Finally Got to See What All the Fuss is About Moby Dick

Off the coast of Portugal, in what feels like the middle of the Atlantic Ocean is an archipelago of islands called the Azores. Born of volcanic activity this string of islands is a favorite spot for European vacationers to come explore nature, culture and a more relaxed way of life. To say it is beautiful is doing it an injustice. Each view is more glorious than the next with micro ecosystems littering the island in mind boggling ways. We visited the largest island, Sao Miguel, for a week and stayed in a small village there called Mosteiros. I can say without hesitation that I would do it again and recommend it highly to anyone that enjoys peace, beach, whales, birds, quirky village habits and amazing views.

Iconic view from beach at Mosteiros

Most everyone knows by now that I am a complete whale geek. It’s ok. I own it. One of the things that most attracted me to the island of Sao Miguel is that they have a year round population of sperm whale. Being nearly obsessed as Ahab, without Melville’s cruel plot of limb removal, I was keen on seeing my first sperm whale. They are actually quite a bit different from other whales I’ve managed to spot. They are toothed whales, enormous teeth on the lower jaw only, which they use when they dive deeper than other whales to feed on giant squid. They have a big bulbous head and one blowhole located on the side of their rostrum. This makes their blow, or water spout by which you spot them, spray out at an angle instead of straight up like the other whales I’d seen.

My toothy grin beside my toothed whale buddy

So we started looking to take a trip as soon as we got to the island. We really wanted to go with the one outfitter that was in our little village. We had walked into their office and talked to them and they were so kind and personable that we were hooked. Unfortunately the wind and waves were not cooperating. We decided to trust the forecast and delay our trip until later in the week so that we could go with Terra do Pico. Luckily it worked out well and we went a few days after we arrived on the island. Their communication with us the whole time was outstanding so we always knew they were doing their best to get us out there safely.

We had an amazing trip, a wonderful little RIB boat, undefined actually, not that kind of rib boat, a great captain and a very knowledgeable naturalist. We did find sperm whales, which sent this whale geek to cloud 9! Here’s some video, sorry, it was a little rough out there. They show the way the blow is out and to the side, some good views of the back of the whale, the fin and a couple really good fluke shots. A very successful and beautiful day on the water.

Quick Sperm Whale Fluke
Miscellaneous sighting footage

So there it was, the end of my epic hunt. Moby Dick and family even better than I had hoped for and a far better ending for me than poor old Ahab. It is not the end of my cetacean bucket list, and I will certainly take the opportunity to search for them again in the future. It seems I just can’t help myself.

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