Where exactly are the Azores? + Weather
They are a mid-atlantic archipelago of 9 islands between Europe and America. There are 3 groups of Islands. It takes 1 hour to the eastern group and 2 1/2 hours to fly to the central group of islands where we are based . They are part of Portugal.
Average monthly temperatures are given below for the Azores (Horta/Pico ).
Who goes on the trips?
People of all ages and backgrounds who share a passion for dolphins, adventure and new experiences. Our groups are made up of people of diverse backgrounds and many interesting connections are often made. These are active holidays so you need to be of an good physical fitness and enjoy being in nature and the elements. Our clients vary from couples, friends, families and independent travellers. We offer family weeks that are most suitable for children . Trips during school term time are more adult focused and generally cheaper with better flight prices too. The holidays are suitable if you are travelling alone as you are part of a group. There is also plenty of time for socialising and to spend time alone.
What do the group holidays involve?
Each group is unique and takes on a life of its own. We listen to everyone’s interests and you can add extra activities that suit you best. There is a thorough introductory meeting for everyone at the beginning of the holiday before we go out on the boats as a group. You are free to socialise as much or as little as you choose.You will be given a lot of information about other activities and tour options which can be taken with others who feel like doing the same things. There are various informative talks and presentations.
How large are the groups?
The maximum group size is 8 people on the boat. We have found this to be an optimum number, enough people for diversity, but small enough to remain personal. This means everyone has plenty of opportunity for interactions with the dolphins. We enter the water in pairs on a rotation basis which means our guests can be observed by the dolphin swim guide and assisted if necessary. Also it is low impact for the dolphins to only have 2 humans with them at a time and they can approach us on their terms. The view from the RIB zodiac boats is excellent as the dolphins are riding close to us in the bow wave!
What can I do to prepare for the holiday?
Practice snorkelling, if you want to get the hang of it. We do offer a short snorkeling training, but if you are confident before you arrive you will maximize your chances of some great underwater encounters. Regular swimming to develop fitness and stamina helps, get fit with your preferred form of exercise and let yourself enjoy the anticipation! It is possible to float
Do the boats disturb the dolphins?
In cooperation with the local Azorean authorities, a recognised code of conduct and ethics on the water has been established. These regulations ensure the dolphins, people and the environment are respected. The dolphins love the boats and play in the bow waves. We would never endorse anything that disturbed them and follow a low impact policy. Our time in the water is safe, closely supervised and only when the dolphins are interested. They approach us on their terms. We only allow 2 people in the water at any one time. There is a wonderful spirit of cooperation and mutual respect out on the water. We keep a specific distance away from the big whales, although the incidence of whales approaching us, with engine off, has been increasing and is very exciting!
Will I be safe in the water?
We offer a lot of support and encouragement to develop confidence. We do provide special lifejackets as buoyancy aids which inflate in the open water if the swimmer gets tired or is in any kind of distress. Our trained Aquatic Rescue Supervisors are constantly vigilant of people’s competence in the water and encourage everyone to express any concerns they might have and engage at their own pace. Additional boat trips We always book extra boats so these can be available to provide extra trips at the end of your stay should you want even more time with the dolphins!
So many children love dolphins and we welcome them with families, above the age of 7. Not only parents, but grandparents, aunties and even godparents bring their children, and they get so much from the experience. Ask us which holidays are best for children to join and which are for adults only. Our family oriented holidays are enjoyed by all. Young people aged between 9 and 19 have particularly enjoyed the Azores trips as it is a very powerful experience at this important time of life. Parents and children can all do their own thing with others in the group and the Dolphin&Whale Connection team can suggest additional activities for the different ages.
Are there any dangers in swimming with dolphins?
We allow dolphins to initiate the interactions and they are by nature very curious and friendly. We never intrude upon them in an invasive way and threaten their wellbeing. There have never been any dangers and we approach the dolphins is with sensitivity, awareness and responsibility. The kind of interactions you can expect are very friendly and playful. Even when swimming very close to someone in the water, they always maintain a safe distance and a sensitive awareness of the bodies of the humans around them. Dolphins are highly conscious, sentient beings who are very curious with humans; we follow them and respond to their invitations to interact.
What kind of dolphin encounters do people normally have?
Our years of dedicated research into human – dolphin interaction enables us to introduce people to this experience in the best way. Everyone has their own unique experience with the dolphins. Most commonly, on the boat we watch them riding close in the bow waves and in the water, they swim beneath us as we lie on the surface. Sometimes, they swim together with us in perfect harmony and play with us. Maybe a very inquisitive dolphin will come up very close and look us straight in the eye. However, these dolphins are wild creatures, so nothing is guaranteed and anything is possible, so be open to anything!
Do I need to be a good swimmer?
Our guests range from strong swimmers who like to free dive and play with the dolphins, to those who prefer to float with buoyancy aids and watch the dolphins beneath them. Others prefer to interact from the boats and not enter the water. Our team offer training in gaining confidence in the water and are vigilant with everyone when in the open water.
What about sharks?
Obviously in the open ocean there are some sharks, however they generally inhabit a region much further from shore than our boats go out and are quite satisfied by their plentiful food supply. We have never had an incident, and as far as we know, none have ever been reported here. Very occasionally, we do hear of sightings of hammerheads or other non-dangerous kinds of shark, but they are known not to come near boats when there are dolphins around.
What if there are adverse weather conditions that prevent us going out on the ocean?
Safety is our prime concern and, on occasion boat trips have to be postponed. The Azores is an oceanic climate, we cannot determine the weather. Although the season we choose is the most favourable. Adverse sea conditions, caused by winds, may mean a boat trip is unexpectedly postponed. We have made allowances for the weather by advance provision of additional trips, so we can be flexible to fit in with the weather. Even with some bad weather, it is extremely rare to not have all 5 scheduled trips. With extra trips booked it means in good weather, we can offer you extra excursions (above the 5) at a nominal fee.
Do I need a wetsuit?
What equipment should I bring? In the Azores, a wetsuit is useful for added buoyancy and protection if you are in the water for long periods of time. Some of our guests do not use wet suits as the water is warmed by the temperate waters of the Gulf Stream with temperatures 20-22oc. However, it is a very personal thing and we do recommend that you bring one, or hire one from us when you arrive, especially if you have a tendency to feel the cold, Please bring your own mask, snorkel and fins. A comprehensive list of suggestions for “what to bring” will be provided when you book.
I suffer from seasickness, what do you recommend?
Few people on our trips have been affected by seasickness, but if you think you might, please bring your preferred treatment, as we do not supply any medication. There are local pharmacies on the islands.
How about travel to the islands and being met?
We will talk you through all the travel details and recommend flight times. In the case of land transfers we coordinate arrival times and meetings so that our guests can travel together where possible. Our representatives will be there to meet you on arrival and accompany you to your accommodation.
Are there vegetarian dishes available?
In the hotel, good vegetarian food is available. It is not always possible to cater for specific dietary requirements like food allergies, so please discuss these with us when you book. The standard of cuisine is excellent, offering Portuguese and a mixture of other international influences. There are many local fish and meat specialities.