42 independent reviews for Swimming with wild dolphins in the Azores

Reviews for Swimming with wild dolphins in the Azores

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review 7 Sep 2019

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

Going out in the catamarans to see the dolphins and whales

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

Make sure you are fit to swim with the dolphins

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

Supported conservation

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

It was absolutely great

review 7 Sep 2019

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

Swimming with the bottlenose dolphins in the Atlantic Ocean

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

The Azores has changeable weather, and rains. If you are only a sun-seeker, then this destination is not for you. There is lots to do on the various islands, and if you go for all weathers you will have an amazing time.

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

The Azores is still unspoilt, which is lovely, and local people are friendly and helpful. As we spent lots of time with the guides watching and swimming with whales and dolphins - and I presume the money they make from running these trips through the summer, helps fund the research happening by many marine biologists at the Center. As a consequence, yes I believe we did support conservation.

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

Swimming with dolphins (common and bottle nose) in the Atlantic was truly an amazing experience and one to tick off my bucket list. The marine biologists were knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and I believe as excited as everyone else when we spotted whales and dolphins. The skippers were skilful in handling their boats, and did not scare or endanger the marine life on approach. I always felt safe and well looked after. Our guides for the land tours were also knowledgeable, and one in particular made the most of the situation when Seta Cidades was covered in mist/low cloud and it was raining. Overall, I would highly recommend the Azores if you like the outdoors and the ocean.

review 2 Sep 2019

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

Every time we were on a boat on the sea was exhilarating and exciting, never knowing which animals we might see. A truly unforgettable vacation.

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

Book in advance for dolphin swimming and whale watching. I preferred the closeness of a small boat. Study the land trips you might want and book early.

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

Absolutely! Tourism is important to their economy but not at the expense of their beautiful island. They ensured everyone understood and respected the environment. The ground operator supported every aspect of conservation.

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

The best vacation I've had, ever!

review 1 Sep 2019

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

Swimming with the dolphins! And hearing them talk under water. And the views of Sete Cidades, amazing.

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

Take more than one swimsuit, it's humid and things take ages to dry. Wear dark swimwear to Furnas. Expect rain - it rained 3.5 days out of 7 in late August. The dolphin swimming boats are small - you will absolutely need a waterproof bag if you're taking things on board. My 2nd and 3rd trips out I took nothing. Book restaurants in advance, especially for your last night. Book loads of activities and trips, there's lots to see - and it's a good way to meet people if traveling alone.

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

In some way. Local tourism brought in money of course. Futurismo staff were obviously passionate about the environment, we stopped the boat to pick up plastic many times.

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

Brilliant. I went alone as a woman aged 52 and all was fine. I would love to go back. I met fantastic people and stayed in a great hotel for a single traveler. Walking distance to everything, including cinema for rainy days.

review 8 Aug 2019

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

Seeing the Whales and dolphins from the Catamaran and getting into the water with the dolphins.

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

Take both the Swim with Dolphins and the Whale and Dolphin Watching options as the wild dolphins swim very quickly and you only see them for a few seconds. From the Catamaran you can watch them for ages as they follow the boat and swim in front and around it.

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

I would hope so

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

We really loved it; the place was very relaxed but enjoyable with great food. We loved our dolphin and whale experiences and we plan to go back.

review 26 Jul 2019

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

Swimming with the wild dolphins and being so close to the sperm whales along with exploring the interior of the island.

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

Book trips either on water or inland as soon as you arrive or before you leave home if possible. They are very busy and well booked up.

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

Tourism is the main industry and most local people are employed within it. The dolphin and whale watching companies are working hard to support conservation and educate visitors.

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

We had a wonderful visit - everything went to plan and we hope to return to the Azores, the people are very friendly, the scenery stunning and there is much still to see.

review 16 Aug 2019

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

Swimming with wild dolphins is pretty cool once you get the hang of it.

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

Be patient with service, every thing seems slow.

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

Yes, but "no tipping" seems out of place.

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

9 out of 10

review 22 Jul 2019

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

All the activities with the boat operator were the most memorable part of the vacation, as well as the stunning terrain and beautiful weather and pleasant english speaking local people.

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

This particular vacation was all about swimming with dolphins in the wild. My tips would be that you will be very lucky to actually swim with dolphins as they are wild animals which avoid humans in the water. Be realistic with your expectations, practice with snorkelling in open sea, and get strength and fitness to manage the exertion involved. But despite all these tips, it is an amazing experience amongst wonderful well informed and skilled staff.

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

Yes, the Azores were very welcoming and thrilled to help in any way they can. The staff are dedicated to ocean wildlife preservation, and enthusiastic about their work in this. We did not see litter or waste, and in some areas recycling was evident, but not all areas.

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

The vacation was wonderful, there were some frustrations at times as things are very relaxed and easy going and sometimes as a result a bit late and confusing. Our pre vacation information was not accurate, and led to some minor disappointments, but this will be shared with the vacation provider to improve things for others. The boats operators could not have been more friendly, professional and helpful all things considered.

review 11 Sep 2018

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

Swimming with bottle-nosed dolphins was an amazing experience.

