Home for the trips will be the sailing yacht 'Colomban'. Specially constructed in 1979 for charter work in the Caribbean and the Mediterranean, the 68ft yacht was chosen because her twin masted schooner rig and deep keel, give her good stability.
‘Colomban' is a comfortable cruising yacht but her technical specifications are also impressive. A cruising speed of 5-6 knots is maintained during time at sea, using her 120HP Ford diesel engine, and 240/110V generators suitable for recharging of video and walkman batteries are also fitted. The large galley includes cooker, and fridge/freezer and lots of storage for food and drinks.
The safety equipment fitted to 'Colomban' meets the required British standards and includes emergency fire fighting and bilge pumping systems, liferafts, lifejackets and safety harnesses. The standard of her electronics equipment is also high with depth sounder, radar, VHF radio, 2 satellite navigation systems and distress beacon all on board. The ships tender is ready at all times and is fitted with a powerful outboard engine.
'Colomban' has many features that make her a good boat for whale watching. Apart from the previously mentioned stability, comfort and safety areas she is manoeuverable and has an excellent steering position, both of which allow easy positioning of the boat around whales.
Her large water and fuel capacities mean we are not restricted to just a few hours on the water and her large deck area allows guests room to relax without being cramped and squashed. A walkout bowsprit is fitted which allows excellent photographic opportunities when watching bow riding dolphins. The airy saloon is accessible at any time, if you wish to get out of the sun or wind.
There is a professional crew on board to run the vessel; cooking, cleaning sail trimming and watchkeeping are just some of their many skills, leaving you free to enjoy your time on board.
If you are worred about seasickness. you can be comforted by the fact that we would not venture out of port during inclement weather. Not because 'Colomban’ is unseaworthy, but simply because the whales would be obscured by the waves. Although we use our engine for main propulsion we purposefully chose a sailing yacht for our trips because her deep keel and sails provide us with a stable platform from which to watch the cetaceans. These two facts combine to limit the problem to a minimum, for most people.
Bottlenose dolphin are the most common species in captivity, but in the Azores their spectacular acrobatics are for their own amusement.
Research on the whales and dolphins will be continuing while you are on board as a guest. This will include: recording surface times, noting behaviors, the group size, presence of calves, the direction the group is heading, and the position of the whales. Every two hours we will record general environmental information, such as water and air temperature, sea state, wind speed and direction, depth, and barometric pressure.
One of the most important things we record is the shape of the tail by photographing each whale as it "flukes-up". From the pattern of markings on the fluke we can identify individual whales. Using this method, over 900 different whales have been identified in the Azores by us and the IFAW team between 1987 and 1995. Several whales have been seen in more than one year.
In addition, all sightings of other marine mammals seen in the Azores will be noted, recording similar information.
We will also be entering the water to collect thin pieces of skin that are naturally dislodged from the sperm whales, when they breach or rub against each other. The preserved samples are taken to the Cambridge University Genetics Department, for DNA analysis. DNA fingerprinting has already been used to determine the relationship within pilot whale pods. It is hoped that similar analysis of Azorean sperm whale populations will shed light on how individuals within these groups are related, as well as determining the sex of individual animals. We also aim to collect underwater photographic data of sperm whale behaviours (and other cetaceans encounter) by swimming with them during socialising and you are invited to assist with this. Swimming with wild cetaceans is not to be treated lightly and will only occur when weather conditions are safe and disturbance of the animals is deemed to be minimal. It is not our primary activity during the tours and it is not a daily occurrence and we must stress this does not happen on every tour. Please note that adequate personal insurance is a condition of participation in this activity. If you purchase insurance other than the policy we recommend, you will be required to provide written confirmation of cover for the above activities.
Our research will also involve the catching and tagging of Loggerhead Turtles for Dr. Alan Bolton of the University of Florida. A team of researchers there are studying the lives of these endangered species, trying to discover where they live from the time they hatch on the beaches of Florida, to when they return to lay their own eggs some twenty years later. Turtles are highly susceptible to entanglement in drift nets and getting caught on fishermen's long lines. A better knowledge of their movements may help to avoid their needless deaths.
During your tour you will have several short talks about the work we are doing and you will also have a chance to get involved by helping us with data recording, skin collection and turtle tagging. Your help however is entirely optional.
Flights are not included in the cost of your trip, but we can provide scheduled flights with TAP Air Portugal at very competitive prices. These are purchased from a fully bonded travel agent, whos holds and IATA licence and is also a member of ABTA. All flights to and from the Azores go via Lisbon and any time spent there will be at your own expense. Most flights are in and out of Horta on the island of Faial but for some tours we will be using the island of Tercera. The U.K. departure/arrival point is London Heathrow but add on flights are available from provincial airports. Please contact us about this when booking. We can arrange extra time on the islands before or after your tour, if you let us know when booking.
In 1993 new laws called the Package Travel, Package Holidays and Package Tours Regulations 1992 came into force in the U.K. These regulations are an E. C. directive designed to safeguard your money in the event of our insolvency. Our brochure, booking conditions and financial security arrangements comply fully with these regulations. We have set up a special clients trust account which secures your money until after your holiday is complete. Only when you have returned home is the money you have paid for your holiday, transferred from this account. In the unlikely event of our insolvency the trustee would be able to return to you, the money that would be owed to you.
Visas are not needed by U.K. or E. C. passport holders but a full British passport is required. British visitors passports are no longer valid for visiting the Azores and you should check that your passport is valid for at least 3 months after your planned return home. If you have purchased your own travel insurance policy you should bring a copy of this for consultation, in case of emergency. There are no special health formalities required for visiting the Azores
Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Average Temp C 14 15 17 19 21 22 21 19 Ave. Rain (mm/day) 3.5 2 2 1 1 1 2 3.5 Ave. Daily 4 5 5.5 6 6.5 7 6 4.5 sunshine (hr)
It is a condition of booking with Whale Watch Azores that you purchase suitable travel and holiday cancellation insurance. We are pleased to offer 'The Holiday Safe' Travel Insurance policy from Hamilton Barr Insurance Ltd., which we fell is very competetitive. The summary below briefly describes the cover provided:
|1. Personal Accident||£25,000|
|2. Medical Expences||£5,000,000|
|3. Hospital Benefit||£1,000|
|4. Cancellation and Curtailment||£3,000|
|5. Travel Delay and Missed Departure||£1,000|
|7. Personal Effects and Baggage||£1,000|
|8. Personal Money and Travellers Cheques||£500|
|9. Loss of Passport||£250|
|10. Personal Liability||£1,000,000|
|11. Legal Expences||£25,000|