The Azores are currently one of the world’s largest whale sanctuaries. Among resident and migrant species, both common and rare there are more than 26 different types of cetaceans that can be spotted in the waters surrounding the Azores. A remarkable 1,883 marine species have been identified in the Azores so far, with five of the world’s seven turtle species being seen here during the migratory period. In 2013, the global sustainability certification program “Quality Coast” compared the sustainable tourism credentials of 1000 island and coastal vacation destinations. The Azores came out in one the top. In 2014, it became the first-ever destination to be awarded the Platinum Quality Gold Coast Award. Whales are drawn to the islands year-round because of the warm temperatures and abundance of fish stocks. The weather patterns and rough seas make it more difficult to spot whales in the winter months, however, between May and October, this sea is much calmer and warmer making their sightings more frequent. The practice of commercial whaling ended in the 1980s in the Azores and is now a sanctuary for them to swim freely. There is a whaling museum on the island of Pico, where whaling was most prominent in Azorean history. Here you can explore all the history of the ocean seas while admiring some ancient whaling artifacts. Here in the Azores whale watchers have seen everything from gargantuan blue whales, humpbacks, minkes, pilot, fin, and even sperm whales. Tours are offered by an experienced fisherman on both smaller and larger boats depending on the whale you want to see and how far you want to travel out to sea. The tours have been gaining in popularity every year since the 1980s which has eclipsed the lack of industry left from whaling when it was banned by the Azores government 3 decades earlier. The Azores government is working hard to preserve and enhance the marine development of the surrounding waters and are working towards becoming a UNESCO marine heritage site. Watching the bottlenose dolphins is also possible here in the Azorean waters and is an experience not to miss if you choose to trek out to the sea. The various dolphins are visible on the coastlines of all the 9 islands and are generally very friendly, however, caution and respect for their environment are important to remember. The government has put into many procedures for boaters on how to approach these gentle creatures, without scaring them or endangering their safety, while still providing the opportunity to witness them in their natural habitat.