Sharks, Mantas & All Volcanic!
The Azores is a place I had seen in a few magazines, in previous years. I’ve always wanted to dive there, mainly to see the famous Blue Sharks & Mantas that the Azores diving community boosts about.
It is a fairly easy place to get to, from Gibraltar. Flights fly out from Lisbon in Portugal. You can fly to Lisbon and then get a connecting flight to the Azores, but I decided I wanted to drive from Gibraltar to Lisbon instead. After much research, I decided the Island of Pico was best for Blue Shark diving, so here is where I decided to fly to and find a dive centre which would cater for this.
Our first day of diving involved, snorkelling with the dolphins, followed by a check dive, with the Blue Shark diving instructors. These were conducted in two small islands, which once was a volcano, just a few minutes boat ride away from the port. Here we saw three large stingrays, the biggest I have ever seen before. The current was strong, and so we did a drift dive. The second dive that day was at the nearby island of Faial, in a volcano called Monte da Guia. Here I saw a large cave and some eagle rays.
Day two involved a boat dive to Faial Island at Eagle Ray cave. Very impressive, there were Eagle Rays everywhere, I managed to get some nice photos. Just outside the cave lies some sort of wreckage were a large grouper was swimming around. The second dive that day was on the outer wall of the Monte da Guia Volcanic Crater. Some nice drop offs, but not much marine life on this dive.
On our third day, we got to dive Princess Alice Sea Mount. This is a large underwater mountain that rises from the depths of over 1000m to a top peak of 35m at its highest point. This sea mount is home to large volumes of Mantas. We had to be at the dive centre at 6AM due to a 50 nautical mile journey to get to this dive site. It took us about 2 hrs and 30min to get here. The dives are impressive, but it is not for the novice diver. Strong currents can be present here at times, we were lucky to get almost none.
Day four, and finally the dive I had long awaited, Blue Shark diving! The boat headed out to a spot in the middle of both Pico & Faial Island, were the skipper said the new fibre cables have been laid. The Divemaster explained that sharks are attracted to electricity and that they were being found around this area. We were told in our briefing that it can take up to four hours to attract a shark towards our boat. The skipper reached his spot and started chumming the water whilst we all waited patiently. To our surprise, within only just FIVE MINUTES we already had two sharks. We quickly got kitted up and slowly entered the water. I had such amazing photo opportunities. It was definitely worth coming all the way to Azores for, just that one dive made up for the whole trip.
The next couples of days, involved some more boat dives, some on Lava Ridges, others in caves, inside volcanic formations and craters. We went once more to Princess Alice Sea Mount, and our final day we did an impressive drop off/wall from shore.