The Best Time to Observe Sperm Whales in the Azores

The Azores archipelago is known for its rich biodiversity, particularly its thriving population of sperm whales. These majestic creatures can be seen in the waters surrounding the islands year-round.

Sperm whales are the largest toothed whales on the planet and males can grow up to 18 meters in length. They are famous for their distinctive block-shaped heads and their ability to dive to incredible depths in search of food. Sperm whales also have a very distinctive blow; it goes off to the left, because their blowhole is on the left side of their head. The Azores are home to some of these magnificent creatures.

The best time to observe sperm whales in the Azores is from April to October, when the weather is warmer and the seas are calmer. This period also coincides with the main breeding season, which means that you may be lucky enough to witness male sperm whales competing for the attention of a female. It’s also a good time to see mother and calf pairs, as the females tend to give birth in the summer months and nurse their young for up to two years.

Sperm whales feed, mainly on various types of squid or octopus all year around in the Azores. They often dive up to 3000m in search of their prey. Sometimes we come across the remains of a sperm whale’s dinner, large pieces of the squid they have been munching on, floating at the surface. When they are feeding, they spend about 10 minutes at the surface, recharging their oxygen supply, before returning to the depths to hunt. That moment when they dive, is what we are all waiting for, as they lift their tail out of the water, creating some amazing photos. It also gives us a chance to get a photo of the trailing edge of the fluke, which is like a fingerprint. When we have that photo, we can identify the individual animal and then have the ability to track it over space (distance) and time. To maximize your chances of spotting sperm whales in the Azores, it’s best to take a guided tour with an experienced local operator. These tours often use hydrophones to listen for the distinctive clicks of the sperm whales, which can help the guides to locate them. We use local spotters “vigias” on the cliffs, who use binocculars to spot the whales for us, before we even leave the harbor. Without a vigia, we would not see as many animals as we do.

The Azores archipelago is one of the best places in the world to observe sperm whales in the wild, because there are very deep waters close to the coast, which is perfect sperm whale habitat.

By visiting during the peak months of April to October and taking a guided tour, you can increase your chances of seeing these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat. Whether you’re a wildlife enthusiast or just looking for a unique travel experience, the Azores is a destination that should be on your bucket list.

Share this post on: