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Realm of the Sperm Whale 2024

This special programme is only run in June and July, but sperm whales can be seen all season round.

 Truly fascinating encounters

Sperm whales are the largest toothed cetaceans (suborder Odontoceti) and have the biggest brains of all animals. Pico Island is probably the best place in the world to observe these animals and their intriguing sociality. Although the Sperm whale is a year-round resident in our waters and can be observed throughout the Whale Watching season, this special programme only runs from beginning of June to mid-July and specifically focuses on the biology, behaviour and culture of Sperm whales.

From our experience, we found out that the more our guests learn, the more they enjoy the encounters with the whales. To ensure you will get the most out of your Whale Watching trips, we strive to provide you with all the information needed to interpret the behaviour of the animals and appreciate how much evolution has taken over millions of years to make today's Sperm whales so well adapted to life in the ocean - an environment only a few mammals have successfully exploited.
The paths of Sperm whales and humans have crossed for centuries, mostly to the whales detriment. Hunted worldwide, the Azores were no exception. In fact, before it became a star tourist attraction it was hunted here until the mid 1980's. From a conservation perspective, this shows that things can change for the good of both whales and humans. To fully appreciate this animal's natural history we complement our whale watching trips with presentations and a visit to a former whaling factory, now turned into a museum.
Anyone joining this programme will have some of the best chances of seeing these whales anywhere in the world. We have an experienced team but your motivation and attitude are also important for success. A flexible approach is key. Be prepared as sometimes the appearance of the whales and sea conditions may require a sudden departure at short notice. Expect some adventure too. We operate from semi-rigid inflatable boats and, although your safety is assured, the journey to the whales can be an electrifying experience, especially when the sea is rough.

 Realm of the Sperm Whale: what you get

  • 7-nights accommodation in Guest House
    (double room with private bathroom)
  • 3 Whale Watching trips
    (3-4 hours per trip)
  • 1 Guided visit to the 'Vigia'
    (the lookout used to spot whales and dolphins from land)
  • 2 Presentations on Sperm whales and cetaceans in general
    (biology, behaviour, sociality)
  • Transfer to/from the airport
  • Welcome and assistance throughout stay

 The Sperm whale

The Sperm whale is surpassed in size and weight only by some baleen whales and it is the largest predator endowed with teeth.

Its diet is based on deep-water squids, some of which can be as long as the sperm whale (although not nearly as heavy)! In order to catch these squids, Sperm whales must dive very deep and for a very long time. Reaching a depth of 1 km is not uncommon and deeper dives have been recorded. The time spent at depth depends on the gender and age. Full-grown females can dive for 45min but full-grown males can stay submerged well over an hour. Sperm whales allocate about 3/4 of their day to foraging and spend the rest of their time socialising.

Here in Pico you will be able to observe their social behaviour, which includes babysitting and even allosuckling (females breast-feeding somebody else's baby).

The most obvious feature of the Sperm whale is its big nose, which contains a complex oil, called spermaceti oil, that they use to focus the sound produced for echolocation (i.e. biosonar). Although the Sperm whale's spermaceti oil has nothing to do with sperm, the first whalers thought it was semen and this is the animal got its common name.

Assuming they can regulate the temperature of the oil and therefore its density, Sperm whales may also be able to reduce energy expenditure by maintaining neutral buoyancy at depth. This hypothesis was forumulated by Dr. Malcolm Clark, a world-famous cephalopod and sperm whale expert who spent a significat portion of his life in Pico.

(full package, including accommodation)


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