51 independent reviews for Swimming with wild dolphins in the Azores

Reviews for Swimming with wild dolphins in the Azores

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review 26 Sep 2017

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The Dolphins! Sao Miguel is also a beautiful island.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Nothing really, as the information from the tour operator was very good.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Excellent.

review 17 Sep 2017

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The first two times I got into the water to see the Dolphins. I was nervous about getting into the ocean from a boat, but as soon as I looked down and saw those beautiful animals swimming below and before me, all was forgotten. It was a very special experience I will not forget.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Do it! It's so much better to see the dolphins in their natural habitat and the Azores (specifically Sao Miguel Island) truly are a special place.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

I think this vacation shows dolphins (and whales for that matter) don't belong in any pool in any marine park. You could see the marine biologists handling the swims were very fond of them as well and alert concerning the dolphins, observing their behaviour and making sure there was not too much strain on the animals. I also understood the boats could only go out twice a day as to not disturb the dolphins too much, which I think is great. They also keep count of the species spotted.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

The swimming with the Dolphins was one of the most special things I have ever done. Combined with the beauty of Sao Miguel makes it a vacation to remember forever.

review 13 Sep 2017

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming with wild dolphins was absolutely incredible. I loved seeing them close up under the water. It was also wonderful seeing them playing around the boat. A really special experience.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Don't be scared to swim in the sea- the staff are responsible & helpful and make it all possible.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, we spent money on food & accommodation & gifts. Our guides were marine biologists doing research.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

It was one of the most memorable vacations I've ever had. The Azores are beautiful, the people friendly & helpful & the wild dolphins are amazing.

review 15 Aug 2017

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The swimming with dolphins trips were most memorable. Also the land trips were amazing.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Book 3 swimming with dolphins trips and some other trips like whale watching or land trips, but keep one or two free days at the end of your vacation, that may be used of trips need to be rescheduled because of the weather. We did so and it was useful!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Absolutely! The people at the local operator and we were really careful not to disturb the natural behaviour of the dolphins and whales and in everything they take care of the environment. They employ local (and some international) people wherever possible. We ourselves used most meals at various local restaurants and we bought in local shops.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Absolutely unforgettable!

review 29 Jul 2017

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming with dolphins and canyoning

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Rent a car

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, I believe so

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Great vacation!!

Read the operator's response here:

Thank you Geir, great to know you and your family had such a wonderful vacation in The Azores Hiring a car is certainly an option although taking island tours with the expert guides can be really relaxing and informative as you are shown all the best places and less well known places too. Thanks again for your review Amanda

review 31 Oct 2017

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The land trips were amazing fun! The sea conditions meant that all our water trips were cancelled :-(

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be prepared for the weather. Lovely and warm, but you will get 4 seasons in 1 day out of season!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Trips and meals out benefited local people. Awareness of ocean dwellers will have helped conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Excellent place, excellent service, just sea conditions let us down.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Claire So glad you really enjoyed your vacation despite the bad luck with the weather! It is rare that our guests who go for a week get all trips cancelled ( prob one week a year!! ) Usually we re schedule to calmer days to maximise opportunities. Glad you got to do alternative land activities and that you are returning next Easter to try again. We will be happy to offer your sea trips again at no extra charge!! Fins crossed for great conditions for you then!

review 27 Sep 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming with the dolphins, watching them play with the boat and also seeing a sea turtle.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

I had practiced with a snorkel before traveling but not in the sea. Our first day was rather windy thus my practicing of little benefit. When less windy my practicing proved useful.I would advise if not used to a snorkle to get use to this before the vacation.I intend to return and take my own snorkle as you cannot guarentee a snorkle to suit when there.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

The dolphins and whales were respected by the locals and tour operators, this was reinforced and I fully approved. Tourists obviously benefit the locals who were mostly multi lingual and all very welcoming and polite.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Amazing, met all my expectations and more. I intend to return and do it all again along with taking in more inland trips. The swims with dolphins being the priority though.

review 27 Sep 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming with dolphins.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

You are not allowed to use flippers on the dolphin swim so think twice about taking them. Sea sickness treatment.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

The most important thing was the welfare of the wildlife.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Amazing !! Thankyou to Amanda & the team at swimming with dolphins responsible travel.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Sam Thanks for your very positive review and taking the time to write this. Regarding fins or flippers. Our guides generally discourage people from wearing them so that they ensure swimmers are close to the boat. However, if you are confident with fins and being in the open ocean, tell them this , they will be happy to discuss the option to wear fins. This is something we have requested as part of our swim program on our swim groups. Hope the memories stay with you for a long time Best Amanda

review 19 Aug 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Words cannot express the magic of swimming in amongst a pod of wild Bottlenose dolphins! Those moments will last a lifetime for me. To be able to swim with 2 different species of dolphin in 1 vacation is pretty special and I feel so privileged.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Practise swimming and using a snorkel mask as much as possible.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

The local staff were excellent. They clearly knew the dolphins well and were very respectful. This enabled us to have the best possible swimming experience, as well as the dolphins. The environmental and conservation ethics of the company were a very important factor in me choosing this vacation and I would highly recommend the local agent.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

I had an absolutely fabulous vacation. It was without a doubt one of the best things I have ever done!

review 26 Jun 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming in the water near bottlenose dolphins on one of our boat trips and on another trip swimming near a huge pod of common dolphins and their young - some very young! Amazing!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Don't take fins/ flippers , the company who conducts the swimming with dolphin boat trips prefers swimmers not to wear flippers as it make too much of a splash on entering the water thus increasing the chance of the Dolphins ' taking off' .

