Today’s whale watching expedition was intense. The day started with sunshine but typical of erratic Azorean weather, the skies quickly turned overcast and strong wind beared down on our small rubber commando-style boat.
The tour company, Picos de Aventura (Peaks of Adventure), is appropriately named. The first order of business was signing a release agreement – always an unsettling feeling but never surprising. Although people of all ages joined the group, most whale watchers were under 30. I don’t think anyone knew what was in store – especially on the way back to the harbor.
April and May are not prime whale watching months in the Azores but dolphins, sea turtles, and 24 species of whale frequent the area year-round. We saw several groups of playful dolphins, and they came close to our boat. They’re fast animals, so it was difficult getting photographs, depending on where you were sitting.
When the wind came up the waves created choppy waters and a heavy spray, so it was necessary to hold on to stay inside the small boat. On the way back to the harbor, we headed into the wind. As the fast-moving boat pounded up and down on the waves, the spray drenched us completely. It was cold!
At the beginning of the tour the guides passed out heavy hooded storm jackets but our lower bodies got totally soaked. For about an hour, all you could do was hold on and keep your head down. When we finally returned to the marina, I poured a quarter-inch of water out of my sneakers – they’re still drying.
We saw several blue whales (identified by our guides) – first their blow spouts and later their massive bodies and baleens. Blue whales are the largest animals on earth.
I was the only American in the group. One French woman was upset and scared and complained when we arrived back at the harbor. Several people got sick. I was thoroughly chilled and headed back to my hotel for a hot shower and coffee.
My photos are not remarkable, but sights from the small low-in-the water boat were spectacular memories. Despite getting soaked, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience.
Tomorrow I return to Lisbon and early Monday fly to Copenhagen where I’m excited to spend time with my friends Benedicte and Edison. We met in 2015 at Chile’s Lauca National Park.