Out boat is rocking in the waves of the Atlantic Ocean. All eyes are fixed on the surface. We have been adrift on the open Ocean for hours. Finally, the relieving call: “Shark!”. A dark fin circles the boat as we jump. Onto a fantastic blue shark adventure.
07.07. (Friday) The alarm rings at 2:30. Our holidays begin. We haul ca. 80kg of dive gear and photography equipment down to the taxi stand and make our way to the airport.
The flight from Munich to Horta on Fatal Island is the first adventure. The check-in desk in Munich cannot find the booking for our third piece of luggage and the TAP ticket counter only opens 15min before our departure time. Luckily a very nice lady checks all our bags anyway. We make our way to Lisbon, where we meet ca. half of our group. On the flight to Horta, SATA Air Azores Singles us out and asked us to check in our hand luggage with batteries and camera equipment. Ground staff is bullying us and threaten to kick us off the flight. We comply and are happy to safely make it to Horta (not the type of behavior you would expect in a democratic country).
On the flight to Horta, we have a great view on Pico island.
Our dive guides from the Searider dive shop pick us up from the airport and take us to Casa da Baia which will be our home for the next 11 days.
We unpack and take our equipment to the dive shop to setup for the next days. In the evening we have dinner at Peter’s, the legendary sailor bar where the transatlantic sailors stop over for a beer.
08.07. (Saturday) We meet at 9 am at the dive shop for a group picture.
Then we load the boat for a test dive close to Horta at the eastern wall of Monte da Guia. Visibility is not great but that’s not the point. Equipment works and we are good to go.
We restock the boat and head out into the choppy waters south west of Fajal. Michi is seasick but manages well. After ca. 2h we reach our destination, an underwater bank. Alba, our dive guide starts chumming. After ca. 1h a blue shark shows up. We get in the water and enjoy a full 1h show. The blue shark comes and checks us out and poses nicely for pictures.
After 1h we head back to Horta, happy and seasick (Michi). We have dinner at Peter’s. I don’t feel so well so I go to bed early.
09.09. (Sunday) It’s hammer time. Today we are searching for Hammerheads on the north side of the island. It’s free diving only so we bring light gear. Water is choppy again and the group throws a up in stereo. We try several spots along the North Coast but closest we get to a Hammerhead is seeing dorsal fins cutting through the water. After 4h we call it a day and turn around to go back to Fajal. No hammer time. But that’s nature.
In the afternoon, we explore the marina of Horta. Horta is an important stop for sailors when crossing the Atlantic Ocean. It is a good luck tradition to draw a painting on the harbor walls.
We have hot stone dinner at Canto da Doca and go to bed yet early again.
10.07. (Monday) Today the weather is bad (windy and rainy), so we decide to do a dry day. We take two cars and drive around the island. First stop is the old whale processing plant. It’s a horrific place from another time (although the museum is well made.
Next, we get a private tour through the former aquarium, which was damaged during a hurricane and is now used by a company that catches fish for aquariums.
From there, we drive to the north east to visit an abandoned lighthouse that got damaged by an earthquake.
We continue counterclockwise around the island and stop for lunch at Rumar at Praia do Norte. The tuna is excellent. And it may be the longest lunch break I ever had.
Finally, we continue to Capelinhos, the youngest vulcano on the island and a new piece of land the was created during the outbreak in the 1950s.
We continue southward without any specific sights but break into an old, closed down hot spring.
On the way back to Horta, we stop at the Ponta do Morrow to enjoy the view on the cliff and find nests of Shearwaters.
Final stop is a beer at Peter’s before we go to bed.
11.07. (Tuesday) Shark day. We head out to the Northern part of the channel between Fajal and Pico and start chumming. All we got after 3h were some sharks passing by our boat. So we sit and wait. But no sharks show up. So we eventually have to admit defeat. The ocean is not a zoo. We go back to Horta. I decide to take 2 days rest because I am feeling a cold coming. The dry day comes in handy. Heavy rain hits Horta that night so even the night dive is canceled.
12.07. (Wednesday) I take a rest day. We sleep and buy a blue shark print at the Oceanic. Les Gallhager, who runs the Oceanic has completed over 500 drawings for the University of the Azores. We sleep some more and do not joint the evening at the house of one of the dive guides. It is the right decision as I am quite sick.