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

We ate out every day and felt that was a good economic contribution to the local community . The boat company which organises both sea and land trips took great pains on every possible occasion to inform and educate all clients of the current environmental dangers . The company works hard to support conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

I would rate this vacation as 'excellent' in all aspects .

review 27 Aug 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The highlight of the vacation was obviously swimming with wild dolphins. The teams were great and helped everyone aboard to overcome their apprehension (we were sharing the boat with a young family and the girls were frightened of the depth). Even my husband, who doesn't like water, didn't hesitate to enter the water and enjoyed every dolphin sighting. Each outing was unique, sometimes you would see 1 dolphin and sometimes more than 20. Sometimes they would swim away and sometimes they would take their time so you could see them longer. On our first outing I felt that we could have been better informed on how to enter the water and approach the dolphins: swim towards the front of the pod, no splashing on entering the water etc. It all came together in the end though and as I said, everyone had a great experience. Just being out in the ocean in the Zodiac and spotting the dolphins was already very exciting. We very briefly seen a whale jumping out of the water but half the passangers in the catamaran did not see it so I'm sure they were disappointed. My husband, my daughter and I enjoyed being out in the catamaran but my 2 sons did not see the whale (if you blinked at the wrong moment it was already too late) and found the outing a bit rough and a bit long. Again, we did not know what we were supposed to be looking for due to lack of information during the outing.The guides explained afterwards that they had seen a spurt of water which allowed them to know a whale was there but by the time they shouted the direction the whale had already jumped. I think that the guides on the catamaran could have made the outing much more interesting by explaining to us what to look out for as we were heading out to sea, sharing information on general marine life in that part of the ocean and what other things we could be looking for (flying fish, birds that we might encounter etc. It was a long trip were the majority of passangers seen just one pod of dolphins so a mini conference over the microphone would have helped pass the time. The canyoning with Paolo was great fun and I can't believe we all jumped from the rocks into the natural pools. Paolo is very cheery and enthusiastic and enjoys what he's doing. Very professionel. Das Furnas was a very interesting outing which we all appreciated (tea plantation, local stew, hot water springs, fumeroles etc). Hugo explained all the local folklore surrounding the volcanic manifestations. he was very chatty and instructive and we learned a lot. He was also our guide for the full day walk in sete cidades which started with an amazing bathing experience amongst volcanic rocks where the ocean mixes with hot water from the rocks. Very pleasant! As we were interested in the volcanic activity he took as a little walk around the old lava flows to show us natural bridges and beautiful scenery before heading to sete cidades for our packed lunch. We didn't see much on our walk as the fog blocked our view over the lake during the whole afternoon but we didn't really mind as we'd already been twice to the view points on our free days with the hired car.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

We did not know wether to tip the guides, waiters etc - you might want to clarify this. We quickly learned that the weather on the island is very changeable and were glad we'd hired a car which allowed us to return to appreciate certain views that we did not see on 2 of our organised trips due to fog ( jeep tour lagoa do fogo and full day walk sete cidades) The advantage is that there is always one area of the island not in the clouds or fog and you just have to try your luck. In the end we managed to see and do everything we had planned so we were delighted. Shopping mall with very cheap food hall for eating out. Oh and beer for 1 euro a glass in local bars.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

The vacation benefited local people without a doubt as most of the guides were from the islands. Also shopping, restaurants, local products etc. The people on the islands need tourism as they are quite poor compared with the rest of Europe. The guides were particularly protective of the dolphins - no more than 2 swimmers at a time and we headed towards another pod when they felt the dolphins might be getting "stressed". All our activities were organised for small groups ( 5 to 10 people max) which we appreciated. The governement will have to filter air traffic if the islands wants to preserve their natural resources although personally we did not encounter any overcrowded areas except the thermal pool at das furnas.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

A great time was had by all. Beautiful island, amazing activities.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Sharon Thank you for your very comprehensive review and I am glad you have such a beautiful and positive experience swimming with The dolphins in The Azores. Usually our guides do give guests a very comprehensive instruction about how to approach the dolphins in the water in advance. Your guide may have been focused on reassuring the family who were nervous and so all the instructions may have come out during the activity for you rather than in advance. I am glad you did see lots of dolphins underwater and share their magical world and learnt how best to approach them! May the memories stay with you Amanda

review 19 Jun 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Getting to see Sei, Fin and Sperm Whales during the week. I went for the sperm whales, but was fortunate to experience the two species of baleen whales as well. I transferred out of the swim with dolphins program because the water was too cold for me. The others in my group really loved it, and I had fun watching them in the water with the dolphins on the first day.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

The water temperatures were about 17C and the air temperature was only about 18C. Make sure you are properly prepared for those colder temperatures when planning on this trip.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

The local operator on behalf of the vacation provider, was fantastic. They were very conservation oriented, promoted a good educational program on the cetaceans (as well as other marine critters we saw), and they were very respectful of the animals. They provided an opportunity for everyone to experience swimming with the dolphins or seeing whales without harassing the animals. I was extremely impressed with this outfit and would go on other trips with them.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

The experience was spectacular. It was everything I had hoped for (only a little cooler temperatures than I was expecting - that was my fault for not really researching this information).

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Barbara Thanks for your wonderful review. I am so glad you had such a great experience. I am glad the team were flexible enough and the whales showed up for you to ensure your alternative trips were so satisfying! I guess meeting dolphins in warm tropical waters is best for you, it is very different indeed! Best Amanda

review 13 Jun 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming with dolphins right next to the boat, under and around us - magical experience

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be prepared for the weather - rough seas and high wind mean no boat trips. The people running the boat trips are very knowledgeable and helpful but when trips need to be rescheduled/land trips substituted, double check times/days are booked correctly as it gets hectic

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Sao Miguel island is not over-developped, the flora and fauna is fantastic simply because not too many people get there. The whale watching and swimming with dolphin companies are careful not to overstress the wildlife and work with other conservation organisations to track whales, dolphins. Wish we could have contributed more to the local economy than we did on our limited budget.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Excellent, I'll be returning to the islands to follow up on recommendations received locally - hesitate between four and five stars below as I loved the vacation

review 28 May 2016

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

We had a great time, thank you. The hotel was comfortable & clean and quiet with a nice balcony to sit on. Food was very good though we only tried the evening buffet once. It is a decent walk from Futurismo base. This wasn't an issue for us but I imagine it would have been a strain for less fit people. The vacation providers were great. The staff were friendly & informative. We saw a Blue Whale, several Fin Whales & many dolphins. The sea was certainly cold at this time of year & we had two rough days, but the dinghies made you feel very in touch with the ocean. The boat captains & safety was very good & restored our confidence in being on the sea after a bad experience in South Africa with very little regard for client safety. Definitely enjoyed it very much. We would go again but would definitely hire a car for exploring the island when not at sea. Thank you, Mark & Jo

review 5 Aug 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming in the Atlantic with pods of happy, wild bottlenose dolphins: looking down and seeing more than 30 of these fantastic creatures swimming just below us - the joy of seeing a mother suckling her baby as she swam past - watching from our small boat as 5 to 10 dolphins gave us a 'show', literally leaping into the air one after the other in all directions! Exhilarating!! Lovely to be on board the boats in our small group with an enthusiastic marine biologist and skipper who knew and so obviously cared for the cetaceans that live in their Atlantic environment. On our whale-watching trip we had the excitement of watching a group of sperm whales including a calf as they cruised along, blowing, and occasionally fluking. We also enjoyed seeing common dolphins and a loggerhead and leatherback turtle.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Read the valuable, comprehensive information provided by the vacation company and go well prepared. Don't go to the trouble of buying and taking fins, however, as the local company prefers you not to use them. When in the water with dolphins, the aim is to be as unobtrusive as possible: to look and enjoy but not chase them. We spent 2 weeks in the Azores: a week traveling independently; and a week's vacation with the vacation providers for this trip. Other people we met did the same. It was a good balance. The island of Sao Miguel is wonderful: lush, green, bright, stunningly beautiful! There is so much to see and do. We used public transport (local buses), had a small hire car for a while, and there are plenty of local companies offering various excursions. When choosing restaurants, sometimes take potluck as you wander around the town/s, but also check reviews to get an idea of which are specially good. If the restaurant seems popular and you're going in high season, book a table in advance. We loved staying in the Nordeste region: peaceful and spectacular. Find the Tradicampo houses on the Responsible Travel website. We stayed in a beautifully restored old farm cottage with fantastic views; and the owner gave us a wealth of information to help us plan our days in that area.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes, we did feel our vacation benefited local people. The reception we were given by the locals we met all over the island, reflected this. We experienced such generosity and trust it was overwhelming at times. If the current relatively low scale of tourism could be maintained, it would be really positive. The local company used by the the vacation operator is clearly conservation-conscious. Their emphasis was on minimising disturbance for the animals and informing their clients (us) about them. When it was clear that a group of dolphins were feeling less settled, we moved off and left them. Our Ponta Delgada accommodation (in a large Bensaude hotel) provided bed and breakfast. So we ate out in the evenings in small restaurants, supporting local tourism. It was great eating local food: the food itself and the service were excellent. In our self-catering accommodation we were provided with some local food - bread, cakes, eggs, fruit, herbs - and the recycling scheme for disposal of waste was excellent.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

One of the very best vacations we have ever had. We loved it.We all want to go again!! And we'd like to visit some of the other islands too.

review 13 Aug 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming close to the dolphins, never seen as many dolphins in my life!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be fit, it's best when you are a good swimmer able to swim along with the dolphins

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Benefit local people, yes definitely, reduce environmental impact, not sure and support conservation, hope so!

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Great for activities related to the ocean, not that much more interest on the island. Lovely people

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Sandra Thank you for your wonderful review and I am so glad you had such an amazing experience with the dolphins! Yes being fit really helps to feel more confident in the open ocean and to see more as the dolphins are very fit! Regarding the Island, most land excursions are sightseeing to enjoy the mgnificent mountains,lakes, geothermal activity, geysers and hot springs (in which you can swim)These can be enjoyed by walking, hiking, mountain biking or on a jeep safari. However there is canyoning and rock climbing activities too. However,yes,the majority of activities are water and ocean based. Kind regards and happy furture vacations!

review 21 Jul 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The swimming with dolphins was just amazing. They are the most beautiful elegant creatures and we managed to see so many of them from the boat.The skipper and guide on the boat are so helpful and are very motivated to give you the best experience possible. The Azores is a beautiful place, very green and the people are very friendly.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Remember dolphins are wild creatures and these are not fed or encouraged to approach the boat, and rightly so, so you have to be prepared to spend some time looking for them and enjoy your encounters with them from the boat as much as from the water. However every single encounter with them in the water from near or far will be an experience. Check trip advisor for your restaurants as they were a bit hit and miss, but once we cottoned on to using trip advisor, the standard went up dramatically. The other tip - I would give is, if in doubt book it, you cannot fail to have a fab experience, no matter which trips you pick.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

The Azores benefit from tourism, from the influx of money. I think all the trips are dealt with very responsibly, minimalising the impact on the animals, in fact they were barely aware we were there.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

It was one of our best family vacations and I would not hesitate to recommend it. We would like to go again!!

review 31 May 2015

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing whales and dolphins on each of our four trips out to sea. The sightings were awesome.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take a couple of days to explore inland too. We loved swimming beneath a warm waterfall whilst watching a bat skimming the water, surrounded by lush vegetation and the croaking of frogs. Take sea sickness tablets if you are inclined to nausea on boats as it can get quite choppy on the whale watching trips.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes,it also encourages local people to value the wonderful marine wildlife they are surrounded by. The company did have a good code of conduct for whale watching and the marine biologists were taking part in research on each trip to aid conservation.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

A great vacation, both for the whale and dolphin encounters and beautiful scenery inland too.

review 23 Sep 2013

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The first time the dolphins came close to us in the water: being able to hear the clicks and squeaks as they sussed us out, seeing the bubbles they blew at us and watching them look us in the eye as they shimmied past.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take very strong anti-nausea tablets a good two hours before getting on the boat if you're even slightly sea-sick! And keep watching the horizon, on the look out for breaching whales - you soon forget feeling sea-sick when you watch a sperm whale breaching!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Absolutely - it was made very clear to us (in the nicest possible way) that the welfare of the dolphins came first. All food in the hotel restaurant was locally sourced and pretty much all the employees were local.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Just four words, really: out of this world. Oh - and unforgettable.

review 12 Sep 2013

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing such a range of species of marine mammals at close quarters in their natural environment.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

None really - just come with an open mind and be prepared to see whatever nature provides and listen to the incredibly professional guides.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, reduced environmental impacts or supported conservation?

