Wildlife Highlights of the Azores
From seabirds to sperm whales, find out about the natural attractions in the mid-Atlantic islands of the Azores
Straddling the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, 1,500km from Lisbon, each of the nine volcanic islands in the Azores has its own character and special appeal.
The twin lakes of Sete Cidades – one blue, one green – are the main attractions on São Miguel, the largest of the islands. However, be sure to also visit the spa town of Furnas and nearby Terra Nostra Gardens – a tranquil haven of exotic and native flora. The northeast of the island is a good place to search for the Azores bullfinch (the only endemic land bird in the archipelago), while the northwest coast has breeding roseate terns.
On Terceira, highlights range from the world heritage site of Angra do Heroísmo (once a hub of Atlantic maritime trade) to the quarry of Cabo do Praia where birdwatchers can track down American shorebirds.
Graciosa is renowned for the Furnas do Enxofre, a sulphur lake located in a cave beneath the island’s Caldeira, while São Jorge is a magnet to walkers with its dramatic sea cliffs and deep valleys covered in lush vegetation.
Far to the west, Flores is claimed by many to be the most beautiful island in the Azores with a particularly stunning display of hedgerow hydrangeas in July. It’s the islands of Faial and Pico, however, that are likely to be of most interest to wildlife travellers. Whale watching trips operate from the historic port of Horta on Faial and the old whaling centre of Lajes on Pico. Of the 27 species of cetacean recorded in the Azores, blue, fin and sei whales are present during March and April, while resident species include sperm whale, short-finned pilot whale, orca and bottlenose, common and Risso’s dolphins. One of the best and most reponsible operators is Espaco Talassa.