13.07. (Thursday) The weather still is not good enough for diving. But in the afternoon, we go whale watching and attempt to snorkel with dolphins. We find a pod of sperm whales south of Pico island and enjoy watching them.
It is really tranquil and we enjoy watching these giants swim by. However, the dive shop owner has other plans. After ca. 5min she turns the boat around to speed through the swell (almost flipping the boat at one point) and race to the south of Horta to search for a pod of dolphins. She finds one but the dolphins are clearly not up to interact. They change direction everytime the boat comes near. She tries cutting them off. Its painful to watch and I hear Pierre Latour’s voice in my head narrating the soft approach by boat. No wonder, our snorkeling attempts with the dolphins are not met with any luck. Later we discover that the issue was that she does not have a whale watching and dolphin swimming license and could only do this with a rented boat. Anyway.
We have dinner at Genuinos, which claims to be the best fish restaurant on Fajal. It does not disappoint.
14.07. (Friday) Its finally time to get wet, again. In the morning, we do a relaxed shore dive on the south side of Monte da Guia. The waves move us up and down, left and right. Quite a fun dive.
In the afternoon, we try another shark dive up north, between Fajal and Pico. We get into the water but I am the only lucky one to encounter a passing Mako.
The weather turns grey again with a bit of rain. We have dinner in the Taberna de Pim, fantastic beef stew.
15.07. (Saturday) Today is the day: We go to Princess Alice Bank. The bank sits at 30-60m on a pinacle that rises from the deep sea of over 2000m. It is home to a school of Mobulas but also Barracudas and Amberjacks. The dive is, again, simple. The boat anchors on top of the bank and divers hold on to the anchor line, waiting for Mobulas to pass by. We dive and stare into the blue for 44min. Then the Mobulas appear.
We do two dives of ca. 70min in low depth and really enjoy ourselves. Portuguese Man of War jellyfish are ubiquitous but pose no threat to us.
It is a long 2-3h ride back to Horta. We sleep, read or watch the Shearwaters doing their dance.
We have dinner in the sun on the terrace of the Restaurant Atletico (not the sports bar).
16.07. (Sunday) We start the day with a costal dive at the east wall of Monte da Guia. We drift with the current and explore two caverns. Dive briefing is unclear so nobody is sure how deep we would go into the second cavern. But its a nice dive and its good to get wet. And we get few but fantastic shots, incl. one towards the cavern entrance by Sebastian.
In the afternoon, we try another shark dive south of Fajal. 1.5h boat ride, 3h of chumming, 1.5h boat ride back. 0 sharks (except the ones Michi spotted at the surface)
We re-fuel on garlic bread and cheese at Peter’s.
17.07. (Monday) Second trip to Princess Alice Bank. The sea is calm. We make good speed and reach the bank after ca. 2.5h. There are four boats there but there is enough distance between the divers. We drop down the anchor line and wait. One of our less experienced co-divers gives us the shock of a lifetime by loosing the orientation and swiming through the deep blue at 38m while the rest of us hangs-out at 5m.
But then come the Mobulas
We do two dives of 70min, hanging from the anchor line and watch the Mobulas fly by. Its a fantastic day. Two Mobulas wave us goodbye at the surface as we leave.
To top it off, a school of Dolphins accompanies us on our way home.
Plan is to end the evening at Bar Principe but the dive shop owner failed to make a reservation. So we end the evening with cheese and garlic bread at Peter’s.
18.07. (Tuesday) Today we fly back to Munich. The trip ends as chaotic as the dive center has been all trip. While the owner assures us that we have “plenty of time”, we arrive late and I only make it through security because a friendly SATA employee negotiates with his supervisor. Thanks for nothing. The flight is smooth. After lift-off, we pass almost directly over the top of Pico vulcano.
The rest of the flight is smooth. We land on time in Lisabon and catch our flight to Munich with little wait time. Our Apple AirTags reveal that one divebag is still in Lisabon. 3 out of 4 bags arrive. We hope to get it in the next days.
Overall, it was a nice trip. We had fantastic interactions with blue sharks, makos and mobulas. We were a bit unlucky with the weather. The dive center is not one I would return to. Overall, not well organized, no good view on safety and overall a very self centered owner. But that does not spoil the overall experience.