What is whale watching?
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When it started and its originWhale hunting, more properly the sperm whale hunting was for many years an important source of income of the Azoreans and particularly the Picoenses (population of Pico). It began in 1864 and lasted until 1987, the year in which was captured the last sperm whale. The whale watching was born in The Azores and more precisely in the Pico Island in 1989 when the sailor Serge Viallelle, a young ecologist, stopped by the archipelago and found an ancient whaler named João Vigia. From their common passion emerged, in 1991, the first Observation Base of Cetaceans of The Azores, in Lajes of Pico (Espaço Talassa). It was the start of an activity that characterizes one of the main touristic activities of Pico. This new “industry” knew how to use the ancient look-outs of whale hunting, going from look-outs, that once worked for the whaler industry, to communicate (through VHF radio) the location and identification (species and number of individuals) of the cetaceans and this way leading the boats of several companies to the cetaceans.
Why is Pico one of the best areas of the world for whale watching?The Azores Archipelago is considered one of the biggest cetaceans sanctuary of the world and therefore one of the best destinies to observe these glorious marine mammals. Due to the depth of the seabed in the South of Pico, the animals are able to get pretty close to the shore. It’s for this reason that the Lajes of Pico are one of the best places in The Azores, and of the world, to observe whales.
What are the species that can be observed during the whale watching in Pico?In the Azores, there have been already identified 28 species of cetaceans of the 81 registered in the whole world. The species the most spotted, in the region of The Azores, are the Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis), the short-beaked common dolphin (Delphinus delphis), the common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus), the Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus) and the sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus). In the image below you can see all the species of whales and dolphins that can be spotted in The Azores. Some of these species can only be spotted at certain times of the year, but they are all part of the list of species that in a tour of Whale Watching in Pico can be seen by the tourists.
What are the best times of the year to do whale watching?Throughout the whole year, you can see the short-beaked common dolphin, the Risso’s dolphin, the sperm whale and the common bottlenose dolphin. During spring it’s possible to observe the migration of three of the biggest animals of the world, the blue whale, the fin whale and the sei whale. They come from the South, from where they spent the winter and had their offspring, and they stop by The Azores between the months of March and June, swimming in direction of the North Atlantic, searching for food supplies in the summer.
What are the companies that do Whale Watching in Pico?For an educational experience, the best companies of Whale Watching no Pico have a team of marine biologists that before the boat trip will provide you with an explanation about which species can be observed, the security measures that all should have on board, how to respect the animals and the observation rules of the sea, as well as some very interesting historical facts. You’ll find below the link to some of these companies. Espaço Talassa: https://www.espacotalassa.com/ Futurismo Azores Adventures: https://www.futurismo.pt/ Aqua Açores: https://aquaacores.pt/
Recommendations for an unforgettable experience of cetacean observation:
- Take comfortable clothes and shoes, sunglasses, a hat and sunscreen;
- Take a jacket, because in the high seas there is always breeze;
- Take water and light snacks;
- Take a pill for nausea about 30 min before the beginning of the trip;
- If you are pregnant you should consult your doctor beforehand. In case they approve, you should do the trip on board of a catamaran and not a semi-rigid boat. The same applies to someone with spine problems;
- Respect all of the indications of the guides and marine biologists;
- Don’t forget the binoculars and the camera. You will want to capture every moment!