The Azores are well-known for its marine wildlife. Whales, dolphins or sea birds attract every year many people. In this blog entry I write more about the wildlife in the Azores I have seen in April. The Azores is an interesting place year-round for outdoor activities. But spring is the best time of the year for whale watching.
Marine wildlife in the Azores
Sperm whales. Bottlenose dolphins. Or even blue whales.
The Azores is a spectacular place for whale and dolphin watching! In my previous blog entry I wrote already about my whale and dolphin encounters around Pico Island.
I saw playful dolphins like short-beaked common dolphins or bottlenose dolphins.
For a very short moment I even saw striped dolphins. Although they are usually seen in the summer months, we saw them passing far away. It was April. Thus, I was really very, very lucky to have seen them in spring.
On two boat trips we observed Risso’s dolphins.
These dolphins are not as frequently seen on a whale watching trip like, for example, the common dolphins. But still, I had the chance to observe them for some moments.
I also was lucky enough to have seen the largest toothed whale.
The sperm whale.
I saw sperm whales several times in the Azores, but I met one common whale species on "just" one whale watching trip.
It is always difficult to say which whale or dolphin encounter was the most special one. However, meeting the largest animal that has ever lived on earth, was indeed a very special event for me.
But still, I felt very grateful for every encounter I had in the Azores!
Information: Do you want to know more about my whale and dolphin encounters on Pico Island? Please visit my previous blog entry where I write about my whale watching experiences in the Azores in more detail.
On our whale watching trips around the waters of Pico Island we not only saw just whales and dolphins, but also other wildlife.
One of the most prominent bird in the Azores is the Cory’s shearwater.
Often, they can be seen close to dolphins.
No whale watcher in the Azores will miss this bird on a boat trip. They are everywhere.
At least in April, because Cory’s shearwaters can be seen in the Azores only from February to November.
In Portuguese, they are known as "cagarros". However, interestingly, I have heard that some locals don’t know Cory’s shearwaters at all. Probably, because of their mode of life, as these birds spend most of their time at sea.
We saw quite many of them. Either in flight or resting in groups on the water surface.
They can be distinguished easily from other birds. They have a creamy brown plumage and white underparts. Their bills are yellow.
They spent most of their time at sea. However, they come to land for nesting. They nest, for example, in burrows. Both females and males take care of the egg. The chick will hatch around July.
The most vulnerable time for the chicks is from October to November when they leave the nests. As artificial lights like road lights might lead the birds into the wrong directions, these young birds need help to find the right direction to the sea.
This is important, because they need to take off either from a cliff or over the water.
That is the reason why organizations like SOS Cagarro in the Azores organizes every year night walks in autumn.
I was actually looking for a possibility to observe these birds on land with an environmentally friendly NGO. However, April is still too early.
On our whale watching trips, we saw some more sea birds. We regularly saw - but not in such a great number like the Cory’s shearwater - yellow-legged gulls.
We also saw regularly - especially around Lajes - Portuguese man-of-wars.
Consequently, as we saw so many Portuguese man-of-wars, we also observed frequently loggerhead sea turtles. Portuguese man-of-wars are an important food source for loggerhead sea turtles.
More wildlife in the Azores
There is also wildlife on land.
Almost everywhere on Pico Island you can find Madeira lizards.
They are very shy and hide as fast as possible when feeling threatened.
One interesting animal I got to know - but unfortunately couldn’t see - was the Azorean bat. It is, by the way, the only endemic mammal in the Azores. Meaning, this bat only occurs on these islands and nowhere else. They are quite unusual, as they fly during the daytime.
I also saw the following birds:
Information: Apparently, best time of the year for bird watching in the Azores is autumn. As my main focus on Pico was marine wildlife, I just went for bird watching around my accommodation (which was also quite nice). Do you know a good bird watching spot in the Azores? If yes, please let me know in the comments.
The Whale Museum in Lajes
Did you know that the last whales in the Azores were hunted in 1987?
The Museu dos Baleeiros - as it is known in Portuguese - is a museum about whaling and located in the south east of Pico Island. The museum is dedicated to the history of whaling in the Azores.
Our visit of the museum started in a small room where they showed us visitors how the people in the Azores had hunted whales in the past.
In another room people could see the tools used for whaling and a whaling boat.
In the same room was also a jaw of a whale on the wall.
In the museum they explained for what they had used parts of the whales. For example, they had used sperm whales for producing oil.
And in another room they showed arts and crafts.
Tip: I went to the museum on a bad weather day. Thus, I suggest to use a good weather day for outdoor activities and a rainy, windy and cloudy day for a visit in the museum.
How to get there
I think there is not just one way to the Azores. Of course, you need to arrive by plane or boat, but the people I talked to came from different directions. Some arrived at the airport on Pico Island. While others took a plane to Faial to get to Pico Island by ferry. Some came to the Azores to just visit Pico Island. While others traveled to more than just one island.
There are several flights from Lisboa or from the other islands. Just look on the website of SATA Air Açores or TAP Air Portugal.
If you arrive in Horta on Faial, you need to take the ferry to get to Madalena on Pico Island.
Please check the website of Atlântico Line to get more information about the timetable and the prices.
How to get around: Please not that there is almost no public transport on Pico Island. If you want to see more of the island, the best way to get around is by rental car. There are several companies in Madalena. I chose the one, CW Azores (whale watching company) had recommended.
I stayed at the Alma do Pico. The address of the accommodation is Alma do Pico, Rua dos Biscoitos 34, 9950-333 Madalena, Portugal.
I was very happy with that accommodation, as the small houses were located in a very nice place surrounded by trees. Alma do Pico is not directly in Madalena. It took me about half an hour to get to CW Azores by foot. Most people at the accommodation, however, had a rental car.
For me it was the perfect place.
In the morning I was sitting in front of the small house, drinking some tea and listening to the birds.
In the morning they served a very delicious breakfast. Then I was ready for whale watching.
Even the view from the breakfast room was amazing. On the left I had a view onto the Pico Mountain. And on the right, I saw the sea.
It was indeed a very special place. A place to enjoy and relax. A place to listen to the birds. And a place where I felt welcome.
More about wildlife in the Azores
Do you know the Azores? Have you seen much wildlife in the Azores? Please let me know more about your experiences in the comments.