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Islands with a Difference - Part 4 - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Travelling

AZORES, PORTUGAL

This group of islands has a total area of around 2, 400 sq km and within this it has a population of about 250, 00. It is an archipelago made up of nine volcanic islands in the North Atlantic Ocean about 1, 400 km west of mainland Portugal.

This is one of the world’s best places to go for whale watching. This is ironic because the Azores archipelago was once best known as a whaling base. The industry took off from the 19th century, and continued up until 1984, though even then methods were rather old school. Even now, many whaling traditions still persist. There are still whaleboat regattas and vigias, which are whalers’ lookout towers, which have been restored for tourists. However, the focus is now on watching, not hunting, the creatures that pass by in such great numbers. The towers have now proved to be very useful for spotters to radio sightings to the tourist boats.

In-season excursions have a 95% success rate; it’s not unknown to see six or more species in one outing, ranging from sperm whales to bottlenose dolphins to the mighty blues. Most visitors to the Azores stick to Sao Miguel, but if you head further afield to Pico and Faial you will find some particularly good whale hotspots. If you plan a trip then the weather is most settled in April to October, with wildflowers blooming mostly in April to June. Various species of baleen whales, fin, sei, humpback, blue, migrate past in spring; while sperm whales are resident all year round. You can fly direct normally from April to October as there are flights from Gatwick to Ponta Delgada, on Sao Miguel which take about 4hrs. At other times then you will need to get a flight which runs year round via Lisbon.

ST LUCIA

This is both an island and an independent country. The population is growing and is now approaching 190, 000 people.

This Caribbean isle with is not just another wealthy playground and contrary to what you see in brochures you don’t have to be a honeymooning couple to like St Lucia. This is one of the Caribbean’s lusher, hillier islands, peaking at 950m on Mt Gimie. However it’s the two pointy Pitons that feature in most photos of the island. A hike in the island’s rainforest interior will pass waterfalls, giant ferns and wild orchids, plus a bevy of birds. St Lucia also boasts the world’s only drive-in volcano, Qualibou; cacao estates where you can go on tasting tours and a colourful market in the capital Castries on a Saturday morning.

Don’t miss a trip to Pigeon Island, a national park dominated by an 18th-century fort, and a whale watching trip if you get a chance. Sperm whales and various dolphins are common, and humpbacks and orcas swim by from time to time.

The time to go is when the weather is at its best, which is mid-December to April. This is also the busiest and priciest months as well. May to early June will be quieter and cheaper, but the heat will be starting as well as the humidity. Hurricane season is June to November late in this period you can get good prices with little chance of bad weather. The best time for humpbacks is January to April.

There are non-stop flights from the UK to St Lucia’s Hewanorra International Airport but you can sometimes get good deals if you are willing to fly via the U. S.

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