This is Simon & Emelie! We would like to share our story about our time here in the Azores and hopefully inspire you to do the same trip as we did!
We are two Swedish students, working in the field of Adventure Tourism, and have for the last six months been fortunate enough to work for Paulo and his team at Fun Activities, as part of our internship here in the Azores.
It all started out back in February last year, as we were starting to plan for our internship that was supposed to begin in the summer. We were looking for places like Hawaii, Cyprus, Tenerife, Spain etc; places that could offer a wide variety of activities such as Climbing, snorkelling, bike tours, diving etc. As we were searching, we stumbled across a video of an island with scenes of dramatic nature, waterfalls, volcanos, blue water, “rain forests” … like something taken out of the Jurassic Park movie basically.
Upon further investigation, we discovered, that this was all found on the little island of Sao Miguel, which is part of Portugal, and is actually one of a group of islands that form the Azores Archipelago, a place described as the adventurers Mecca! And as a bonus it didn’t cost us a fortune to get there!
We were so excited that we had just found exactly what we were looking for and immediately started to look for places to work there! We were looking for a company that offered a wide variety of activities, such as canyoning, climbing, trail-walking, snorkeling, kayaking, cycling, etc., and a company that promoted sustainable Tourism, in terms of doing something that does not impact nature in a negative way.
After searching for a while, we noticed that a certain company stood out from all the others…This was Fun Activities Azores Adventure! We jumped on the email and started to form a personal letter in the hopes that they would accept us!
And they did! Unfortunately, by the time we got confirmation, the news that Covid-19 had just started to spread around the world, came out. We had been planning on arriving on the island in late June, but due to the pandemic we had to wait for the go ahead to fly.
Fast forward to the summer! We had just come home from our course in Arctic Guiding in August, where we had climbed Sweden’s tallest mountain, in the region of Lapland, when we got confirmation that we were now free to travel! So, in a matter of two weeks, we had to take vaccinations, repack our bags and take the Covid tests. We both tested Negative and on August 20, we got to Arlanda Airport in Stockholm, with a 10-hour flight ahead of us.
We arrived in Ponta Delgada at midnight, where Paulo, our new boss and mentor, welcomed us at the airport. He took us out for a quick bite to eat before dropping us off at our new home for the next few months. He had even brought us a locally grown melon as a welcoming gift, which was delicious!
We had our first proper taste of what Sao Miguel had to offer the following weekend, when we went out to explore and get to know the island and the city of Ponta Delgada better.
On Monday, we finally got to meet some of the guides at the warehouse, where we were then invited to join Ricardo for our first guided tour; Kayaking to Vila Franca do Campo Islet. This is when we knew, without a doubt, that we were in the right place and in good hands!
During our stay here we’ve managed to explore a lot of São Miguel’s hidden treasures…it’s not hard really! Wherever you go, around every corner of this island there is something jaw-dropping to see. It’s almost overwhelming at times. A huge waterfall here, a gorgeous viewpoint there and look! there is a tropical forest over there! and don’t get me started about all the trails! Your choices are endless, its truly a nature lovers paradise here.
Back in September, our team, together with @Lifeipazoresnatura, celebrated Coastal Cleanup Day by cleaning up the beach at “Zona Balnear das Calhetas”, where we collected 34kg of garbage.
We’ve had the opportunity to learn what goes on behind the scenes in the world of adventure tourism, thanks to João, who taught us all he could about photography, film-making, editing and profiling.
Paulo did an outstanding job at teaching us about Canyoning; How to rig anchors, ascend and descend from hanging ropes, how the equipment works, how to avoid mistakes, how to work in a safe manner, ways to use a rope etc. Under his supervision and guidance, we practiced these techniques in the warehouse and after gaining some confidence, we also had training sessions outside canyoning together. All of this will definitely come in handy in our future.
All the activities that we have been doing with Fun Activities have been awesome, and the guides here are just great! Also, and I believe I speak for both of us when I say this, Canyoning is the one activity that’s been the most amazing experience for us during our stay here. To be able to listen to the stories of our guests, what brought them here, why they are doing this and opening up about their fears, all while being surrounded with the best nature has to offer.
It’s so rewarding to see all our guests that are facing their fears and how happy they are afterwards, when they realize what they’ve just accomplished! That’s what matters to us as guides, and that is why we chose to do our course in Adventure Tourism in the first place. That is why we love what we do!
What’s even more rewarding, is when you have guides like Paulo and João explaining your surroundings; the nature, the flora and history of the place, as we are following a path or a river. It’s very inspiring as a student/intern to watch someone doing all of this with such passion!
They are truly living up to their slogan – We love what we do and want to share it with you!
Working abroad has really been life-changing, and so rewarding in so many ways. It’s been an amazing learning experience for both of us. We’ve met so many new people and friends. We learned so much about the Portuguese culture, guiding techniques, stepping out of our comfort-zones and of course, growing our self-esteem and gaining confidence through this adventurous working experience.
Unfortunately, all good things come to an end, and on the 29th of January we will be flying back home to Sweden. We will be leaving with our backpacks stuffed and our hearts full of experiences, knowledge and plans for our next adventures! We will definitely be coming back here in the future, and we hope that we will get to meet some of you visiting here as well!
If you’d like to see more about our time here in Sao Miguel, you can follow us on our adventures on Instagram @Almenontour & @Empilainen where we post frequently.
