OMS Diver Newsletter

Exploring the
Azores 2016

October 2016

HISTORY AND CULTURE

Throughout the centuries, the Azores were known for volcanic eruptions, isolation, whaling, and pirates. The islands are very multicultural as mariners of all races and ethnicities stopped there over the centuries- many of them leaving indelible marks. With a population of only 250,000, the islands harken back to the days of old with most people living in small towns with a strong sense of family, tradition and religion. The pace of life is slower and closer to the traditional roots. Though the tourism industry has become a major part of the Azorean economy, many Azoreans still labor as farmers, fishermen, wine makers and other traditional occupations.

Exploring the Azores 2016

Azores

The Azores’ isolated location in the North Atlantic along the path of the Gulf Stream means they are one of the best places in the world to view large pelagics. Warmed by the nutrient-rich currents of the sub-tropical Gulf Stream, the unique geography provides the perfect home for a huge array of smaller fish as well. There are impressive natural arches formed by ancient lava flows in some locations, while in others there are deep caves formed by several interconnecting chambers. World War II shipwrecks lie on the ocean floor close to one island and near another the remains of 15th and 16th century shipwrecks can still be explored. It means that divers can enjoy all aspects of diving – from coastal to wreck dives as well as cave and shark dives. If this wasn’t enough, the Azores offer an even greater dive opportunity, with access to isolated seamounts where you can see dozens of mobula rays and large schools of pelagic fish. Coastal marine life is characterized by the presence of friendly dusky groupers, curious schools of grey triggerfish as well as several species of small, colorful nudibranchs. Octopi and moray eels hide between the rocks and brightly colored small fish such as the Mediterranean rainbow wrasse, the ornate wrasse, the Azores chromis, the Mediterranean parrotfish and many. At greater depths, red scorpion fish, barred hogfish and reef fish swim around the large stretches of black coral. On the seamounts you can dive with larger marine life. Many are too deep or far from the islands to visit, but there are some that can be explored including the Formigas Islets which we visited. They feature an abundance of smaller common species as well as large schools of pelagic fish, dozens of graceful devil rays and even some species of cetaceans. Schools of sometimes thousands of beautiful, large Almaco jacks patrol the seafloor and hundreds of yellow mouth barracudas appear still in the water column observing us.
Vila Do Porto

Vila Do Porto

On this particular expedition, we visited two of the nine islands- Santa Maria and Sao Miguel. Santa Maria is a small slow paced island with clear water, lots of schooling fish including trevallis and barracuda, mobula and giant manta rays and VERY friendly large groupers. Sao Miguel, the most populated island in the chain, is most well known for its incredible underwater topography of lava tubes, canyons, crevices, caverns, and arches. It is truly an underwater jungle gym for divers. Imagine incredible cave and cavern diving with tons of fish! We will definitely be going back…after all, there are 7 more islands to visit!

Exploring the Azores

Editors note: Faith Ortins, DUI and OMS’s intrepid dive leader used the Travel IQ pack with a 32lb wing. “It was light and easy to carry. I also used a DUI 3030 Travel Drysuit for the same reason- light, easy to pack and dries quickly. We had 5 of the 9 divers using a drysuit. With light insulation, we were perfectly warm in the 70 degree water”.

OMS Dive Gear Used

Faith Ortins, DUI and OMS’s intrepid dive leader used the Travel IQ pack with a 32lb wing. “It was light and easy to carry. I also used a DUI 3030 Travel Drysuit for the same reason- light, easy to pack and dries quickly. We had 5 of the 9 divers using a drysuit. With light insulation, we were perfectly warm in the 70 degree water”.

Happy Diving!

A big thank you to Michael Wright and Jamey English for providing these photos.

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