Yes - it was good to be somewhere relatively free of tourism, and with a company which proactively thinks about limiting impact on the natural life and the environment - eg they try to minimise disturbance for the animals, minimise waste, support local producers by sourcing their food and drink locally, and participate in a carbon-offsetting programme to plant trees in a project in the Portuguese mainland. This philosophy helped make the experience special.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Superb. All I had hoped and more.

review 27 Nov 2011

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing the wild dolphins in the middle of the Atlantic and the one sperm whale that we saw on our dolphin trip.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Don't leave it until the last week of the season. It was cold! Also be aware these are wild animals, you wouldn't expect to stroke a lion on safari so why expect to be up-close to dolphins. It is not a 'swimming with dolphin' vacation - more a get in, float for a minute while they swim under you and get out quick!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

It minimised the impact on the environment and in fact helped as there were some scientific work going on with the whale watching.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Good. I just chose the wrong time of the year.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Carol We are glad you enjoyed your vacation in the Azores. Going at the very end of the season in late October is a risk with the weather, sometimes people are lucky, but sorry you did not enjoy the best of the Azores which is in the summer months (May - Sept ). Also sorry you could not spend more time in the water with the dolphins as we can in the summer. You are most welcome to come again when it is warmer or even come on our Egypt program which is 99% guaranteed sunshine and very warm sea.

review 25 Jul 2011

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

A wonderful experience. The location was great, the waters around the Azores are naturally teeming with sea life. Being in the water with wild dolphins swimming around us was such an amazing privilege.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take sea sickness pills if you are prone to sea sickness! We did a lot of bobbing around on the boat, but pills did the trick and after the first day I felt fine. We had not done any snorkelling before but it really wasn't a problem, we took to it like - erm - a dolphin to water.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

The local boat company used were excellent. Very well organised and very professional in the way they approach the animals. They took the welfare of the animals very seriously, far more so than some other local companies we observed. I commend them very highly for their approach.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Excellent! Everything was well organised and went like clockwork. I went with my 14-year-old daughter and she has not stopped talking about it since we came back. A wonderful experience and one we will always remember.

review 8 Sep 2010

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming with the dolphins when they came up close to you was amazing. I will never forget it. Seeing whales was fantastic. Exhilarating! I also absolutely loved the island of Pico, our spot in the hotel was stunning. I will also never forget the great friends my son and I made in our 'group'. I went as a single mum of a 12 and a half year old son and it was the perfect vacation for us. We both made friends and the whole group had such fun together both on the boat trips and in the evenings.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Cancel and send me instead! No seriously go prepared for all weathers. I read one review before we went which said you donít need wet suits. As the information from the tour operator states -come prepared! We were very lucky with the weather but it is so changeable. Wet suits and layers, sun cream, hats. You might need them. One other thing that I also read on a review was to bring quick drying towels which was good advice.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I did feel that we were a large part of the custom at the hotel where we stayed which hopefully benefited local people. The hotel was very sensitively designed to fit into the natural beauty of the island and the owners had created a little paradise. The boat trips run by this operator were very sympathetic to the wildlife in the ocean. The skippers would not stay around dolphins if they were showing distressed behaviour or were anxious because there were a lot of young dolphins in the pod. This made swimming with the dolphins even more special because you realised they were completely wild and if they came near you it was because they wanted to. The skippers and crew were very knowledgeable about the sea life (we had a marine biologist out with us nearly every day!) They are probably very instrumental in monitoring species in the area and we were lucky to see a couple of whale species not normally seen where we were staying.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

This was probably the best vacation I have ever been on. Both my son and I will never forget it. I absolutely relished being close to nature out at sea and on the island. I am definitely considering traveling to see more dolphins or whales in other parts of the world. As I mentioned before meeting great people and where we stayed also made our vacation. Oh and I donít think I mentioned the lovely food at the hotel especially their delicious puddings!?

review 26 Oct 2009

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The first time we went into the water. It was so clear and beautiful. We saw a pod of dolphins dive below us and watched them swim away until we couldn't see them any more! It was amazing! Also seeing an albino sperm whale and the beauty of the islands.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Explore all the possible ways to get to the Azores and especially Pico! It is possible to fly direct to Pico. Also be aware that this vacation is on the dolphins terms not yours! Accept what they give you without any preconceived ideas. You are entering their world on their terms, so come without any expectations and just enjoy whatever they choose to give you.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

A lot of the staff were local people so they did benefit from the work generated from this vacation. They were proud of their islands and great to listen to and be with. Everyone was very aware of the environment and kept the impact down to a minimum.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

The Azores are one of the most beautiful places we have ever been to. They should not be missed. Swimming with dolphins made it into a truly amazing experience. We can't wait to go again!

review 22 Sep 2009

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The Azores are really beautiful and unspoilt. It was wonderful when the dolphins were leaping alongside the boat. The view from the guest house was fantastic.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be prepared to be flexible, we were a bit unlucky with weather so it was difficult to plan as the boat times kept changing, also sometimes you go out for a few hours and see very little. However the skippers are brilliant and do their best and when you do see the animals it is all worthwhile. It is quite difficult though if you have party members who do not want to go out on the boats, if this is the case then go for the guest house/car hire option as it gives you far more flexibility.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I think so. Certainly the boats were considerate to the animals and the accommodation is all locally run.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

We really enjoyed the vacation despite the difficulties with fitting boats round other things. We will definitely go to the Azores again and for anyone who wants to spend their time with dolphins and whales it is a wonderful vacation. Very nice people, good food, and a beautiful place.

review 20 Aug 2009

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Amongst many memorable experiences, the absolute highlight for me was when the dolphins were swimming and playing so close to the boat you could almost touch them. The setting of the beautiful ocean in the glorious sunshine added the final touch.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Read all the information fully as it is all very accurate and informative. Talk one-to-one with Amanda as she is very knowledgeable and helpful. Booking flights could be a bit traumatic, so be prepared for the added responsibility. Make sure you bring all the necessary equipment, though Amanda and Fergus were also extremely helpful with this also.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I definitely thought this: the hotel on Pico is very environmentally aware and you always felt you were enjoying natural beauty all the time. It was good to enjoy the company of the local people who were very friendly and professional.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Everything went very smoothly for my daughter Helen and me. The flights were on time and all the transfers were as expected. We fully benefited from the professionalism and enthusiasm of the whale-watching and dolphin team so that our personal experience amongst these incredible animals was as fantastic as it could be. Really excellent.

review 3 Sep 2009

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

My daughter and I enjoyed the boat trips and getting so close to whales and dolphins. If going with children well worth clarifying with the organisers what other children are going and where are they staying as not all are in the hotel. The local whale museum was tiny but very informative for adults and kids.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

The hotel is somewhat disappointing - our room was adequate and the setting lovely but it would benefit from easy access to drinks without mealtimes (a coffee took over an hour to come). Service was painfully slow and some of the staff surly. Suitable for single parents, though mainly because our group was good. Some of the guests were put into a nearby guesthouse (not by their choice) so fragmenting the group and making it difficult for the kids to get together during the daytime.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

The hotel was reasonably environmentally friendly. The boat company was very aware of environmental impact and the skippers keen to promote this. Clearly having to get two planes to get there probably negates this. Pico Island feels unspoilt by tourism.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

The sea was great, despite disappointing weather. Our guides were well informed and Fergus one of them was great with the children in particular. The website gave the impression of a hotel pool which is in fact at the owners house a short walk away. I found the overall organiser quite "stressy" and we were party to details/difficulties we didnít need to know about.

