Looking Ahead: Whale Watching in the Azores

Zodiac Cruising - Petermann Island, Antarctica

(Humpback Whale, Antarctica)

The Azores is reputed to be one of the best – and little known – locations for whale and dolphin watching. And I’m heading there next week to find out if it’s true.

Until recently, my whale watching experience was sporadic and underwhelming. I’d looked out to sea on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia after reports of a whale sighting and I’d joined a group of tourists on a boat in San Diego. On both occasions a spray of water and dark shape in the distance was confirmed as a whale. Tick: technically, I’d seen a whale. But I didn’t really get what all the fuss was about.

And then I boarded a ship in Ushuaia in 2012 and headed south towards Antarctica.


Zodiac Cruising - Petermann Island, Antarctica

(Humpback Whale near Petermann Island, Antarctica)

It started with our first wake up call: “good morning everyone, we have sighted a whale”. It continued with more sightings as we sailed through the Falkland Islands and South Georgia. It became extraordinary at Wilhelmina Bay as fluking humpback whales welcomed us to Antarctica. It escalated to exhilarating on our zodiac excursions as minke and humpback whales appeared within metres. And it ended on a high during our last zodiac excursion, with a pod of five humpback whales bidding us farewell from the continent.

Wilhelmina Bay, Antarctica

(Humpback Whale – Wilhemina Bay, Antarctica)

I finally got what all the fuss was about and I was hooked.

Zodiac Cruising - Petermann Island, Antarctica

(Humpback Whale – near Petermann Island, Antarctica)

The opportunity to photograph these great mammals, to learn more about them from the marine biologists on-board the ship and to watch them swimming freely in their natural environment is just one of the reasons I’m returning to Antarctica at the end of this year.

It’s also one of the reasons I’m heading to the Azores next week.

I’ll be honest: I hadn’t even heard of the Azores until I started researching ideas for a photography holiday to keep me from getting too restless as I counted down my return to Antarctica. And the blank looks my friends give me when I tell them I am going there suggests they haven’t heard of the Azores either – although this could also be because I keep pronouncing it incorrectly!

So where is it and why am I going?

The Azores is a group of nine volcanic islands in the Atlantic Ocean. It is part of Portugal but is located 972 miles west and a three hour flight from Lisbon. I’ll be spending twelve days there, splitting my time between the islands of Faial and Sao Miguel. Whilst I’ll be making the most of the wildlife and landscape photography opportunities the islands provide, I’m also looking forward to soaking up the tranquillity it is known for.

So my flights are booked, my bag is packed and my camera is ready: now I just need the whale and dolphins to show up.

But I’m feeling quietly confident. More than twenty species of whales and dolphins are seen in the Azores, with sperm whales and dolphins (bottlenose, common, Risso’s, spotted and striped) spotted on a regular basis during the summer months. And if the sightings shared on a daily basis on Whale Watch Azores Facebook  page is anything to go by, I may be in for a treat.

Fingers crossed!


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Kellie is a traveller and photographer who is most at home when exploring the world beyond it. Through the intersection of her travel, writing and photography passions, she shares her experiences to inspire others to create there own. The desire to live life instead of existing through it has introduced Kellie to inspirational locations throughout seven continents and from this a passion for landscape and wildlife photography has evolved. She feels a particular connection to the polar regions and Africa. You can see more of her photography at www.kellienetherwoodphotography.com


  1. Have fun! I love whale-watching, it’s such a humbling experience.

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