Azores small group tour, volcanic wonderland

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Responsible tourism

Responsible tourism: Azores small group tour, volcanic wonderland

Environment

Whale watching and swimming with dolphins are clear highlights on this trip which are sure to be anticipated and enjoyed by all. It is crucial that any enjoyment is respectful of the ocean environment and its rich marine life. Both activities are overseen by local guides with a profound knowledge of the Atlantic setting. They instruct vacationmakers about responsible swimming and take the tours on non-intrusive routes.

We are in full support of watching cetaceans in their natural environment. It has been well-documented in everything from journals of marine biology to the National Geographic magazine that the confines of captivity can seriously harm the physical and mental health of dolphins – killer whales included in this category. Performance parks in particular can make dolphins dangerously dependent on human support and even lead to neurotic behaviour. In the wild, they are highly intelligent organisms with established social structures. It is this that vacationmakers should see: dolphins (and other cetaceans) as Nature intended. This will inspire them to regard these creatures as impressive wild animals, not theme-park attractions.

Of course, educating visitors about environments is not just limited to the ocean. On land, they will visit places like the Terra Nostra Botanical Garden and the Ribeira dos Caldeirões Natural Park, heading on specially chosen paths to avoid potential damage. At the Priolo Environmental Centre, they will learn about local natural life through an interactive exhibition. They will also be able to find out about the highly necessary conservation work on the Azores bullfinch, which is currently endangered.

Community

The Azores are a small island group that thrive on tourism, which is very much a pillar of their economy. It is well-established that mainland Portuguese destinations pull away significant numbers of tourists – Statistics Portugal (Instituto Nacional de Estatística) has found that the Algarve has almost 25% of total overnight stays, while the Azores does not even have two percent.

We proudly employ Azorean guides and instructors on this vacation, which ensures a local financial benefit. This applies to everyone from those overseeing kayaking on the Sete Cidades lagoon to the biologists which assist with the whale and dolphin tours. Why employ someone from abroad when such valuable expertise is available at the destination?

Clients have a choice between two different hotels on two different parts of the island – São Miguel Park Hotel in Ponta Delgada and the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel in Furnas. Two towns and two communities – with their restaurants and varied shops – can therefore benefit. On the subject of restaurants, it is worth pointing out that this vacation enables visitors to learn about and sample Azorean cuisine, which developed rather distinctly from that of Portugal. Take the ‘Cozido das Furnas’ as an example, which applies a geothermal cooking process to the traditional Portuguese ‘cozido’ stew. ‘Fofas da Povoação’ are another example, showcasing how the village of Povoação has adopted European pastry techniques to make a locally unique delicacy. In both cases, vacationmakers support and learn about a key aspect of Azorean culture: its wonderful gastronomy.

3 Reviews of Azores small group tour, volcanic wonderland

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Reviewed on 18 Jul 2018 by

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


Seeing and swimming with dolphins and whale watching was amazing. There are lots of them out there! Also really enjoyed the kayak and crater lake activity day.

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


- If you want to miss an activity then opt out of Nordeste as it is basically a sight seeing, long day in the minibus at the end of a busy week, although the fufas cake is good!
- Take water shoes
- We had different guides over the week for the excursion or activity so be prepared for this as you are met each morning. There are no lie ins!

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


Some of our guides were locals and we used local eating places each day when on an excursion which served a full, lovely lunch with optional wine - the eco place at Sta Barbara beach was especially good.
The water activities did seem to involve some extra camera shots for scientific identification of the pod later.
The whale watching company take responsible tourism seriously as they do not want to ruin the lovely island.

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


Excellent but I would have liked a whole free day to do our own thing or make Nordeste an optional choice with another optional activity such as a walk.

Reviewed on 16 Sep 2017 by

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


Swimming with dolphins. On our trip we spotted a large pod of Atlantic spotted dolphins (our guide estimated 500) and we slipped into the water and swam
with them. They were everywhere and you could hear their clicking a high pitched whistling as well as almost being able to touch them they were so close. Even our guide got into the water as she said it was very unusual to come across so many in one place.

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


Relax and enjoy it. And take some wet shoes as you're in and out of hot springs and the sea and walking over volcanic rock. And take a health appetite, the food
is amazing.

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


Benefited local people - yes definitely. The guide was a local and all the places we visited including attractions and restaurants benefit locals. Reduced environmental impact - yes maybe although you fly there and travel around in vans and jeeps so not entirely. Supported conservation - yes because the dolphins and whales are in their natural environment.

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


One of the best vacations I've had. Part of this was down to the people who were on the trip - we all got on well being like minded individuals. Small groups are
definitely better. The variety and pace and the activities was perfect. And the guide was absolutely brilliant, nothing was too much trouble.

Reviewed on 22 Aug 2017 by

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


Canyoning - really thrilling!

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


Be prepared to get wet - a lot!

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


We mostly did rather tourist activities.

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


Great!

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