The island of São Miguel is certainly one of the most breathtaking places in Portugal. With eternally green hills, blue-green water, spotted cows and delicious cheese, it’s the perfect getaway for a long weekend. There are obviously plenty of things to do in a place where nature is so overwhelmingly beautiful: from hikes and baths in the island´s many hot springs to eating all the “lapas” you can find, and to finally going on a most amazing adventure: Whale Watching in São Miguel.
When planning our trip, we positively knew we wanted to venture into the sea and try our luck at Whale Watching in São Miguel. Something else we knew was that we had to do it with an agency that had consideration, respect and love towards the animals and their ever endangered ecosystem. After thorough research, we decided to ask SeaBookings for help and they promptly booked us a tour with a local whale watching tour agency of extremely kind and passionate people.
The tour started on a sunny day, at 8:30 am from Vila Franca do Campo’s marina. We got there early and having followed the advice of the tour operator, with some milk in our bellies to combat the seasickness. The tour started on land with a touching video about our oceans. Minutes later, adults and children alike were embarking along with Tiago, the boat’s captain and Lorenzo, our charming Italian marine biologist. Waterproof jackets on, scarves around our faces and sunglasses firmly secured, the boat started towards the great unknown.
Not even 10 minutes in, we encountered our first colony of bottlenose dolphins. Now, I’ve only ever seen dolphins in aquariums and this was a completely different experience. Seeing these wonderful creatures in the wild and hearing Lorenzo’s stories about the dolphins of New Zeeland, we felt utterly overwhelmed and grateful for being able to experience this. The colony was a big one, over 100 animals, jumping around our boat and giving us the welcome to their island. The boat had stopped for us to admire the animals, take some blurry pictures and recover from the first batch of seasickness.
This tour operator works with whale spotters who from the island’s shore, oversee the sea with powerful binoculars and warn the boat captain of where these wonderful creatures are lurking. After seeing two colonies of bottlenose dolphins, the whale spotters excitedly warned our captain that a group of sperm whales was nearby. We rushed in their direction and it wasn’t long until we found the beautiful animals resting in the water and soaking up the sun. Lorenzo explained that it was a matriarchal group formed out of three adult female whales and their calves. I cannot even begin to describe the feeling of smallness one feels when seeing a baby whale expelling water through its blowhole. Remember all the cartoons you’ve seen with whales doing this? Well, it´s even better in reality.
Three hours flew by unbelievably fast and as we were circling the beautiful islet of Vila Franca do Campo, the site for the Red Bull Cliff Diving competition, we wished we could do it all over again. We returned to base for a final cup of tea and chat with Lorenzo and learned more about the island’s effort in preserving the oceans and helping these animals. We left smiling, thankful and just a tad more mindful about how wonderful nature is.