2015 has been another excellent year for whale and dolphin watching off São Miguel Islands in the Azores. This cetacean hotspot in the middle of the north Atlantic ocean attracts a huge diversity of whale and dolphin species, and this year was definitely a diverse year. Across the seasons this year we encountered a total of 16 different species!
As is expected the 3 most encountered species throughout the year were 3 of our resident species: the common dolphin, bottlenose dolphin and sperm whale. Next in line was the fin whale, one of the spring time migratory whales that appears to be on the increase in the Azores in recent years. Our sightings graph below summarises the sighting frequencies of all species throughout the year. The best part is that this year during all our tours we had a 100% success rate. That means that during every tour at least one species of whale or dolphin was encountered!
Our list of other species we spotted this year includes many loggerhead turtles, leatherback turtles (2015 was a record year for leatherbacks!), sunfish, devil rays, hammerhead sharks, blue sharks, tuna, spearfish and marlin, flying fish, flying squid...and last but not least an extensive list of seabirds, with the Cory's shearwater being the most encountered one.
Sighting frequencies of cetaceans seen in 2015, in descending order:
- Common dolphin (Delphinus delphis) - 94.4%
- Bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus) -82.5%
- Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus) - 38.9%
- Fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus) - 27.4%
- Atlantic spotted dolphin (Stenella frontalis) - 18.7%
- Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) - 13.1%
- Striped dolphin (Stenella coeruleoalba) - 12.7%
- Sei whale (Balaenoptera borealis) - 5.6%
- Pilot whale species (Glopicephala spp.) - 5.6%
- Blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus) - 3.6%
- Beaked whale species (Mesoplodon spp.) - 3.6% (Sowerby's and Blainville's beaked whales)
- False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) - 2.4%
- Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) - 1.6%
- Northern bottlenose whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus) - 0.8%
- Cuvier's beaked whale (Ziphius carvirostris) - 0.4%
Keep in mind that the above numbers have been grouped together for the whole year and we observe fluctuations in sighting frequencies across the months. For example the chance of seeing one of the great baleen whales (blue whale, fin whale and sei whale) is very high in the spring and virtually zero other times of the year, and sperm whale are seen more often in the summer than the rest of the year. The best time of the year to do a tour in the Azores depends on what you want to see. The following chart is a rough guide, or for more detailed statistics from our previous years of whale and dolphin watching click HERE.