t forget to sample the local cuisine of the Azores, fresh cheese from Sao Jorge Island and wine and agua-dente (local Azorean moonshine) are a must. The various lagoons, mountains and stunning highland pastures are an appeal for hikers of all ages, the Azores are truly a hidden gem lost in the middle of the Atlantic.

Getting there

Getting to the Azores is not complicated but can take time. Many international airports fly direct to Sao Miguel (the largest Azorean island). However if you are looking to visit the other islands in the archipelago you have to fly to Lisbon and then get a connecting flight with SATA to the island of your choice.

Car, moped and bike rental is available on the islands, however book in advance to avoid disappointment as public transport is not yet fully functional or convenient.

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+351

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230 V

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HOR

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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.