Stories

From Whale Hunting to Whale Watching

In the second half of the nineteenth century the whaling industry developed in the Azores.

It was a source of income, and a way of life for some Azoreans. 
 
The most important thing taken from these majestic creatures was oil for machinery and instruments. It was also used for makeup, fat, soaps, and perfume.
Photographer Unknown

Whale Hunting in the Azores- Photographer Unknown

Luckily, mineral and synthetic oils became more popular causing the whaling economy to suffer, and  in 1984 whaling was prohibited by the IWC, International Whaling Commission.

 
Whalers in the Azores used old world techniques similar to those described in Moby Dick. In boats that dwarfed them-in comparison to the whales they were hunting, they threw harpoons by hand until they caught a whale, risking their lives every time they went out on the water. 

More whale parts meant access to more products outside of the islands.

Whale Watching

Crowd gathers around a Whale- Photographer Unknown

 
Arriving in the Azores, we were happy to learn that whales are no longer hunted here, but rather protected. 
The Azores changed from hunting whales, to whale watching and researching the cetaceans.  
 
The islands of São Miguel, and Pico are two of the best places for dolphin and whale watching, so we did our research and chose Futurismo, one of the first companies responsible for transitioning from whale hunting, to whale watching in The Azores.

 

Whale Watching

The islands are a natural sanctuary in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean for both resident and migrating species of whales and dolphins.

 

From April to June many species of whales are visitors to the Azores providing an excellent chance to view these majestic beings in their natural habitat. 

We wanted to be sure that we went with a responsible tour company who are dedicated to respecting the space of the marine life, and following certain protocol to not disturb them in their home.

OUR EXPERIENCE
8:30am
We arrived at the Futurismo office and were offered rain pants, a jacket, and a life vest to put on.

 

We were then briefed by a marine biologist about the different types of whales and dolphins we might spot, and learned a little bit about the animals.

Whale Watching

The whales and dolphins are found by using “vigias” (lookout). These towers were once used to hunt down the whales, but they are now used-with the help of extremely powerful bi-noculars, to track the cetaceans for observation, and studies.

 

People sit in these towers and communicate with the captain of the boat through walkie talkie’s.

 

9:00am 
All suited up, we headed over to the dock and found seats on the rubber motor boat. Lara, (the marine biologist on board) was with us to answer any questions we might have, and to share her knowledge.

 

Fin Whale

No more than 5 minutes in the boat, we spotted a pod of dolphins swimming in and out of the water. It was brilliant. 

 

We then spotted a group of 3 fin whales surfacing on the water. It was so peaceful to just sit, be still, and listen to them breath.

 

Whale Watching

After our whale encounter, we spotted a pod of dolphins and their baby’s swimming freely in and out of the water.
The rest of our day was consistent with sightings of more whales and dolphins resting and feeding. 
Whale Watching
 
We always kept a safe distance away from the animals, and respected their space. 
Cody and I had a fantastic time with Futurismo out in the Atlantic Ocean, and highly recommend booking a responsible whale watching tour with them if you visit the Azores.
Many years ago-before Cody and I were educated, we swam with dolphins in captivity. At the time, it was a pleasant experience for us, but not for the dolphins. They were stolen from their homes to be exploited and imprisoned.
It is something we still feel guilty about, but now we know better, so we choose to do better.
 
Ponta Delgada 
There is nothing quite like respectfully observing animals in their natural habitat.
There is nothing quite like co-existing on this beautiful planet that we all have the right to peacefully live on.
 
There is nothing quite like causing no harm. 

Whale Watching

A very special obrigado to Futurismo for hosting us on this wonderful tour. 

Our Whale Watching tour was courtesy of Futurismo, but our opinions are our own. 

 

 

Map Location

Comments To This Entry.
  1. Franca May 26, 2015 Reply

    I’m so jealous guys, it sounds like an amazing experience and more importantly done in completely respect of the animals. It’s definitely something I’d love to do myself at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later 🙂

    • Giselle and Cody May 27, 2015 Reply

      Franca, Hopefully you and Dale will be able to make it out to the Azores before they become a super popular tourist destination. It was an amazing experience to be able to see these beautiful animals free and wild. The Azores are an incredible place and we would love to see you guys here. 🙂

  2. Beautiful pictures! I love the one of the dolphin in the air !

    When I was in the Azores two years ago, I went on a “swim with the dolphins” trip. It was unlike any other because the dolphins were wild! We got in the exact same style boat and headed to find a wild pod of dolphins (helicopter was patrolling the area and letting the boats know). When you find a pod you gently slide into the water with snorkel gear and for a few precious moments you are surrounded by a pod of wild dolphins. THe most amazing thing was hearing them underwater. Azores is an amazing place! I also went scuba diving around the island out there and it was amazing! fun to see pictures from the Azores I can’t wait to go back! Here are some photos from my trip 🙂 http://www.katiewanders.com/2014/03/take-me-back-sao-miguel-azores-portugal.html

    • Giselle and Cody May 27, 2015 Reply

      Thanks so much for writing us Katie and thanks for the compliment on the photo 🙂

      We were actually suppose to go swimming with the dolphins but decided to do the whale watching instead. Sounds like you had a magical experience when you went swimming and it’s something we are going to look into doing. We have a few more days left on the island before we head to the mainland. The Azores are a beautiful place and Giselle’s family is originally from the island, so it was nice to finally make it back here. Going to go look at your photos now 🙂

  3. josh May 26, 2015 Reply

    great write up guys. you guys look way too cute in that last photo. couldn’t help but comment.

