Santa Cruz Das Flores, Azores

Flores means flowers and the island has been described as a floating green garden. This is due to the rich volcanic soils and the humid subtropical climate with frequent rainfall. Although not the original flowers, hydrangeas were introduced to the Azores from Asia by the Portuguese. They have thrived—used as fences and even becoming the official flower of the Azores. The colour of the flowers depends on the acidity and mineral content of the soil, with the blue colour typically growing in the acidic volcanic soils found on Flores.

Flores, and Corvo Island, form the western group of the Azores archipelago. The two islands are located on the North American tectonic plate. To their east is the Mid Atlantic Ridge where plates meet. The whole Azores region is geologically active. Flores is a volcano whose last eruption was about 3000 years ago—recent for geologists. The central massif with deep valleys and high peaks dominates the view of the island, with or without clouds. Flores is one of UNESCO’s Biosphere Reserves, recognising the partnership between ecology and the social use of the landscape by people for farms and vineyards. Whaling was an industry in the Azores until the 1980s, with shore-based crews and local processing works. Sperm Whales were targeted and the deep waters around the Azores still support them and rare beaked whales. Shallower water attracts Common, Bottlenose and Atlantic Spotted dolphins. Look out for them from the ship when approaching and leaving the islands.

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