Category Archives: Explore

Spot the biggest mammals on earth

The biggest mammals of this planet roam the seas around the Azores Islands. For many visitors an encounter with one of these massive creatures is the high light of their visit. Not a surprise if you imagine they can reach up to 33 meters (about two city buses in line). Even more fascinating that these diving cows feed their 300 ton body with merely krill and and some other petite proteins they filter out of the water.

Whale watching on the azores

Our Trip

2017 06 Wale watching Azores web-17After walking on Terceira for three years, it was about time to say hello to our neighbours out there. And man. What an introduction. We spotted a female with a calf. The mothers tend to stay in the garden between the islands, while the dads have the tendency to migrate (ow, how typical).

 

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Happy with the image of whale skin I have been able to make from the deck of the boat, I realise that it doesn’t match the true experience by a single bit. The excitement of getting closer, the waiting to reappear after a dive and then the feeling of a impressive creature swimming in front of you.

When they gently reach the surface they blow out air and water of their nostrils and it just feels big. You have to hear this.

2017 06 Wale watching Azores web-13So, if I can give one advice to future whale watchers; don’t get too stoked on getting a wicked photo. If you are not a professional, with a lot of patience and a proper zoom lens, you will have a lot, a l o t, of blue pictures with a grey stripe. And peeping through the view finder,  hiding behind your device, it is not the real deal. At some point put your camera down, feel the experience and buy a postcard.

Well, I tried as well. And have a couple of nice grey stripes, which you see here. Curious if I can follow my own advice next time, I guess not.

Ocean Emotion

We made the experience with Ocean Emotion, one of the operators based in Angra do Heroísmo. Although we have no comparison with other captains, we would highly recommand this organisation. The smiling captain, the contagious enthusiastic marine biologist who was still in awe of the sightings we made, they give us a great day and we learned a thing or two.  The crew of Ocean Emotion treat the animals with great respect, like keeping their distance and not to hang around too long.

I could tell you 10 more fun facts I have learned about these beautiful animals and inform you about 10 more species you might encounter when you are here, but as always, it’s better to find out for yourself when you stay with us!

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Adeuuuuusss!

 

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The Coastline of Biscoitos

Biscoitos Winewalk WEB-2One of the details in the landscape where no one talks about, but struck me as a pre-historic, pre-mammal kind of scenery, is the mini ecosystem of weeds and algae that reside on the rocks and decorate the shallow pools that form during low tide.

When you visit the beach of Biscoitos or while you are walking the Wine Trail you can make a little side step over the concrete cobble path and if you are feeling lucky not to slip and slide step into this moon swamp landscape.

This is also the territory of the Lapas or limpets, a water snail that sucks itself to the cliffs. Bring a knife to flip them off, but if you really want to fill your plate with this local delight you better find a more remote spot.

 

The beach is only a 3 minute drive from Abbyville, so for our volunteers and guests always a great place to visit -if sand castles are not your thing.

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Wine on the Rocks

Biscoitos is the pounding heart of the Azorean wine tradition, or at least this is where the tradition has been kept alive in the rocky surroundings of the north side of Terceira. The wines of Terceira; Vinho de Cheiro and Verdelho, of which the latter is said to be the best, are made possible by clever and hard work of the wine families of the island. The volcanic landscape has a abundance of rocks and it couldn’t be farmed. On top of that the salty winds in the middle of the Atlantic created the need to protect the crops from being burned away.

Hike the volcanic wine fields of biscoitos terceira azoresThe first settlers designed little square fields, sheltered by rock walls to protect the vines from these winds. The squares were filled with stones and pebbles, leaving pot holes to plant the grapes. You can imagine the intensive labour to cultivate the rough coastline, digging out and placing rocks, field after field until a squared pattern decorates the rocky hills.

During the summer the farmer puts little sticks under the vines so the grapes dangle just above the volcanic rock. During the day the rocks will collect the heat only to gently release it during the night, giving warmth to the sugary Verdelho grape to give its flavour to her wine. It is said that during bad weather the winds from the sea burn the grapes and this is the third element to give the distinctive taste to the wine of Biscoitos.

Hike wine fields of biscoitos terceira azores wine pressAcross the the street from where we live there is the wine museum, run by the parents of one of our friends. The Brum family is well know for their rich history and now-a-days they play a vital role in keeping the wine landscape alive. The museum gives a good idea about the unique way of wine making. Make sure to try (and buy) the sweet dessert wine they do, we reckon it is the best.

Hike the volcanic wine fields of biscoitos terceira azores

 

The protected wine area of Biscoitos is enjoyed best by foot. There is a walking trail that leads you along the allotments and kitchen gardens, past the rocky coastline with the remains of long gone defence works and then straight through fields of stone enclosures (“curraletas”). The coast offers a good detour. naturally the swimming pools on the beach of Biscoitos are famous and  the coastal landscape is definitely one of a kind.

As you follow the path, respecting the plants and the farmers land, you can see from up close the labour that comes with the Azorean wine. Along the way you will find adega’s, wine houses that sometimes will sell their wine. Many family wineries still make vinho de Cheiro (wine of scent). This light (10%) and sour wine is mostly made for the festivities of the Holy Spirit or one of the other many local traditions the island is known for.

When you visit the Azores you must try their Wine on the Rocks.

 

The lesser known 4R

Terceira has beautiful natural swimming pools along the coast, where the black volcanic rocks provide sheltered salty baths. Biscoitos has the most famous one and is therefore one the best known holiday spot for travellers and locals who often have summer houses in this pleasant town.

If you want to explore more on Terceira, don’t miss out on Quatro Ribeiras:

 

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This week I was driving along the north coast and was curious about the natural swimming pool of Quatro Ribeiras. In the twilight of a warm day in the fall, the dark volcanic rocks, the blue light and the splashing waves created an surreal surrounding for the short dip in the ocean. Swimming in mid November, hallelujah Azores!

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In the summer you will find a bar, toilets and showers and life guard looking out for your safety. If you have difficulties with descending stairs or need to move around with a baby stroller, Biscoitos might be your better option, there is a set of (good) stairs after the parking lot, to get to the shore.

I am curious how this place looks like in summer!

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Stunning Rocha do Chambre

Yes, this is why we are living on the Azores! My brothers, Annemarie and I went for a hike and were thrilled by the variety of landscapes, views and natural beauty. Although the trail already excised this summer it became a marked route, so now the majestic glory is visible to all who want to go out there.

I had seen straight rock formations a few times from a distance and was very excited to see then now close-up, literally from up close because it is a bit of climb to get there. As the most trails we have done so far they ask some of your fitness, but are definitely doable without hiking experiences. My brother walked it out on sandals -have to say the talking was subsequently less in the last kilometres.

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Like the hike Mysterious Negros you will find here the typical Azorean flora; ancient wobbely pine plants, ferns and beautiful moss formation. If you give yourself the time you will discover multiple layer of small growing forest friends.

After the forest part that starts with the hanging pine trees we found an empty river bedding, where the rocks where covered with moss. Annemarie was too curious so us man couldn’t stay behind. If you are up for a bit more climbing, don’t miss out on this eerie detour. After 100 or 200 meter we crawled out on the steep ridge on the right side to find the path we took to the left to continue the trail. No 127 hours of blair whiches for us.

This wonderful hike covers a great variety of the natural beauty the Azores and Terceira in particular have to offer. The starting point of the hike is just 5 minutes away from Abbyville.

More details about the trail you will find on the website of Visitazores.com