Azores tour, volcanic wonderland
Description of Azores tour, volcanic wonderland
Sitting in the vast Atlantic Ocean, the lush, volcanic island of São Miguel offers an adventure playground for activity and wildlife lovers alike. This seven-night small group tour will see you snorkelling with wild dolphins, kayaking on crater lakes and swimming in ocean hot springs.
This trip is a real celebration of the Azores’ two big draws – the wild Atlantic Ocean and spectacular volcanic landscapes. Led by an expert guide, you and your small group of like-minded fellow travellers will be cycling through lush forests, kayaking on the crater lakes of the Sete Cidades lagoon and taking a leisurely walk through São Miguel’s largest lava tunnel.
You’ll be swimming in the Atlantic Ocean with wild dolphins and taking a whale watching boat trip as you go in search of the 24 different species that call these waters home, as well as snorkelling with a variety of multi-coloured fish in the beautiful islet of Vila Franca do Campo. And don’t worry if any of the activities are new to you, expert instructors will be on hand to show you the ropes as you go. You’ll also have time to relax in the warm, natural spring waters at the Terra Nostra Botanical Garden or in the ocean hot spring of Ferraria. Even your food has a volcanic flavour as you tuck into the delicious local stew, Cozido das Furnas, cooked with natural, geothermal steam.
Each night you’ll enjoy the comforts of a four-star hotel a stone’s throw from Ponta Delgada’s Botanical Gardens and close to the airport. With breakfast included and the option to include a delicious local Azorean dinner buffet available in the restaurant each day.
Please note that during the festivities of the Holy Christ of Miracles (Santo Cristo dos Milagres), some places will be a bit busier than normal.
PlanetWhale watching and swimming with dolphins are clear highlights on this trip which are sure to be anticipated and enjoyed by all. It is crucial that any enjoyment is respectful of the ocean environment and its rich marine life. Both activities are overseen by local guides with a profound knowledge of the Atlantic setting. They instruct holidaymakers about responsible swimming and take the tours on non-intrusive routes.
We are in full support of watching cetaceans in their natural environment. It has been well-documented in everything from journals of marine biology to the National Geographic magazine that the confines of captivity can seriously harm the physical and mental health of dolphins – killer whales included in this category. Performance parks in particular can make dolphins dangerously dependent on human support and even lead to neurotic behaviour. In the wild, they are highly intelligent organisms with established social structures. It is this that holidaymakers should see: dolphins (and other cetaceans) as Nature intended. This will inspire them to regard these creatures as impressive wild animals, not theme-park attractions.
Of course, educating visitors about environments is not just limited to the ocean. On land, they will visit places like the Terra Nostra Botanical Garden and the Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park, heading on specially chosen paths to avoid potential damage. At the Priolo Environmental Centre, they will learn about local natural life through an interactive exhibition. They will also be able to find out about the highly necessary conservation work on the Azores bullfinch, which is currently endangered.
PeopleThe Azores are a small island group that thrive on tourism, which is very much a pillar of their economy. It is well-established that mainland Portuguese destinations pull away significant numbers of tourists – Statistics Portugal (Instituto Nacional de Estatística) has found that the Algarve has almost 25% of total overnight stays, while the Azores does not even have two percent.
We proudly employ Azorean guides and instructors on this holiday, which ensures a local financial benefit. This applies to everyone from those overseeing kayaking on the Sete Cidades lagoon to the biologists which assist with the whale and dolphin tours. Why employ someone from abroad when such valuable expertise is available at the destination?
Clients have a choice between two different hotels on two different parts of the island – São Miguel Park Hotel in Ponta Delgada and the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel in Furnas. Two towns and two communities – with their restaurants and varied shops – can therefore benefit. On the subject of restaurants, it is worth pointing out that this holiday enables visitors to learn about and sample Azorean cuisine, which developed rather distinctly from that of Portugal. Take the ‘Cozido das Furnas’ as an example, which applies a geothermal cooking process to the traditional Portuguese ‘cozido’ stew. ‘Fofas da Povoação’ are another example, showcasing how the village of Povoação has adopted European pastry techniques to make a locally unique delicacy. In both cases, holidaymakers support and learn about a key aspect of Azorean culture: its wonderful gastronomy.