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Jenny, I am glad you and your daughter enjoyed your vacation, it was a pleasure to host you. I have noted your comments about "slow service" in the hotel. They are on "island time" which is why we have to do what we can to speed things up for our guests to make things work speedily, as with pre ordering group buffets which works very well. Sometimes when they are busy it can take longer for them to attend to individual guests as with your coffee sorry this can be a bit frustrating. The infra structure of tourism is not very sophisticated on the island so we have to double check everything and follow things up to ensure efficiency. May I clarify that the group was 19 people, 14 at hotel and 5 members stayed at the guest house who did in fact make an advance choice to have the option of cheaper accommodation and a car (listed on our web site). They shared all hotel facilities and participated fully with the group activities, talks boat trips and meal times with the group. In retrospect we would happily have arranged a couple of extra children's activities during your free time inviting all the children to be together even more than during boat trips and group meals. Many parents request times for the children to play together while they have some "adult vacation" time. We often assist in making those extra arrangements. I noticed your daughter really enjoyed spending time with "adult friends" in the group as well as "children's time". She was great fun to have around. Thanks for your comments.

review 11 Aug 2008

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

I thought that the island was beautiful, luscious green vegetation beside the deep blue ocean and with the Pico volcano as a backdrop. Jetting around on the ocean everyday viewing incredible cetaceans is definitely my idea of a good time. The whales we saw blew me away and I particularly enjoyed seeing and learning all about the different whale species although I originally went to see the dolphins!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Take a selection of gear, closed shoes, flip flops, light towels that dry easily etc...

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I certainly hope so. I think that tourism helps the islanders out.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Fantastic and refreshing, a perfect tranquil and beautiful place to disconnect.

review 18 Sep 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Being so in touch with nature, especially when in the water - an experience that will stay with me forever

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

If you have young children, ensure they have practice swimming in sea and traveling on ribs - and never ever book your luggage onwards through Lisbon - pick it up and re-check in!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes I think the local people benefits from these tours, and certainly the skippers and crew were very respectful to the environment and the animals.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

***** I am reborn! Simply the best vacation I have ever been on - certainly this one when I returned - feel a bit jaded again now been back six weeks - but hey looking at booking another vacation soon!

review 9 Aug 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The first water encounter with a huge number of dolphins and the swim with the manta ray just before we left.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Do pull-ups and press-ups so you can get back into the boat Ė most people struggled!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes, we felt very welcome at the hotel and were impressed with the care shown to minimize our impact upon the whales and dolphins when at sea.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

***** Our most exciting and memorable vacation!

Read the operator's response here:

With regard to point 2, yes you do need some basic strength in your upper arms. In 2008 our boat company introduced brand new boats, as they do every couple of years. These new ladders make it very easy to get back onto the boat and you do not need to use so much arm strength to pull your self up due to the position of the ladder. Also there is always a helpful guide or skipper to assist as we did in your case!

review 19 Sep 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing the dolphins swimming in the bow of the boat. So beautiful! Seeing them leaping from the waves in perfect timing with each other.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Practise snorkelling in the sea before you go, if possible. This is a remote island, don't expect to be able to shop! Take plenty of books and enjoy the peace and beautiful scenery. When we were not out on the boats, we were able to swim in the sea or in the hotel swimming pool. Definitely a vacation for swimmers!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Local people used to rely on whale hunting. Now that this no longer happens they have turned their energies into whale/dolphin study and conservation. The boat trips are run with maximum attention to the welfare of the dolphins (i.e. only 2 people allowed into the water at a time) and distance is kept from the whales so as not to disturb them.

review 18 Sep 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Swimming with the Dolphins in their natural environment and watching the Whales.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Relax and embrace all that Pico and nature has to offer.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes-since whale hunting has been banned tourist have given the islanders an alternative income. It's in Pico's interest to safeguard the marine life.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Magical. We stayed in a beautiful hotel with friendly staff and were in a group which gelled into a fantastic team spirit.

review 10 Sep 2007

I felt like it was one of the best vacations in my life. The service was second to none and the three members of the team had an excellent group dynamic that worked so well for all of us. I would recommend this vacation to any nature enthusiast or anyone that really needed to recuperate from a stressful time at work. I'd like to thank Amanda, Ciaran and Nick for their fantastic hospitality and their kindness in making my 40th Birthday an occasion to remember. They gave me a delicious chocolate cake and a card. I don't think that vacation could have been better.

review 21 Aug 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Quite a few most memorable moments... The moment when wild dolphins approached me in the sea and circled me, resulting in pretty much eye-to-eye contact with one. An evening re-scheduled boat trip with more than usual opportunities to get in the sea and views of a magnificent sunset. Experiences I will never forget.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Come with an open and flexible mind!! As the animals are wild a lot of time can be spent on locating them in the sea. For our trips on average (sometimes more sometimes less and can vary with the crew and / or boat company) each person would have 3 times entering the sea to try and have some sort of an encounter with the dolphins. Not all occasions end up with an encounter, e.g. the dolphins may change direction, but the close contact from being on the boats is amazing too. When they say the weather is variable it definitely is, so trips may have to be cancelled due to the weather. Can go from scorching heat and sun to chilly and raining from one day to the next. TAP airlines are by my experience the worst ever encountered! If you are a veggie take food for the plane and be prepared for delays! The hotel is rather 'Fawlty Towers' but if you have a good sense of humour and patience (as warned, 'Azorean time' is considerably longer than any other time!) this can be something to remember in the future with a smile. The food in the hotel is fantastic, especially if you eat fish. Be prepared for a real group experience (some people don't anticipate this) - if you have a great group of people like we did then this will really help to make the vacation even more memorable!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes - in terms of the dolphin and whales but also the guides (who are great) and hotel promote other activities run by the locals, and around the island, which you can organise independently.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Some fantastic memories and some great friends made!

