Whale & dolphin research holiday in the Azores, 10 days

“Contribute to ongoing scientific research on this 10-day whale watching holiday in the Azores. With full days at sea guided by a leading cetacean expert.”


Full days at sea on a 12m catamaran | Contribute to an ongoing cetacean research project | Expert marine biologist guide | On-shore whale lookout | Average six to eight different species seen on each trip | Horta | Free time to explore Faial Island

Description of Whale & dolphin research holiday in the Azores, 10 days

The waters around the Azores archipelago offer some of the best opportunities in the world to watch whales and dolphins. This ten-day holiday goes one step further, giving you the chance to contribute to a vital, ongoing cetacean research project during daily trips out at sea.

Six to eight different species of whale and dolphin, including sperm whales, are seen on average during each ten-day holiday, with springtime also bringing giant blue, fin and humpback whales to the islands.

Your guide is marine biologist and whale expert Lisa Steiner, who has been studying cetaceans in the Azores since 1988. Originally working on the IFAW research vessel, ‘Song of the Whale’, Lisa now works with holiday-makers who help her collect data on whale numbers and behaviour, as well as individual ID photographs for each animal. Through this research Lisa has been able to identify five species previously unknown in the Azores, match blue whales to individuals found in other areas of the Atlantic and identify movements of female sperm whales between the Azores and the Canary Islands.

Unlike most whale watching tours in the Azores, you will spend full days out at sea on a stable 12m catamaran, departing at 9am and returning at 4pm. Lunch is provided on board. Guided by an on-land look-out and on-board tracking devices, your boat will search out pods of whales and dolphins throughout your days at sea. Once sighted, you’ll make a note of the animals’ behaviour, numbers and whether there are any calves and take all-important ID photographs of each individual.

This holiday includes two days on shore when you will be at leisure to explore Faial Island. Options include relaxing on the beach, taking a jeep tour or hiking Mt Pico. Evenings are spent in Horta, with group dinners at local restaurants where your guide will discuss what was seen during the day.

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18 May 2019
excluding flights
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28 May 2019
excluding flights
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07 Sep 2019
excluding flights
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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Whale & dolphin research holiday in the Azores, 10 days


We have been operating tours since 1993 and over the years, have acquired a lot of knowledge on ways to approach the various species we observe that cause a minimum of disturbance. If we detect any signs of disturbance or avoidance, we will not chase the animals. Since our trips to sea are for the whole day, we do not have to race other boats to get to an animal first; we can take our time. Identification photographs are taken of several species. These photos enable us to track their long-distance movements. Success with sperm whales, showing movements of the females between the Azores and Canary Islands and the males from the Azores to Norway. Humpback Whales have been matched between the Azores and Cape Verde Islands. Several blue whales have been identified in multiple years, indicating a preferential migration route. Students have used bottlenose dolphin photographs for several theses, showing that these animals are resident in the Azores.
Since the main waste disposal on the islands is landfill, all of our clients are urged to leave any extra packaging at home. We also ask that they take used batteries back home when they leave. We encourage guests to use a water bottle filled from a tap, rather than drinking bottled water. We no longer have a paper brochure or pre-departure booklet. Recycling is done whenever possible, although facilities are limited on the islands.
Clients are reminded that water is a precious resource and they should turn off the tap, when brushing their teeth, or in the shower while lathering up in order to use less.
The Azores is rich in renewable energy sources. Several islands have geothermal and most now have wind turbines, providing up to 25% of the energy.
We use local transportation for transfers from the airport. The boat uses diesel, so is more efficient than petrol engines used by RIBs.
Most of the food that we consume during the tour has been grown or manufactured on the islands, with the exception of fruit, which is shipped from the mainland. The Azores fishery is listed as one of the sustainable fisheries in Europe, using pole & line to catch most of the species and it doesn't have to travel far to reach your dinner plate. The meat is also sourced locally and in the countryside, you can see the cows in the fields.


During your stay here, you have a couple of days to explore the islands on your own. We recommend various options available, such as jeep tours, taxi tours, where you could go walking and museums you should visit. These are operated by local people, rather than an extension of our company. Options for your shore day lunch and evening meals are discussed the day before, so you can choose to try somewhere new, or go back to one of the restaurants that we use regularly.
We were involved in the creation of the first guidelines for whale watching in the Azores and continue to provide input on issues such as swimming with dolphins to the local authorities.
We have participated in local clean-ups of beaches and riverbeds. We share information on the negative effect that plastic rubbish in the sea has on marine life.
We employ a local skipper to operate the boat during the tours. We also use a lookout to spot the animals for us during the tours. Lisa is employed as the biologist during the tours, and although not locally born, she has spent most of her adult life working with the marine mammals of the Azores and promoting responsible watching of them.
Guests are encouraged to visit local museums which detail the history of the culture of the Azoreans, the culture of whaling as well as the botanic gardens which highlights the endemic plants of the islands. We make sure that the clients are aware that all of the scrimshaw that they see for sale in the shops is not allowed to be transported into the UK or US because it is covered under CITES, the trade in endangered species, and we do not want to create a market for these carvings which come from the teeth and bone of the whales. We point out where they can buy these types of carvings made out of cow bone, wood or vegetable ivory.
We remind our guests that the Azores are predominantly Catholic islands and they should respect that by dressing conservatively. We suggest that if they would like to take a photo of a local, they should ask permission before doing so. Our pre-departure booklet has some useful Portuguese phrases that clients can use to say Good Morning, Afternoon, please & thank you.

1 Reviews of Whale & dolphin research holiday in the Azores, 10 days

5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed on 07 May 2018 by

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your holiday?

Difficult to decide. Seeing so many whales and dolphins, the insight that the leader (Lisa) imparted in describing their behaviour, the beauty of Faial island.

2. What tips would you give other travellers booking this holiday?

Stay relaxed and enjoy the experience and learn from the tour leader.

3. Did you feel that your holiday benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, right from the extensive briefing information received before the tour to seeing some of the oceanic problems at first hand. This then gets imparted to the local community encouraging them to act responsibly.

4. Finally, how would you rate your holiday overall?


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