  4. Karianne May 26, 2015 Reply

    It is so great to know how so much has changed in the Azores – the fact that these beautiful creatures are now loved and respected is brilliant.

    I know exactly what you mean when you say there is nothing like seeing animals living in their natural habitat – two years ago, we visited Africa and felt privileged to observe so many amazing creatures living freely. It was a life changing experience for me and something I will never ever forget.

    It sounds like you had an absolutely amazing time whale and dolphin watching – the Azores have definitely been added to my to go list!

  5. This sounds like such an incredible experience! We went whale and dolphin watching in Dominica, and it was quite thrilling to see them in their natural habitat. This company sounds like a great one and I’d love to do something like this when we travel to the Azores someday! 🙂 I love your photos.

    • Giselle and Cody May 29, 2015 Reply

      Thanks so much Lauren. Sounds like you guys had a really great time as well.
      It is an incredible experience to have the chance to see any animal in their natural habitat.
      Hopefully you two will make it to the Azores cause they are pretty damn beautiful!!

  6. Joao May 31, 2015 Reply

    Thank you so much for coming to my island of Sao Miguel and writing about our tiny place. It is so nice to see people take an interest in different things here. We dont want lots of party people but we want tourists to explore the beautiful Azores. Thank you so much and you are welcome back any time.

    • Giselle and Cody June 14, 2015 Reply

      Joao, we had such a wonderful time in the Azores and would love to go back and explore more of the islands.
      Thank you for commenting on the post and we hope to make it back. Hopefully next time we come we can maybe meet up with you.

  7. Agness May 31, 2015 Reply

    What a lovely experience guys! I’m so jealous. That is something I always wanted to do <3!!

    • Giselle and Cody June 4, 2015 Reply

      Agness, it really is a must do if you get the chance to experience it.
      We were very lucky to have gone with a company who is all about the respect of the animals.
      They would never get to close and we thought it was a perfect tour.

  8. Miguel June 2, 2015 Reply

    Awesome to see people apprciating the Azores for all that it has to offer. I am originally from Sete Cidades but now living in Porto which is in the north of Portugal. Did you go and see Sete Cidades? Would love to know what you thought of my hometown.

    • Giselle and Cody June 4, 2015 Reply

      Thank you for commenting and we really loved the Azores.
      We did visit Sete Cidades and the abandoned hotel on the way. Such a beautiful area Sete Cidades is in.
      We are actually in Porto at the moment for the NOS Primavera Festival. Porto is another great city 🙂

  9. Paul Eyers June 2, 2015 Reply

    Lovely article – shows how with time ideas on what is right and wrong change and we change at the same time…

    …and amazing trip by the looks of it!

    • Giselle and Cody June 4, 2015 Reply

      It was so interesting to hear the history on how the Azores changed their hunting ways and try some new which is a perfect alternative. They are now making money by viewing these majestic creatures and respecting them.

  10. […] Our tour with Furturismo was so great. they respected the Whale’s space, and went by the book. […]

  11. This is absolutely incredible. Your photos of the whales gave me goose bumps….. is that normal?! SO amazing. The Azores may well have to be added to the list. Fab post. Looking forward to reading more about your adventures. 🙂

    Gabby

    • Giselle and Cody June 21, 2015 Reply

      Gabby, we were so blown away seeing a whale on our trip. It was such a magical experience.
      We have had many people message us saying that they are going to add the Azores to the list. We think that’s a great idea.
      🙂

  12. Federico June 30, 2015 Reply

    Great experience I’m sure. As must be visiting the Azores, they have to be an interesting group of islands as they aren’t very touristy either…

    • Giselle and Cody June 30, 2015 Reply

      Federico, the islands aren’t very touristy….yet. With low cost airlines now flying into the Azores, we believe things will change. It’s nice to hear locals say they don’t want the islands to turn into a party destination. Hopefully they will stay pristine and beautiful.

  13. Diana Edelman June 30, 2015 Reply

    “There is nothing quite like respectfully observing animals in their natural habitat.
    There is nothing quite like co-existing on this beautiful planet that we all have the right to peacefully live on.” YES. What an experience.

    • Giselle and Cody June 30, 2015 Reply

      It was a great experience and you should definitely head to the Azores now that you are in Spain.
      You could probably find a decently priced flight.

  14. Alex July 1, 2015 Reply

    Having done a lot of research and written a big piece about whaling in Iceland, I really respect and love this piece! Thanks for writing it — I love watching whales!

    • Giselle and Cody July 9, 2015 Reply

      Thanks so much for commenting Alex, and thanks you for the kind words.
      It’s something that is very close to us as we love all animals and wish them all peaceful lives.

  15. Camels & Chocolate July 4, 2015 Reply

    Oh wow, look how close you guys are! That’s amazing!

  16. Laura July 5, 2015 Reply

    What a great experience! We went whale watching in Iceland but weren’t quite as fortunate with the sightings as you were. Such an amazing thing to see the animals in their natural environment.

  17. […] with it, and I know they “got” the islands the right way. My favorite post is about whale watching because they absolutely nailed it. I appreciate that they tell the story of what whale hunting […]

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