review 1 Aug 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Getting on the water

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Get an underwater digital camera

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

Great experience, disappointed with the representatives from the company

Read the operator's response here:

Dear Ela Thank you for your comments. I am really glad that you and your family had a wonderful vacation with us. I hope our phone conversation and several emails regarding your disappointment with one of our representatives has helped. The guide has apologised for his part in the confusion on the boat schedule for your family . He was trying to arrange a mountain climb as part of the schedule and this overcomplicated things. I am aware that this was resolved after two days. I am very sorry about the initial confusion. It is the last thing we want for our guests to be concerned about any logistics when they are on vacation. Our company aims to provide a very clear boat timetable, to take care of everything to the highest standard and to make sure each guest feels their specific needs and requests are being met. This means you can completely relax and enjoy the experience with the dolphins. I assure you that any friends you recommend to us will be given the totally seamless standard of service that we always offer our clients. This is reflected in the highly positive reviews about the organisation from all our vacations. Once again our sincere apologies for the inconvenience to you at the start of your vacation.

review 22 Aug 2007

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The amazement on my supposedly "cool" teenagers' faces when they got really close to dolphins and whales. Riding at speed across the waves on a semi-rigid inflatable was tremendously exciting too.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Don't take many clothes - you won't need them! Meals are relaxed - smart casual rather than dressy - and be prepared for the usual Mediterranean style of dining, i.e. lingering! The journey is long if you do it in one day rather than breaking the journey in Lisbon - take things to do if you have children. This is very much a group vacation both in the hotel and on the boats - if you don't like company or mixing with strangers then don't go!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

It certainly benefits the owners of the hotel and boat companies but I cannot see how it benefits the locals generally since there is little to spend money on - we bought a few souvenirs in one shop and paid for a lunch out but otherwise we didn't spend locally at all. It is difficult too to say that the vacation minimized impact on the environment since it took two plane journeys, one boat ride and two taxi rides to get there! One company seemed to take the 'stress' on the animals seriously but I'm not sure other companies did.

4. Finally, how would you rate your vacation overall?

It was very enjoyable and quite relaxing despite being the most active vacation we've had in a while! We all came back feeling that we had done something unusual and interesting. There may be some disappointment - like most vacations there may be occasional bad weather and some days there may be little wildlife around. This is inevitable and could happen on any vacation but it is wise to be prepared as this is an expensive vacation and therefore expectations might be higher than average. The people in our group were amazing - we all got on really well and this greatly added to the overall enjoyment of the week. Overall we are very glad we took the opportunity to do this vacation.

review 4 Sep 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The most memorable thing was swimming in 2/3000 metres of water in the middle of the Atlantic with dolphins all around and a couple of really special occasions when the looked you in the eye. The amount of dolphins we saw during the 10 days was extraordinary. I had no idea that the sea was so alive with mammals! The wildness of the environment and the raw nature - and wild animals allowing you into their space.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Come with no pre-conceived ideas and enjoy. Take good snorkelling gear and the fitter you are the more you will enjoy the swimming. Don't be afraid - it seems scary but in reality it is not!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

There is so little actual tourism there that I am sure this must be of benefit to the locals. The locals are also very aware that if they expanded these trips then the dolphins would probably migrate to other areas and that would change the entire balance of the current habitat. There are never more than 3 boats allowed in one area at a time and even that is unusual.

4. Any other comments?

Yes thanks I would give it a five star rating or higher!! I just hope the memories will stay fresh forever.

review 4 Sep 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The most memorable parts of the vacation was being in the sea with wild dolphins for the first time and not quite being able to believe what I was seeing, there were so many of them, and also climbing Mount Pico on a beautiful clear day. I had never been in the open sea from a boat before, or seen wild dolphins in the flesh and I had never climbed a mountain, so these were both great achievements and the memories will stay with me for a long time.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

For anyone thinking of taking this type of vacation, we would recommend a certain level of fitness, as it was quite strenuous getting back in the boat and you need to be reasonably fit to climb Pico.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

All of the boat trips are run by local people and care is taken to ensure the wildlife is not unduly disturbed, if there are too many boats around any whales or dolphins our crew moved on to a different location to look for a sighting elsewhere.

4. Any other comments?

I would definitely recommend this to friends, it was a great vacation and one we will never forget.

Read the operator's response here:

Please note that the Pico climb is only done by a few people as it is something those who want can take on as an extra. It is not a standard part of the vacation.

review 3 Sep 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Most of all, seeing the dolphins underwater when they were swimming towards us. But also the clean and deep sea.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

It's mainly a vacation for people who are not after a cultural vacation or a beach vacation, but purely for seeing dolphins, relaxing and taking it easy. This was what we wanted, but I know that some other people on the trip expected more. So, travelers should make sure they know what the trip is about.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

So-so. I felt that the speedboats were sometimes following dolphins too much. I cannot say if they bothered the dolphins or not, but I wasn't 100% comfortable. The slower boat (yacht) was far too slow to chase after dolphins, so all the dolphins who swam around the boat did so because they felt comfortable to do so.

