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Friday, June 5, 2015

Scuba Diving on Sao Miguel- Franco do Campo


Today we are talking continuing our talk of "must see's" on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores.  We are going to talk a little about the village of Franca do Campo where I went scuba diving, and then the next post, talk about some dolphins.


Franca do Campo is an important spot for two reasons. A- it is where you catch a ferry to head to the island nature reserve I talked about yesterday- (find that here). And B- it is the location of Azores Sub Dive Center, a PADI dive shop. If we are going on a vacation that is an island, it is guaranteed I am hauling some dive gear along. 



I did some research and found that this spot was highly reccommended, and that Azores was home to some fantastic diving.  Every island has its own "flavor" of diving if you will.  While you aren't going to see bright tropical fish (we are still in the Atlantic folks..), you are going to see some amazing fish, eels, and if you are lucky, rays, dolphins and whales.  Because of the location of these islands, a lot of whales and dolphins pass through the islands.  


The best time to dive the islands is between June and November.  Conditions are best at the islands of the triangle (Sao Jorge, Pico and Failai) but Sao Miguel still has some wonderful diving. On a good day diving these islands, visibility can be over 60 meters. 

"Divers will frequently see schools of mackerel, barracudas, yellow-fin tuna and trigger fish. Common sting rays grow to enormous size in these waters. Even large mantas are sometimes encountered. Small sea creatures such as sea spiders, sea urchins, tube worms, octopus, moray eels and lobsters hide in the small underwater formations.



Around the island of Santa Maria, there are over 55 dive spots with caves, grottos as well as walls, flats and seamounts close to the island. Again, the tremendous variety of species within a very short distance is a divers dream. Some specialty type divers are done by some of the charter companies, such as towed dives, scooter dives and blue water dives. 

About twenty miles off the island of Santa Maria are two special dives for experienced divers and only in good conditions. The Dollabarat is a seamount rising from several hundred meters to just 4 meters. Sharks are often found in this area. The Baixa Ambrosia is a seamount of 42 meters." Source









Because I was on Sao Miguel and would not be seeing the other islands during this trip, I decided to go diving in Sao Miguel out of Franco do Campo.  I jumped on a small inflatable boat and went diving around the nature reserve/island from yesterday's post and featured above. 


There was the captain, two dive instructors/guides, myself, and a gentlemen from Italy vacationing in the Azores.  This was my first time diving without my trusty group of dive buddies, and my first time diving off a boat (well, inflatable skiff).  I was a little nervous about going down a line (with bad ears) with this group of strangers, but this company and the guides made it an amazing experience.  Things are a little different when diving in a European country- no one calls them tanks, only cylinders, and pressure is in (metric system, how they measure pressure, all different).


We got dressed at the shop, and the guys brought all of our gear over to the boat for us (all that weight is heavvvy).  We headed over to the island, put on our gear, and jumped right in.  Our guide took us down the line (a little slower than he probably thought due to my awful ears) and did two separate dives in two different spots around the island.  The dives were absolutely beautiful, swimming along the large walls of the islands.  We saw Morray Eels, Portuguese Lobsters (Cavacas!), parrot fish, and various small ocean critters.  The water was on the cold side but the visibility was amazing.

 When you are ready to get back on the boat, you take off your bc, clip it onto the side of the boat, and they pull you back in (service, I tell ya).  Then they pull over your BC for you and you are back on your way to shore.  

Our guide put together this little GoPro video montage of our dive (at the bottom of this post) so you can all see a little glimpse of almost exactly what i saw in the comfort of your living room.  


After the dive, we walked around the marina for a little bit and watched fishermen unloading their catch from what seemed like a successful day of fishing. 






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