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Seeking recommendations for the Azores


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#1 danielandrewclem

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Posted 07 August 2018 - 08:14 AM

Thinking of taking a family trip (as young as 5 to as old as 80) in summer 2019 to the Azores. About half of us would be interested in doing some diving and/or whale watching and possibly whale swimming if the permits aren't too expensive. (We did the whale swim experience in Tonga last summer and loved int.) If the prospects are good I will bring my u/w photography setup.

 

Happy to take advice on where to stay, what to do, how to get around, too. We'd be flying there from Boston, most likely. Mostly looking to just chill out, drink some wine, eat some seafood, and enjoy the views. 

 

Thanks.


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#2 alibullock

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Posted 09 August 2018 - 06:20 PM

Hi Daniel.

 

Happy to offer some suggestions for you about the Azores. It is a beautiful place and has some amazing countryside and wildlife. The diving is world class and there are plenty of opportunities to dive with Dolphins and Whales in a responsible way. I would definitely bring your photography equipment!

 

As for staying here, your main island is Sao Miguel - I would start here (especially if you have a family.) We have a family house up for rent that has 4 bedrooms that might work for you, it is being worked on at the moment (ready for a Jan '19 soft launch) so it might be perfect! Check out www.solarbranco.com or email me at solarbranco@gmail.com for more details on that.

 

On the island there are a number of restaurants to eat in, all are very reasonably priced and family friendly. The island is well set up for tours around and there is plenty for your family to see and do. Flights from Boston are quite frequent and we have met a number of people from the US at the places we have stayed.

 

Seafood is amazing and fresh, Cais 21 is a great restaurant to eat in, check out this link for more info, http://www.solar-branco.com/guides/

 

A hire car is a good idea though not essential. The island is easy to drive around and very safe. Hope all that helps and do drop me an email if I can help further.

Ali



#3 danielandrewclem

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Posted 11 August 2018 - 05:48 PM

Thanks, Ali. We will definitely check out your place and get back to you if we commit to visiting the Azores. 


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#4 bmorescuba

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Posted 20 August 2018 - 06:10 PM

We visited the Azores for the first time in July, 2018. We stayed on São Miguel Island for 9 days, our entire trip. Having never been before, we like to stay on one island and really explore, rather than island hop. Our flights were very easy (BWI->JFK->PDL, about 6 hours). But I know there are direct BOS->PDL flights, too. We stayed at an AirBNB in Ribeira Das Tainhas, only about 5 minutes drive from Vila Franca do Campo. From what I can tell, all the diving on the island is done from Vila Franca do Campo or from Ponta Delgada. We didn't want to stay in a more populated area, so we chose Vila Franca.
 
The island is very beautiful and has lots of black sand beaches, mountains, wonderful vistas, numerous hiking trails, and picturesque villages. Some of our favorite places to visit were the town of Furnas with hot springs and a botanical garden, and the Cha Gorreana tea plantation in the north. A car is definitely required to see everything. Being based in Vila Franca, we were able to explore the entire island and nothing was more than 75 minutes away. Food, lodging, and things like entrance fees were reasonably priced. But, we eat simply. We did a whale watching trip with Terra Azul. We saw mostly dolphins and a few pilot whales. Fun, but the boat was crowded.
 
I was able to do 4 mornings of 2-tank dives and one night dive. I did all the dives with Azores Sub (http://azoressub.com/). Here are the dive sites we visited:
 
Morning 1: MV Dori Wreck & Caloura Arches
Morning 1: Amora (Dusky Groupers) & Tufo
Morning 1: Ponta Galeria & Baixa Das Cracas
Morning 1: Caloura Arches, Ponta da Cozinha
Night: Ponta da Cozinha (2nd time, night)
 
Azores Sub was great. The second day, I was the only person who showed up in the morning and they still sent 2 staff out for a whole morning of diving. I've never used a shop who would send a boat out with one diver. That really impressed me. Once they saw I was comfortable, they let me do my own thing and take pictures.
 
All the diving was from a RIB and the sites were an average of a 15 minutes by boat. The MV Dori was the farthest, about 30 minutes, and Cozinha was super close (at the rock Ilheu), only 5 minutes away. The RIB held a max of 12 divers, which we had the first day with a big group from Spain. That was quite crowded, but still safe. Most days it was 5-6 people. The tanks were DIN and 12L was standard. 15L on request. They also had some DIN adapters. The shop crew would transport the assembled gear to and from the boat and even rinse it. I was able to store all my gear there during my visit, which was very helpful. The cost wound up being less than $40 US/dive, which seemed quite reasonable. We met at the shop around 0830 and got back in around 1300. The dives were about an hour, but not too strict on that. The average depth was about 50ft. and the water temps were between 68°-70°F. I was comfortable in a 5mm full wetsuit without hood or gloves, but I run a little warm.
 
I really enjoyed the diving because it was different than anything I'd done before. I'm all about photos and small stuff. There were nudibranchs and bivalves on every dive. Lots of wrasses and some schooling fish. Didn't really see anything big, except some dusky groupers. The consensus was that the much-advertised big stuff (mantas, mobulas, big sharks) required 2+ hour boat rides (or a different island) and a number of people interested. We didn't have that. There wasn't really much coral, per se. Lots of volcanic rock, lots of swim-throughs, boulders, caverns, etc. I'd definitely dive it again. Here's a few sample pictures and my gallery is here:
 
 

Attached Images

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#5 danielandrewclem

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Posted 21 August 2018 - 05:50 AM

Thanks very much for your thorough reply. We're pretty sure we'll go next summer (possible we'll opt for April if it's less expensive, less crowded, and better for seeing cetaceans) so it's very helpful to get info about the dive sites, water temperature, and what to do. Nice shots!


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