4. Any other comments?

*** to ****.

Read the operator's response here:

We would like to assure Sigrid and others who may get this impression, that the skippers are very sensitive to the dolphins particularly those riding on the bow, it may appear fast but its not a chase, indeed if the boat slowed down the fun for the dolphins would be gone and they would most likely pull away from the boat or leave. Our policy is always to observe the degree of interest from the dolphins in being around us. The dolphins certainly choose to ride in the bow as they can feel the exhilaration of the bow wave. When we approach a group of dolphins we notice whether or not they are interested in interacting with the boats. If they are not, they can quite literally disappear from view. They go down and swim in a direction away from the boat and completely lose the boat. We cannot see them. We may spot them again far away from the boat. Obviously there is some impact of our arrival in their environment and if they move away from us more than once or twice, it is our policy to leave them alone. As the signs are disinterest. Usually their curiosity brings them to interact with us, this is the reason we stay around them and if they do not want to, we would not and could not chase them. Also they sometimes choose to stay around us but keep a distance and still check out what the humans are doing. The skippers have learnt to read the behaviours of the different species and understand a communication which does not want to be around the boats. We also have a code of conduct about how to approach the animals and are conducting research as to the different behaviours that the dolphins display so that we can learn more about the best way to share their environment. Anybody who is concerned about boats traveling too fast whilst accompanying dolphins is encouraged to speak to the skipper who will give assurance and explanation as to what is happening at the time and indeed the guides will check out thoroughly if they consider anything untoward is going on. I am sorry you got the impression that we chased the animals because in no way would we want to promote that kind of behaviour from skippers we employ. On many occasions the skippers leave the animals and move somewhere else

review 14 Aug 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The sheer depth of 'the deep blue' every way you looked (serious gulp), and then the blessed relief of the dolphins bobbing along and past you!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Go in a single large family group, or as singles & couples - don't mix the two in one tour, doesn't work for the singles & couples who want space not children. Get out every single time you can, you can't see / interact with wild dolphins + whales + fish + turtles + shearwaters (sea-diving birds) in Oxford Street. Even if the weather looks miserable, it can and does change almost on the hour - always take warm clothing with you on the boats, even on a very hot day. Go to the gym before you go - the sea swimming is wonderfully easy, getting out and back into the skids and cruisers takes exertion. Take an underwater camera - even as a rank, first time amateur, I got some amazing shots (and numerous requests for them as screen-savers!).

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Benefited the local people? Absolutely, immediate income, plus giving them leads into the off-season jobs market in the offshore oil & gas / renewables industry. Minimised impacts? Totally not. It that respect it would better if humanity deserted The Azores. Having said that, the boat crews clearly stuck to the local law re diver density and encroachment on the sea life.

4. Any other comments?

The operator are a great crew!

review 4 Aug 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

I am delighted to respond re our great trip to the Azores. It really was a vacation filled with the wonders of the world; the size of the sea, the spray from a sperm whales blow hole, and the swimming with the dolphins. All wonderful and now so like a good dream. My son loved the pink colour of the underside of the bottle nose dolphin, so that will stay with him.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

We had a stop over in Lisbon on the outward and return journey and this made a much more restful and enjoyable trip.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I hope we gave something to the locals, and re the enviroment well we DID FLY !!!!!!!!

4. Any other comments?

To this operator I'd say keep going, loved it all.

review 25 Aug 2006

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

We both thought the group of 10 we were in was fantastic - we did everything together and the banter was fast, spontaneous, and great fun. We have stayed in touch with one member of the group who has become a good friend. The glimpses of the dolphins we got and hearing their sound - it was like a cathedral under the water. The ability to relax in the hotel grounds with yoga, massage etc... available. The day trip with Sonia's friend Lisa and the meal she prepared at her house.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Don't put too much on the swimming with dolphins themselves. [To be honest that part was something of a disappointment; rightly or wrongly we had expected to spend hours in the water, clutching fins and touching / playing with the dolphins a la the Robin Williams documentary we were shown. As it was we only snatched the odd minute in the water here and there, and were lucky to get more than just a glimpse of the dolphins as they invariably swam away. We felt the advertising had bigged up the successful experiences and played down that they are very rare, if they happen at all.] Counter any potential disappointment by appreciating the whole package; the boat trips, viewing the cetaceans from the sea, the people, the food and drink, other activities.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

It is hard to see which locals benefited other than the Aldeia da Fonte, Espaco Talassi business, and 'Lisa'. On the whole we dined at the hotel so did not support other eateries that much. The locals seemed to accept our presence, but did not bend over backwards to be welcoming, maybe that is just their culture. I guess our damage to the environment was minimal, the biggest variable being the type of fuel used by the Espaco boats.

4. Any other comments?

Ian: Excellent vacation overall, top location, top hotel, particularly liked the people, closeness to the sea, and the lack of mosquitos. Only disappointment factor was the lack of dolphin interaction in the water. Chrissy: Had an unfortunate experience with Serge who told her off for falling asleep during Maria's lecture at the end of a hot day. It lacked professionalism and also undermined Maria, as well as being uncomfortable for the rest of the audience.

Read the operator's response here:

The interactions with the dolphins on Ian and Chrissy's particular trip were significantly less than usual. This is extremely rare and is not representative of the experiences had by other people in other groups. We certainly have NOT "bigged" up the successful experiences in our advertising as we have been doing this for 10 years and what we say is a very accurate description of the most common experiences had by the majority of the people. We do say that this is the wild and so it is totally unpredictable what happens. We say it is indeed possible to be unlucky and not see so much underwater. However, I believe you saw a lot of dolphins riding in the bow wave interacting with the boats. We can only comment that your group was very unlucky and if you would like to discuss with clients who came on the trip before and the trip after I would have no hesitancy in offering their contact details (with their permission ) and they will describe exactly what their interactions involved. You will find their experiences to be significantly different than your experience. The guides were amazed at the difference in what appeared between the two groups, it was like two extremes of a scale. If we described the scarcity of interactions that you experienced on our site it would be unrepresentative of the true overall picture - I am sorry your group was so unlucky!!! but that is the nature of the wild. We give a broad assessment of what our clients generally experience during an average 10 day vacation. If our advertizing misrepresented a fair description we would be inundated with comments from clients saying the advertizing is inaccurate or that they were misled. This is NOT the case, I have not received any comment from another client saying we misrepresented their experience. Also your comment "we had expected to spend hours in the water, clutching fins and touching / playing with the dolphins" These words are certainly not how we would describe the experiences with wild dolphins in the Azores. We try and encourage our clients to come with a really open mind and no expectations. We describe range of possible experiences. The video we showed was of dolphins that are very habituated to human contact and had taken a very long time to get such footage. We do sometimes have those kind of interactions as on the film with the dolphins of the Azores but I would say that is for about 10% of our clients so not that common The comment about the owner of the boat company who "told off" Chrissy for falling asleep during a talk. This was the result of a "short temper" at the end of a long day. He was immediately pulled up on this behaviour by our guides who said he was being extremely unprofessional and that he must never approach our clients directly in a situation such as that. Instead we reminded him that we require he always speak to our guides about our clients if there is anything he needs to say. They will then communicate with the clients if necessary in a more appropriate manner. Chrissy was given an apology at the time by our guides. I am sure it must have been a real shock to be so humiliated unjustly and he was completely out of order in doing so. I hope these comments explain our position. I am glad there were many things in the whole package that you enjoyed and once again I am sorry you had such bad luck on the length of time seeing dolphins underwater.

review 1 Sep 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Definitely the experience of being allowed in the sea with dolphins and sharing their environment. Climbing the mountain and staying overnight to watch both the sunset and sunrise was a very close second.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Make sure that you are 'water fit' and are confident using snorkelling equipment before you arrive as you need to be able to enter the water very quickly when the occassion arises.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes - although the island is not the most environmentally aware place those involved with the dolphins and at the hotel were very much aware.

