Friday, 10 January 2014

Azores Get Wildlife Boost

The Azores islands - one of the Atlantic's unsung destination gems - are creating a real wave for themselves in 2014 by touting their great wildlife potential as a reason to visit, and that's something we are always keen to highlight here at World of Cruising.

The allure of the Azores’ whales, wild dolphins and vibrant pelagic sea creatures are helping to drive popularity for the subtropical archipelago, as the number of travellers taking trips to see the islands’ underwater wildlife with leading specialist tour operators increased by up to 200% over the last year.
 
Wildlife specialist Wildlife Worldwide (www.wildlifeworldwide.com) saw a two-fold increase in the number of their customers choosing to dive in the Azores and a 60% increase in the number of people taking underwater wildlife excursions such as swimming with the islands’
wild dolphins in 2013 compared to 2012. Leading specialist operator Sunvil (www.sunvil.co.uk) also experienced an 83% increase in bookings for whale-watching trips in the archipelago over the last 12 months compared to the previous year. 

More importantly, the islands represent a key stop-off point for transatlantic cruises, with all of Holland America, Azamara Club Cruises, Star Clippers, Celebrity, SeaDream, Silversea, Royal Caribbean and Princess Cruises calling in at the principal port of Ponta Delgada.
 
With 2014 marking the 30th anniversary of the end of whaling on the islands, the Azores is a textbook example of a destination that has changed its fortunes from a tradition of whale hunting to a thriving tourism industry with whale conservation at its core.
 
The islands are a world-class scuba-diving and whale-watching destination (with 25

migratory species), and the only place in Europe where travellers can swim with wild dolphin species such as the spotted, striped and bottlenose dolphin in their natural habitat. 

Excellent local and wreck-diving sites provide access to a colourful underwater world with creatures such as manta rays, morays, stingrays, dusky groupers, comb groupers, wrasses, parrot fishes, trigger fishes, breams and damselfishes. Spring and summer are best for spotting underwater wildlife, and the magnificent Blue Whale can be seen in April on its migration route.

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