Diving with whale sharks in Santa Maria, Azores

whale sharks azores
Summer time is when whale sharks arrive to Santa Maria. Image by Mark & Andrea Busse

Santa Maria, the island of sun, is the southernmost and smallest of the Azores islands. With an area of just only 90 km2 and a population of 5,000 inhabitants, it boasts some of the most beautiful beaches of Azores, crystal clear waters and beautiful bays and natural pools.

Recently Santa Maria has become the most popular destination for divers who come to the Azores archipelago because of two pelagic creatures that arrive during the summer: the whale shark, which is usually accompanied by schools of tuna and carangidae, and schools of mobulas.

In «Ambrosio», just 3 kilometers off the coast, you can as much marine life as you would find in other distant seamounts like Princess Alice.

During the warmest months of the year tens of parsimonious mobulas dance around divers. This site allows less experienced divers to see these majestic animals as they swim in depths not exceeding 15 meters. More experienced divers will be able to dive to 40 meters on a small platform where they can find many rays, scorpionfish and even sunfishes.

Santa Maria Island has 8 other dive sites where both experienced and non experienced divers will find many interesting spots. You can dive in tunnels (like the ones of «Baixa da Maia» islet) that receive streams and thanks to the fishing bans they are full of schools of fish, barracudas and boasts yellow anemones formations that host many nudibranchs.

Yellow Anemone
Yellow Anemone Parazoanthus axinellae. Image xavance

In «Gruta Azul» you can get into a cave more than 150 meters long that offer different diving environments and beautiful lighting effects where you can enjoy encounters with some black stingrays.

Another beautiful lava tunnel is «Gruta Funda», with depths between 15 and 40 meters. It has a sandy bottom inhabited by many rays, decorated wrasse, damselfish and carangids schools.

Other interesting area with vertical walls and streams is the «João Lopes bank» which, in addition to the fauna of Azores, is visited by pelagic animals as barracudas, carangidae and if you are lucky enough mobulas during the summer.

In Santa Maria you can also find vibrant marine reserves such as «Pedrinha» offering easy diving spots and different dive types. There you´ll find small rocky landscapes of great beauty. In Pedrinha the pollacks are very common, and you can also find ornate wrasse, groupers and even dive with mobulas.

Where is Santa Maria Island?

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