4. Any other comments?

Definitely the best vacation.

review 1 Sep 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

It was seeing the dolphins swimming and jumping around the boats and then quickly getting into the water in time to see the dolphins swim past or under us. It was just magical.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Remember that this is a wonderful encounter with WILD dolphins, this is not a vacation where you touch them or ride on their backs, which is what makes this vacation particularly special.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

The hotel and the whale/dolphin watching companies employ local people, who have made a very successful transition from whale hunting to watching. The boat skippers did not let us go in the water with the dolphins if they felt it would be potentially stressful or harmful to them. Quite rightly the dolphins dictate the pace. You are not allowed to swim with whales and all boats keep the regulatory distance from them, thus ensuring they are not disturbed. The boat companies also work to educate the local schools about the importance of protecting these wonderful creatures.

review 1 Sep 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The most memorable moment was the sound of wild dolphins approaching me in the water and then swimming directly under me. An image I will never forget.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

This isn't Disneyland, if you are expecting to get touchy feely with wild dolphins, you've picked the wrong vacation. They don't do tricks with balls or jump through hoops. If you want to share the Atlantic and appreciate the beauty of these creatures, then you have picked the right vacation and you will enjoy a humbling and enriching experience.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

My money did benefit the local economy and benefit those directly involved in environmentally important projects the most. What is more, the rules of 'engagement' with wild dolphins and whales were kept to at all times and boat skippers NEVER let us in the water if they felt that that it was not of benefit to the animals. They would (rightly) rather disappoint us than threaten the dolphins and other wildlife.

4. Any other comments?

Well I can honestly say that this was our BEST EVER vacation as a family. Definitely a ***** vacation. Thanks and kind regards.

review 1 Sep 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

A magnificent close encounter with spotted dolphins who swam merrily around the cruiser and allowed a close encounter in the water - pure magic!

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Do it and enrich your life.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Most definitely - I was particularly impressed with the education the local boat company ran to educate the local school children on cetaceans. Also, the beautiful grounds in which the hotel is set is enchanting.

review 1 Sep 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Not a mass tourism location, locals seem to be genuinely happy to see us around and help. Well organised but relaxed as well. Sea outings & dolphins of course were the highlight of the vacation.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

Be aware there are no beaches (didn't come as a surprise to me but could be disappointing for others). Not to be recommended for people with small children.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

There were certainly benefits to locals. It was interesting to see the reconversion from whaling into tourism.

review 1 Sep 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Spotting pods of dolphins (and also sperm whales) and getting into the water with the dolphins.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

No particular tips. Provided you take the correct snorkelling and the usual vacation gear, you will have a great time.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes and yes. Tourism clearly creates employment for the locals. Impact of tourism on the environment will remain minimal provided it continues on a small scale.

4. Any other comments?

A very memorable vacation.

review 19 Aug 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Seeing the dolphins for the first time and watching my 2 children 10 and 8 swim in the Atlantic Ocean with the dolphins.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

A very relaxing vacation but you must be someone who is happy to experience what nature gives you and not expect the dolphins to 'perform' just because you are looking for them. The interaction with the dolphins was a fraction of the time on the boat but when it happened it was amazing.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I felt that the local people benefited from this tourism but not in a destructive way. There seemed to be minimal impact on the environment

4. Any other comments?

Overall rating 4 star - just what I needed after a stressful year. Would recommend it to anyone who needs to have chill-out time in a fantastic location

review 19 Aug 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

The most memorable and exciting part of the vacation was being in the sea with my daughter where there were two dolphins below us swimming downwards and one stopped and looked back at us as if to say "what are those strange beings". Magical, so human in their characteristics. Also, the sound of the wonderful Sheerwaters (seabirds), I really missed them when I returned to England. I have to say all the vacation was memorable, the people, the island and the wildlife. Also, another magnificent moment was being in the aeroplane nearing Pico and seeing, high above the clouds, the huge black volcanic mountain which was totally unexpected and awesome.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

I would advise people NOT to buy or take a wetsuit. We found it totally unnecessary as the sea was warmer than the swimming pool and just swimming in a costume or bikini was more than adequate. Also, to build up their stamina by swimming or other activities.

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

I feel the local people did definitely benefit by the tourism involved. We used the taxis and the boats daily. Also of course it helps the hotel to employ local people. How fantastic it is, that the inhabitants of the island can earn their living by inviting tourists to see the dolphins and whales as opposed to killing them. The only criticism I would have about the impact on the environment was the fact that the cars and boats used diesel. We found it choking, especially when on the back of the boat for any length of time. Why doesn't the island change to unleaded?

Read the operator's response here:

The operator recommends clients use thin shorty wet suits for added buoyancy, protection and warmth. 90% of our clients appreciate this advice. A few who swim without wet suits are fine in favourable conditions. However, as sea conditions are changeable, a wet suit ensures you are always warm after extended periods in the water and safe and buoyant at all times. We advise wet suits for your safety and comfort at all times

review 26 Jul 2005

1. What was the most memorable or exciting part of your vacation?

Viewing the marine life at such close quarters.

2. What tips would you give other travelers booking this vacation?

To practise snorkelling beforehand if they have never done it before - the whole breathing only through your mouth under water is a little disconcerting to say the least!

3. Did you feel that your vacation benefited local people, and minimized impacts on the environment?

Yes, the viewings and swimmings are closely managed to ensure marine life is not unduly interfered with. Although of course, the boats are using fuel rather than the wind power of a sailing boat - but this is the only practical solution and the fast boats are great fun - definitely not for those with bad backs!

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