Advanced Diving in the Azores

The remote nine-island archipelago of the Azores sits in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, 1,000 miles west of the Portuguese mainland. Geographically unique, the volcanic Azorean islands sit at the convergence of three tectonic plates - the North American Plate, the Eurasian Plate and the Af-rican Plate. The surrounding deep water is littered with seamounts and hydrothermal vents and lies in the path of the warming Gulf Stream, making diving conditions otherworldly; manta rays and whale sharks use the submerged seamounts as navigational beacons when crossing the vast ocean. For many, this is European diving at its best, with makos and blue sharks also in the vicinity, it’s difficult to disagree. While the cooler sea temperatures, remoteness of the islands and style of diving lead to some of the more famous sites classified as advanced diving in the Azores, there are plenty of less challenging sites to enjoy too... Each of the nine volcanic islands - São Miguel, São Jorge, Terceira, Pico, Faial, Ilha das Flores, Santa Maria, Graciosa and Corvo – have their own charms and own selection of accessible dive sites. If you’re looking for a bespoke Azorean itinerary that will put you on the doorstep of the more advanced diving in the Azores, our team of dive travel specialists can help you choose which is-land and which time of the year will give you the best chances to dive alongside the amazing mega-fauna that passes through the region at various times of the year.

Condor Seamount

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.

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Emily C, Eleanor and Jacqui are our 'Advanced Diving in the Azores' experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

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