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

If you are going to swim with dolphins, you need to be a confident swimmer in what can be quite rough seas. You also need to be reasonably fit to pull yourself out of the boat which can happen several times in each swimming session. My daughter and I loved it, but some people on the boat found the swimming too difficult and didnít swim.

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

We really appreciated the company with whom we went whale watching and dolphin swimming. Every boat had a marine biologist in it who was informative as well as clearly supporting keeping dolphins in the wild and not intruding on them when we were swimming. When one of our party wasnít able to swim with dolphins for some of the sessions she had booked, they were very helpful in allowing us to exchange for a land-based trip and also a morningís cycling and kayaking. We found them ethical, helpful and flexible in all respects.

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

It was a great vacation. It met the needs of my adult daughter (early 30s) her partner (early 40s) and me (early 60s). I would thoroughly recommend, the Azores and the company providing the activities.

review 10 Sep 2018

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

swimming with wild dolphins

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

take as little as possible on the boats - there is very little room and nowhere to keep things dry The boat company provide waterproofs so no need to take them book restaurants a day or so before or go out early before they get too busy

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 25 Aug 2018

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

The first time I saw the dolphins and then was lucky enough to swim with them close up on one of the three days. The island is a hidden treasure and is absolutely beautiful

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

If swimming with dolphins take as little as possible on the boat just a bottle of water and if you wish, a hat. There is incredibly limited room on the boat and everything gets trodden on. They equally donít like you using fins and the people who did had great difficulty getting back into the boat

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

I was impressed with how seriously the boat company took the whole thing. If the dolphins didnít want to play we didnít go in. I was also gratified to see they didnít chase them around.

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

Best vacation ever and would recommend to anyone who wants to live the dream of swimming with dolphins

review 19 Aug 2018

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

To see happy dolphins in nature, and I am also very happy to see young people with big interest in animals and enviroment.

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

If there are some audio visual presentations about whales and dolphins in the evening, and you hesitate about going, or better to have good dinner, I recommend sure to go to the lecture as it is very impressive.

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

local people

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

very strong connection with nature, very positive experience, good rest, nice green island.

review 4 Aug 2018

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

Being so close swimming with the dolphins

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

Plan additional trips in advance, itís a must to visit rest of island. Wish we had spent another week and seen some of the other islands. Always next time

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

Yes I think the locals definitely benefitted and was also a eye opener to what is happening with pollution in the sea and the environment in general

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

When I asked my 10 year old daughter was this vacation better than Disneyland Florida her answer was an astounding YES.

review 8 Jul 2018

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

Swimming with three different species of dolphin.

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

If you get cold all the time, take your own long wetsuit.

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

Absolutely. The company were passionate about being respectful to the marine life and to conservation.

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

Fantastic!!!

review 2 Jun 2018

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

Swimming with dolphins exploring the rest of the island

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

Dolphins are wild and free and unpredictable to see/socialise - so itís with having a few days planning to swim with them I had 3 very different experiences

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

There were sometimes it felt like a game reserve on the water, lots of boats but overall a positive experience to supporting conservation

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

Fantastic

review 12 Jan 2018

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

To be honest it was the friendly welcoming atmosphere in the Azores and the amazing accommodation and the owner/host who wore many hats: lovely place to stay and will go back there and back to Azores.

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

Dont expect too much re swimming with Dolphins as it is pot luck -yet the dolphins are pretty much always there but whether they stick around when you get in the water really is a lottery - even so the excitement and build up and attempts were fun.

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

I think we beenfited local poeple with our spending and supported conservation, but I am not sure we did anything to reduce environmental impacts.

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

Excellent - we want to go back and do more - we did one morning fishing and would have like to do more of that...

review 30 Sep 2018

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

Definitely the swimming with dolphins

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

Just that itís an amazing experience and they have to do it.

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

No

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

8/10

Read the operator's response here:

Hi Mathew, Glad you had such an enjoyable vacation and thanks for your review. I am not sure if you were aware that we do use a lot of local suppliers who actively support various conservation initiatives and practice responsible tourism. The boat company is owned by a local Azorean family and employ mainly local guides, skippers and team in the office. About 80% of the team are from The Azores Islands or the mainland. The boats follow strict guidelines in how they approach the dolphins with care and sensitivity to minimise the impact on the animals. There are also conservation projects which we all support to raise awareness around the threats facing the worldís oceans and the dolphins and whales. Best, Amanda

review 3 Sep 2018

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

The professionalism and expert organisation of the boat company made the whale watching and swimming with the Dolphins such a memorable experience. The week spent in Furnas and the hot pools

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

Research what local events are taking place during the stay. We was surprised to find ourselves experiencing a festival of the White Ocean which was unplanned, but welcomed

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

Certainly supported the local economy by using restaurants and cafes. But saw no impact to the local environment nor conservation outside the time spent with the boat company.

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

Very good and relaxing, except when the taxi transfer to the airport failed to turn up

review 15 Aug 2018

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

Swimming with common dolphins and watching them feeding.

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

Local transport doesn't enable one to explore the island much. Renting a car is fine for a family but expensive for a single traveler.

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

Guest house was locally owned as were restaurants. Many locals get their income from tourism. Swimming with wild dolphins is better than seeing them in aquariums. The negative impact of dolphin capture still needs to be publicised more.

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

Enjoyable but not fantastic.

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!?

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