Diving Pico

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Pico, Portugal

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Country: Portugal  Area: Portugal

Water Temp: 16 - 35°C (61 - 95°F)

Visibility: 15 - 40m (49 - 131 ft)

Depth Range: 10 - 60m (33 - 197 ft)

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Pico Island is part of the Azores archipelago, an area teeming with marine life and diverse dive locations such as lava tunnels and slopes that are home to typical reef species like crustaceans, groupers, eels, rays and invertebrates.  Caves and cracks form a living environment for all sorts of critters, while night dives offer a chance to see up close nudibranchs, shrimp, squid and octopus. 

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Many divers come to Pico to dive with blue sharks, and because the island is so close to its neighbors it is easy to take advantage of the dive sites on offer.

 

Marine Conservation

Marine conservation efforts are underway in Pico with surveys on cetaceans being conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and Marine Conservation Research International.  Pico Island Natural Park is also a marine protected area.

Sperm whale, Credit

Climate

The best weather months in Pico are July and August, when temperatures vary between 22-30C (71F - 86F), and the hours of sunshine tend to be around 10 hours or more.  July is the driest month and November the wettest.  Water temperatures tend to be around 17C (63F) in winter and 25C (77F) in the summer.  The average annual rainfall increases from east to west, with annual precipitation of 958mm (37.7 in) or 80mm (3.1 in) per month.

 
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The Diving

Princess Alice Bank

This site is a submerged seamount about 45 nautical miles southwest of Pico.  The bank rises from the depths and is also a rich fishing ground.  The site is renowned for Mobula rays, which can be found in groups of 5-30.  They are known to approach divers up close, while barracudas, tunas, bonitos, swordfish and sharks are common sightings too.  

The best time to dive this site is between July and September when the warm Gulf Stream reaches the Azores, increases surface temperature and clears away any plankton.  However, as the boat ride is about 2.5-3 hours each way, diving depends on the weather and sea conditions.

Arcadas de Sao Roque

The town of Sao Roque on Pico's north coast marks the starting point of a dive in the site Arcadas de Sao Roque.  This is a good place for beginner dives, night dives and snorkeling, with 3m deep tide pools that are home to various rock formations and marine biodiversity that is worth exploring before descending along a wall to around 12m (39ft) to the Sao Roque Arch, a huge rock formation covered with yellow cluster anemones, schools of yellowmouth barracudas and chromis. 

Arcos da Formosinha (The Formosinha Arches)

These are a set of arches where the dive begins at the top of a reef at around 8m (26ft).  A carpet of algae spreads below, with Mediterranean rainbow wrasses and ornate wrasses.  Divers can also see the first of the arches in the distance.  There are chromis, moray eels and nudibranchs to look out for, while at deeper depths (around 18m or 59ft) schools of white trevallies and round stingrays can be sighted.

Baixa Da Barca (Barca Reef)

This is a challenging site best reserved for experienced divers, with an average depth of 30m (98ft) and moderate to strong currents.  Depending on the time of year, divers can spot yellowmouth barracudas, Almaco jacks and Atlantic bonitos.  There are also corridors and platforms of rocky structures at 30m - 50m (98ft - 164ft), inhabited by red scorpion fish, dusky groupers, forkbeards and barred hogfish although the great attraction is the large schools of blue jack mackerels, devil rays and even some ocean sunfish.

Baixa Do Norte (North Reef)

Another site for experienced divers, the top of the reef here is around 17m (55ft) with a long platform populated with blue jack mackerels, which in turn attract predators such as yellowmouth barracudas and skipjack tunas.  Other species use the rocks as shelter, including moray eels and groupers.  At 35m (114ft) there are some white and yellow stretches of coral.

Cachorro

Located between the towns of Sao Roque and Madalena, this site is a unique bathing area on the north coast and good for beginner divers.  The main feature is a maze of arches and tunnels that house rainbow wrasses, ornate wrasses, canary damsels and parrotfish.  A gentle descent takes the diver down to 18m (59ft) passing by the arches and tunnels.  The cracks of the arches and pebble seafloor contain common octopus, lobster and black moray eel. 

