Azores: What else?!

Less than four weeks from now I’ll already have had my last working day at ICL – the time is now really flying and there’s so much left to do… What do I have to buy, what do I have to service/check before I go and of course, the most difficult one, what do I take with me. It’s going to be almost five months on the island, so I’d better think very well of what to take especially since the weather can go everywhere being in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Diving gear is easy – just take it all – but clothing? I would want t-shirts, flip-flops and shorts, but also sweaters and hiking shoes. And I’m crazy enough to want to take my road bike, so that’ll introduce quite some extra stuff to take with me. Will be a fun day to have to transport everything to the airport by myself. I guess I’ll take an extra hour for it 😉 At least I’ve got enough on my hands to keep myself busy until I leave.

A hidden paradise

“So why The Azores” is a question I get asked a lot. It’s not really the typical place to go when you’d want to pick up a career in the diving industry. Everybody thinks of Asia, Australia or The Caribbean. How did I figure to go to a small group of islands in the middle the Atlantic Ocean?!

After reading some articles of Duiken Magazine and doing some research with Sandra last year, we had decided this was going to be a good destination for a holiday. So, last year in June we went to discover Pico, above and below the surface. Coming in by plane I realized immediately that this island was something special. First of all, you’re flying over the ocean for a couple of hours and all of a sudden there’s this group of islands appearing, seemingly out of nowhere! Descending into Pico, you could see this is not your standard holiday destination. No palm trees and white sandy beaches but rugged terrain with the volcano peak of Pico, at 2351 meters the highest mountain of Portugal, rising from the sea and surrounded by green and blue. A lot of blue. I realized immediately, a week wouldn’t be enough here. Hiking, diving, whale watching, mountain-biking, kayaking, enjoying the view at Portugal’s highest peak and tasting the local wines… The island had it all, and I just had a week.

Last February when I started figuring out where I would want to work as an instructor, I started asking around. When I called Sander Evering of Dive Solutions and told about what I was looking for and if he would have any tips on where to look, he came up with Pico Sport. He sent an e-mail to Frank Wirth referring to me and I put in my application letter and they contacted me that they wanted me for their team this year! The thing that really appealed to me was the fact that it wasn’t going to be just teaching open water classes in the sand and on shallow reefs, but their clients were mostly more advanced divers just wanting to make awesome dives. This was a huge difference with the options in Asia. Another great benefit of Pico Sport was the fact that they were very keen on ocean awareness and marine conservation and this is something I want to devote my life to.

Last year I only made 5 dives on Pico, but they were great already, even just being ‘simple’ dive sites – because it wasn’t the season yet, there were no Mobula rays at Princess Alice bank yet and also the sharks didn’t show themselves very frequently. This still promises a lot for the coming months as I didn’t see the more special things, though I have to say the shore dives from Pico are also fantastic. With the colourful fish and the rocky layout and caverns, it was perfect for Moray eels, octopuses and lobsters. I cannot wait!

Next to being on the dive guide list and doing some teaching, since I have my skippers license I’ll probably also be on the roll for driving the boat to the whale watching and swimming with dolphins, creating quite a diverse job for me. Besides these tasks, I want to put my extra time into setting up the technical diving centre at Pico Sport to be able to discover new dive sites, introducing projects such as Ghostfishing and develop myself as an underwater photographer.

The passion, the dream

Diving really is my passion, though as I discovered in December 2015, diving in Egypt, (see this post!) my biggest love of my life are sharks. And the fact that the Azores is home to many Blue and Mako sharks this makes it even better than I could’ve dreamt. I am now following my passion, but my heart lies with the sharks and I will do everything to ensure I get to the point of really contributing to shark conservation. By showing people their kindness and beauty in real life and in photo and video. I want to change how people see these magnificent animals. They sure are not mindless, dangerous man-eaters. No… As I’ve experienced myself they are very curious, kind animals. Of course, they want to check you out, but you should think of it as that you’re entering in their homes and they just want to see what you are! I can keep talking for hours on these incredibly beautiful and lovely animals but I’ll stop for now! 😉

All in all, I’m very happy with my choice for the Azores and I really cannot wait to be there. In less than a month I’ll be arriving on Pico.

Oh, and what’s your take on sharks? Have you been in the water with them before or don’t you dare? And why is that? I’d love to hear from you guys!

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