“The Shedd Aquarium’s Whale-Watching Vacation Package in the Azores,” by S.M. O’Connor

The John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago organizes curated trips around the world for affluent, physically active people who like educational vacations, and next year the Shedd Adventure in mid-April will be Sea to Volcanoes: Discover the Diversity of the Azores.  Lasting from Thursday, April 16, 2020 to Friday, April 24, 2020, this will be a chance to see the geysers, hot springs, and colorful lakes of the Azores and sea creatures that dwell in the surrounding waters or will be passing through those waters that time of year. More than one-third of the whales and dolphin species in the world either live near the Azores year-round or migrate through the area.  Sperm whales and Risso’s dolphins live in the area throughout the year.  Baleen whales, blue whales, fin whales, and sei whales should migrate through the waters of the Azores next spring during the same time period when this excursion is scheduled.  Kurt Heizmann, a supervisor in the Shedd Aquarium’s Marine Mammals department will be on this trip.

The Azores are an archipelago of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic, due west of France and the Iberian Peninsula and southwest of Iceland.  The Autonomous Region of the Azores is one two autonomous regions of Portugal, the other being the Autonomous Region of Madeira in the North Atlantic.  Combined with Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula in Europe, the three territories form the Portuguese Republic.

Highlights of the trip will include a whale-watching excursion; a hike to the volcanic crater Sete Cidades; spectacular views of lakes by kayak, paddleboard, and bicycle; the opportunity to bathe in natural thermal pools; and a chance to learn about the formation of the archipelago at Capelinhos Volcano.  Activities will, of course, depend on weather conditions.  One will also have the opportunity to drink wine of a local vintage whilst cooking dinner in natural volcanic ovens at the Pico Island vineyards, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Members of the tour group will meet in Boston and fly on from there to the Azores.  The group will range in size somewhere between six and twenty people.  On the first two nights, guests will stay in the Azor Hotel, which has ocean views, and is located a short distance from the airport.  When the group reaches Faial Island, they will stay at the Pousada Forte da Horta, a refurbished 16th Century hotel which overlooks Marina da Horta and provides views of Pico Island in the distance.  On the second half of the trip, the group will stay at the Hotel São Jorge Garden, which overlooks the Atlantic Ocean.  The last two nights, the group will stay at the Terra Nostra Garden Hotel inside the Terra Nostra Botanical Park.  The Terra Nostra Garden Hotel features an outdoor thermal pool.

The price per person is $4,995 per person for double occupancy or $5,790 per person for single occupancy.  Included in this package are a Shedd Aquarium expert host, as well as naturalist guides and a tour manager; all excursions listed in the detail itinerary; airport transfers; lodging for seven nights based on double occupancy; all meals outlined in the itinerary; an English-speaking local guide with step-on guides at some locations; beer and wine at dinners; gratuities for guides, restaurants, and hotel staff.  However, this does not include the cost of international and domestic flights, estimated to be $1,000 per person.

To register for this trip, call Ben Sander at Black Sheep Adventures at 1-866-647-4337 or e-mail info@blacksheepadventures.com. Click here to learn more about other 2020 Shedd Adventures, including the Shark Research Expedition aboard the Shedd’s research vessel, the R/V Coral Reef II, April 22-30, 2020.

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