It is a very special thing, that when you are at sea, you never know what you will see or find. You can look at a desertic horizon for hours and suddenly the magic happens. At this moment every effort you have put to be there makes sense, as you witness the abundant beauty of life!
A unique marine life area
The Marine reserve area of Baixa do Ambrósio – The Ambrósio Reef is one of the most visited and sought after dive sites of the Azores. Despite being only 3 miles from the coast of Santa Maria, it has incredibly diverse and abundant marine life. The likes of which are usually only found on the remote seamounts many miles from the coast. There are often huge groups of mobula rays, a draw for many divers. In the Azores we can find three species of Mobula rays: Mobula birostris (Oceanic Manta Ray), Mobula tarapacana (Sicklefin Devil Ray) and Mobula mobular (Spinetail Devil Ray).
To dive on the Ambrosio seamount you have to register at the Marine Reserve. The site is strictly regulated to one boat at a time.
A gentle cruise along the shore
This day we decided to cruise gently around the east and north shore of the island. The winds were light but steady, allowing us to make our way under sail. A comfortable cruising speed of 4.5 knots was ideal to make observations and reach the site of Ambrosio before the end of the day.
We were following the 500m depth line along the north coast of the island when we eventually spotted active groups of Cory’s shearwater. We headed a bit closer to them and suddenly saw some thin fins and massive bodies breaking the surface frenetically.
It wasn’t the behaviours of dolphins and those animals were almost as big… It was yellowfin tuna in a hunt! They seemed very powerful and looked very well organized, feeding over a fish bowl. The birds were following them rapidly not to miss any fish that could be trapped to the surface. It was difficult to see clearly in all of this frenzy, but there were two big characteristics shadows appearing regularly. We also noticed their dorsal and codal fins that are really big and seem soft!
The our attention is captures by a suprising gathering of many little friends, thousands of them actually under the boat! These cute little red fishes were obviously seeking for shelter, trying to hide from their predators under the big hull of the Atlas.
A school of Macrorhamphosus Scolopax (Longspine Snipefish)
This a Syngnathiform fish is a distant relative of seahorse and pipefish who uses its long snout to suck up zooplankton often tiny copeods
Whale sharks in the North Atlantic
There have been numerous recent sightings of whale sharks around Santa Maria. They are relatively frequent here in late summer. This beautiful island is the closest to the southern fork of the gulf stream. These warmer water are making it a place of choice for whale sharks looking for phytoplanktons.
Suddenly and seemingly out of nowhere, like a giant barrel popping up from the sea, the biggest fish in the sea, a whale shark appears!! This is one of the best things an ocean lover could hope for!
Whale sharks have eyes on the side of their heads and, as you can see from the picture below, Whale sharks have a very friendly face. In my mind, they were smiling back at me, happy to see somebody who loves the creatures of the ocean. Like the snipefish the whale shark also loves to eat zooplankton and their mouth really acts like a barrel that sucks in prey as it slowly swims through the ocean.
The biggest fish in the ocean
These gentle giants are fascinating creatures. Some of them could live up to 150 years and measure up to 39 feet long. These creatures slowly wander the ocean and are filter feeders. They are only able to catch small prey that they can filter out of the water with their barrel like mouth as they gracefully move the giant bodies through the ocean.
We take care of documententing every encounter with marine animals. You can have an overview of these observation on our observations map.