The Azores is an archipelago made up of 9 individual volcanic Islands found in the middle of the northern hemisphere, in the Atlantic Ocean, roughly 1400Km west of Lisbon, Portugal.
A bit of geography for you, the Azores are located above an active triple junction, where three out of the seven major tectonic plates meet, the North American Plate, the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate, all come together in this one incredible area.
Up until the 15th Century, the Azores islands were uninhabited, providing amazing, unspoilt landscapes to all who visit these shores. With over 100 dive sites scattered throughout the islands, sightings of up to 24 different species of Whale, diving with whale sharks, sharks and over 3,000 different marine species to look out for, the Azores has some of the most diverse marine life found throughout the world. In addition to the incredible abundance of marine life, diving the Azores consists of wall dives, seamounts emerging from the Atlantic abyss, encounters with Manta Rays and Mobulas, wreck dives, and it is all located only 3 hours away from mainland Portugal.
What makes the Azores unique to any other archipelago, is the combination of subtropical and oceanic climate, mixed with the surrounding rich waters of the Gulf Stream, means the waters are full of krill, plankton and shoals of small fish, which provide the perfect hunting ground for larger predators.
The best time to dive the Azores is between the months of June to October, which is when you are likely to see Mantas, Mobulas and Whale Sharks. However, with its crystal clear waters and visibility up to 60m, you can pretty much dive the Azores all year round.
Top 5 Dive Sites in the Azores
Princess Alice, Pico Island
Roughly 50 miles off the Coast of Pico Island lies one of the best dives sites found throughout the whole of the Atlantic Ocean. If this is you’re first time diving the Azores, then make sure you go to this dive site. Situated between the Island of Pico and Faial, it takes a good 3-hour boat ride to get there, but this seamount surpasses all expectation. With visibility of up to 60m, the crystal clear water is jam packed full of pelagic fauna, hammer head sharks, blue sharks, schools of barracuda, dolphins, mobulas, tuna and even black marlin, which is awe-inspiring even to the most experienced of divers. The Princess Alice seamount has a minimum depth of around 30-40m with the base of the mountain reaching depths of over 500m into the abyss of the Atlantic.
The small islands of Formigas are located 20 miles off the coast of Santa Maria. These islets offer amazing diving opportunities as well as providing access to Dollabarat Bank, which is a seamount that has been damaged by the surrounding currents. Here you will find some amazing marine life including, Galapagos sharks, giant Manta rays, turtles, schools of tuna and even Hammerheads have been spotted in this area. Diving at this location is well worth it, however the currents can be extremely strong, so speak to a dive centre or guide, before embarking on this trip. This is not a dive site for newbies.
Santa Maria is the smallest island out of the Azores, however it is one of the most popular amongst divers. The sheer abundance of marine life that live in the surrounding waters provides incredible opportunities for divers and snorkelers alike. The island itself is only 90km in length, and has roughly 10 dives sites to explore.
Throughout the summer months, Santa Maria is the place to be, if swimming with whale sharks is your thing. Another amazing experience, takes place just three miles off the coast at a location known as Ambrosio. This is where you’ll have the chance to dive among large numbers of Mobulas Tarapacana (devil rays). You’ll usually find them in groups of 12 however, larger groups of 50 or more have been spotted in this area. If diving with whale sharks and devil rays is not enough for you, then being surrounded by incredible Atlantic fauna and flora as well as sunfish, schools of barracuda, sardines, groupers, rays and octopi all found in a beautiful underwater landscape of lava walls, black coral and tunnels, should be enough to push any diver over the edge. This Island is certainly not to be missed by any diver.
Dom João De Castro Bank
The Dom João de Castro Bank is a huge underwater volcano, which emerges from the sea floor at around 1000m and peaks at just 15m, where this dive begins. You enter the water at the crater and it is a site like none-other. This underwater volcano is located between the islands of Terceira and San Miguel and can only be accessed by boat. With its vents and crazy vertical walls, which are leaking with natural gases, this site creates a unique scene for divers. This volcano consists of 4 peaks, which range between 40m and 50m deep. At this dive site you will find exceptional visibility. With the strong currents surrounding this area, comes stunning pelagic animals including devil rays, giant wahoos, schools of tuna, barracuda and marine turtles.
This dive site is not an easy one, due to the depths and the strength of the currents, so this is a dive for the more qualified and experienced divers.
Terceirense Wreck, Graciosa Island
Located just 2 minutes away from Vila de Praia beach on the island of Graciosa, the Terceirense shipwreck lays on the seabed at around 20m. This freighter stretches for over 40m in length and is now home to some of the most amazing marine life. Groupers move along the pipes and around the boiler room and hull that is pretty much still intact, however this wreck has been there since 1968, which means obvious wear and tear has caused smaller parts of the vessel to break away over time. When visiting this wreck, you will see thousands of Azores chromis and ornate wrasses that have moved in, mackerels, eels, hogfish and sargus. If you could imagine what a wreck dive would look like, this would be it and unsurprisingly, this site is rated one of the best dive sites found in the Azores.
There are so many incredible dive sites found throughout the Azores, way too many to include in our Top 5 list, so if you have dived one or more of these incredible locations, please let us know about it in the comments below…