The waters surrounding the 9 islands known as 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.In 2013, the global sustainability certification programme “Quality Coast” compared the sustainable tourism credentials of 1000 island and coastal vacation destinations. The Azores came out 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 makes 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 1980’s 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 sperm whales.Tours are offered by an experienced fisherman on both smaller and larger boats depending on the whales 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 1980’s which has eclipsed the lack of industry left from whaling when it was banned by the Azores government. 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 possible as well and is an experience not to miss in the summer months in the Azores. They are visible on the coastlines of all the 9 islands and are generally very friendly. The government has put into many procedures for boaters on how to approach these gentle creatures, without scaring them or endangering their safety.