Corais de Sao Caetano

This site is reached directly from the shore and is ideal for snorkelling, beginner dives, night dives and even technical dives.  The dive begins at around 3m (10ft) over a sandy pebble seafloor.  At 15m (49ft) there is a large wall that goes down to about 60m (196ft).  It's coated with black coral and houses black moray eels and dusky groupers.  There are also schools of fish such as barracudas passing by.  Currents here are weak.

Furnas de Santo Antonio (St Anthony's Caves)

This is an easy dive site in a sheltered and shallow area.  With an initial depth of 3m (10ft), marine life soon comes into view.  At around 10-15m (32ft - 49ft) deep, the landscape comprises several large rocks that host common species such as parrotfish, wrasses, octopus and eels.  At the edge of this area is an arch with an opening in the middle that floods the site with natural light.

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How to Get there

There are regular flights from Portugal (Lisbon or Porto) to the Azores, with TAP Air Portugal or Azorean Airlines SATA.  Direct flights are available from Lisbon, Ponta Delgada, Terceira and Faial.  The best option to get to Pico is to travel to Faial Island and then take another flight (with SATA) or a ferry.  Acorline and Transmacor both have ferries connecting Faial Island and Pico.

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Where to Eat & Drink

The A Parisiana Restaurant is located in the town center next to the municipal swimming pools, Madalena, and serves regional cuisine, especially fish from the Azorean coast.  A lunch buffet is available everyday. Baja Das Lajes Restaurant has 322 seats and a view of the sea and Pico mountain.  It serves olives, cheese, a range of fish, salads and Cataplanas, a traditional stewing pot.  The Fonte Cuisine Restaurant serves Mediterranean home cooking with olive oil, seasonal vegetables, herbs, fish and meat.  There is also a good range of national wines. 

Popular festivals are held in the summer with traditional entertainment and music performances.  In the Cais do Pico in Sao Roque is Clube Navale, most frequented by young people and tourists in the evenings.  For those wanting to dance, the nightclub O Farol in Lajes or the Registo Club in the Madalena zone are both good options. 

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Other Activities

Visitors can climb Pico mountain (with an altitude of 2,351 meters it's considered a challenging hike), go to Whaler museums in Lajes, Sao Joao and Sao Roque, taste wine and visit the UNESCO protected wine country in Lajido, Cabrito and Madalena, visit "Gruta das Torres," a must-do with the longest lava tube in Europe, swim in some of the natural swimming holes or go whale watching in Sao Joao and Lajes. 

Aldeida da Fonte is a "nature" hotel offering organic cuisine and activities such as yoga.

Pico Natural Park, the largest natural park in the Azores with 22 protected areas and 4 environmental centers, is also worth visiting.

Getting ready to surf, Credit

Family Friendly

Many of the hotels and resorts on Pico Island are family-friendly, offering a range of supervised activities such as hiking and swimming or bike riding for children.

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Rating 10/10

Pico, Azores

Pico19 Apr 2015 - 3 May 2015

The Azores are the place to be for all marine life lovers. It's THE place to go to see approx. 24 whale and dolphin species. Divers will experience a unique Atlantic sea fauna including blue- and makro sharks as well as Mantas im Princess Alice.

Abigail Booth

Abigail Booth

I never knew!!

Rating 8/10

Santa Maria Mobula's (Azores)

Pico24 Aug 2013 - 5 Sep 2013

A good place to see mobula rays ( the smaller version of the manta's) are the Azores (Portugese islands). In summer the diving is good en water temperature around 22-23 °C. There are several islands where you can find schools of Mobula (up to 40 ). If you are lucky you may have encounter with a whale shark , manta or even a whale. Also nice schools of baracuda or trevally. all surroundings are vulcanic and offer great UW vieuws. I visited Santa Maria but Pico and Faial offer the same stuff

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Showing 3 of 8 comments. Show all
V An Sau

Phil Wintercross

Wow we do not see whales at Vietnam.. I dream!

Elli Byrne

Love these photos Eddy.

PTDC0436

Tom Molyneux

Great report - very jealous and definitley a holiday destination for the future!

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