Located about 10 miles from the island of Faial and equally
accessible from Pico Island, Condor Seamount is a great place to
spot large pelagics. The seamount rises from the depths, and the
currents swirl around it, keeping the nutrients in place and
ensuring a healthy marine environment. The big draw here are blue
sharks, shortfin makos, passing dolphins and, if you're super
lucky, a sperm or sei whale.
The dive is not a gentle cruise around a coral garden, though,
and dive operators often ask for a minimum of fifty logged dives.
You will need full control of your buoyancy as the dive is spent
hovering in the blue above the seamount with nothing but a shot
line as a visual reference. It's a different style of diving that
can be disorientating to the less experienced diver, but it's also
among the best advanced diving in the Azores.L
Formigas and Dollabarat
The nine Azorean islands are split into three groups, with Pico
and Faial within the Central Group and São Miguel, the largest
island, in the Eastern Group. The island is stunning, with
excellent trails along the verdant slopes of the extinct caldera,
and the diving is equally breath-taking. To the south of the island
lies the Formigas Islets Nature Reserve, a collection of seamounts
and islets, with a single structure - the Formigas Lighthouse -
marking the largest.
The currents can swirl around the islets at times, making the
trip exclusive to experienced divers. The clear, cobalt blue water
is home to an array of ocean predators, with large tuna, Atlantic
bonito and jacks lurking by the reef. They say 'there's always a
bigger fish' though, so keep an eye out for Galapagos sharks,
mantas and mobulas.
The Formigas Islets are classified as among the more advanced
diving in the Azores but São Miguel also boasts some excellent
local dive sites. One of our favourites is the SS Dori shipwreck
that featured in the Normandy Landings and an almost perfectly
circular submerged caldera.