Divers looking for spectacular marine encounters no longer need to travel halfway around the world with the discovery of the Azores – nine unique islands that offer world class diving less than four hours flying time from the UK.
The archipelago’s remote mid-Atlantic location, perfectly positioned between the nutrient-rich currents from the north and the warmer waters of the Gulf Stream, allow for a unique biodiversity. There is no other destination in Europe where visitors can come face to face with wild dolphins and almost nowhere else in the world where divers can look a mesmerising blue shark in the eye.
The chance to dive with one of the ocean’s fastest fish, the captivating blue shark, is what entices most divers to the Azores in the first place. A stay on the mountainous island of Pico offers the best chance to meet small groups of these naturally inquisitive sharks underwater at the renowned Condor Seamount. Manta rays, morays, stingrays, groupers, wrasse, parrotfish, trigger fish and damselfish can also be encountered here. Pico also affords divers easy access to Princess Alice Bank, the most famous seamount of the Azores. A lengthy boat ride is rewarded with a majestic underwater mountain falling to some 500m whose 35m tip is packed with groups of devil rays, barracuda and schools of thousands of tuna swirling in the strong currents.
Divers visiting the Azores can hope to encounter at least 25 different pelagic species including the famous blue and mako sharks, spotted, bottlenose and Risso’s dolphins, five kinds of turtle, manta and devil rays, and even whale sharks. Coastal dive sites also offer the chance to discover friendly dusky groupers, octopus and morays lurking under rocks and tiny, colourful nudibranch. Beaked whales, sperm whales, blue whales, humpbacks and false killer whales can all be spotted from the surface making any boat ride to a dive site an exhilarating adventure in itself.
The Azores are fast gaining a reputation for these spectacular marine encounters but these emerald islands offer far more. Divers visiting the Azores have the opportunity to discover a unique geological underwater landscape etched by volcanic lava streams over the centuries. Labyrinthine tunnels, bubbling hydrothermal vents, canyons, caves and arches provide an impressive and exciting backdrop to the marine life and provide plenty of opportunities for photographers in the clear water. A number of impressive wrecks and the intriguing ship graveyard at the Underwater Archaeological Park at Terceira provide further opportunities for discovery.
Equally spectacular on land, divers can immerse themselves in the rich cultural heritage and wide diversity of the Azorean islands. With each island having its own unique charm, non-diving days can be spent hiking through picturesque landscapes, climbing to waterfalls and towering volcanoes, exploring the islands’ maritime history, or simply relaxing in hot springs.
Diving holiday specialist Regaldive features holidays on the islands of Sao Miguel, Pico, Terceira and Santa Maria during the main May – October season when the best diving conditions are found. The location of the Azores means the islands are particularly well suited to twin centre combinations and Regaldive’s personalised itinerary service ensures divers will experience the best of this exciting destination. Prices start from £699pp for a seven night package including return flights, bed and breakfast accommodation (twin share) and transfers. Diving starts from £125pp for a four dive pack.
For further information or to book, visit www.regaldive.co.uk or call +44 (0)1353 659 999.