With that being said! We want to thank Paulo and the team so much for this opportunity and for taking us in under their wing! You’ve given us so much inspiration, experiences, knowledge and opportunities, we don’t really know how to re-pay you for this! We’ve felt so welcome here, and met so many incredible people. It’s been a great honor to work for you at Fun Activities Azores Adventure!
Take care/Hej då! Simon Almén & Emelie Gustavsson.
This week has been a super fun week for us here at Fun Activities. We hosted a very special group of 24 people from the island of Malta who trusted us to plan a whole week of adventure and exploring with us. We really had all hands on deck to organise this trip and from the positive vibes and feedback we got, it was a great success!
Day 1 – Hiking in Ribeira Funda – Maia + Tea Factory + Salto do Cabrito
For the first day, we knew we wanted to impress our new guests with the beauty of the island, so we planned a moderate 3 hour hike in the morning in the area of Maia. Here, the Maltese got a taste of what Sao Miguel has to offer; walking along green hilly terrain, coming across old water mills and waterfalls, reaching the sea side with its black sandy beach and then continuing on along the coastline. We ended this challenge with a well deserved picnic lunch prepared for them to enjoy by the sea and relax in the sun.
Later, we paid a visit to the Cha Gorreana tea factory and plantation where we shared our heritage with them and after having a refreshing green iced tea it was time to go home.
However, their excitement from the days’ events rubbed off on all of us; so we decided to surprise the group with a spontaneous visit to Salto do Cabrito. As soon as we arrived, everyone quickly made a bee line to the magnificent waterfall, where within minutes, everyone was splashing about in its cool spring water, freshening up from the days’ heat. Their joy was well worth the detour back to the hotel, and everyone was buzzing with excitement after an amazing day and looking forward to what the next day had in store for them!
Day 2 – Swimming with Dolphins + Canyoning + Furnas
One of our guides joined the Maltese group in the morning for their first activity of the day; swimming with dolphins, which we organised through another company that offers this memorable experience.
We picked them up later after lunch, and while everyone took a power nap, we drove to the next event; Canyoning in Ribeira dos Caldeiroes. For most, it was their 1st time Canyoning, so we did a beginners level trip for everyone in the group to enjoy. There were a great deal of laughs to be had while sliding down the river, squeals of delight abseiling alongside the waterfalls and plenty of shouts of encouragement between us at some of the higher jumps. A few had their reservations due to fear of heights, so for those who prefer more solid ground, we have other routes to take to continue with the rest of the group.Our clients really made me proud that day, as I know some of them had their worries about this event, and really pushed their fears aside and stepped out of their comfort zone. Everyone was thrilled with their achievement that day, completing their very first canyoning expedition in one of the most amazing locations on the island.
Afterwards we headed to Furnas for a quick visit to Caldeira da Lagoa das Furnas. Here we saw just where and how our upcoming dinner of Cozido had been prepared and was now ready to be taken out of the ground for us to devour.
We were all tired from the days events and it was getting late by the time we were finished with dinner. However, Maltese people, we’ve discovered, are always up for more! So we went on a post dinner walk to Poca da Silvina. We sat around the hotspring to dip our feet in the 40 degree water under the night sky. We then walked to the area of Cha da Caldeiras to try out all the different flavours of the drinking water fountains. This was a day full of fun and adventure and everyone was tired but happy heading home for a good nights rest.
Day 3 – Hiking in Lagoa do Fogo
Ahead of us today we planned a full day hike, of approximately 20km, taking a beautiful route starting at Lagoa do Fogo and continuing down onto the trail of Quatro Fabricas de Luz and ending with a splash in the sea at Aqua d’Alto. We had the chance to stop for some beautiful shots of Lombadas on the way to the start of the hike too. We’ve been very lucky with the weather this week and today we started off the hike with a cloudy sky which was ideal considering that the beginning of the hike is uphill to the top of the mountain of Lagoa do Fogo. Reaching the top, suddenly the clouds parted, and we were blessed with 360 degrees of clear views of the whole island. The sea on one side with Villa Franca do Campo island taking centre stage, plush greenery that has overgrown this old volcano and the blue of the lake in the crater below us is very unique to this area, making this one of the most beautiful hikes on the island.
Sea gulls fly above us with a watchful eye, as we make our way through this protected area, to Levada, an irrigation channel that we follow through the forest to the end of the first part of this trail. We then continue on to the historic part of our trail; to the old electric factories that were among the first to produce renewable energy in Sao Miguel Island in the late 19th century.
Today we enjoyed the short walk through the woods, meeting the stream which led us to Cascata do Secreto waterfall and Poco dos 30 Reis where we joined the locals for a dive in the pools.
After this short break we set off with determination to finish the last part of the hike, ending the day with a well deserved fresh beer and swimming and snorkeling at the beautiful beach of Agua D’Alto.
Day 4 – Kayaking + Coasteering
Today we decided to split the group in two, that way everyone will enjoy each experience to the full, making the most of our time together and to help us guides give our clients our undivided attention, making sure everyone is safe while having fun. Scheduled for these adventure lovers was a kayaking trip to Villa Franca do Campo Island. This is a round trip of about 5km, with time to swim and relax on the beach inside and explore the island. Then paddling our way around to the back of the island to explore the inlet caves. The water was a bit choppy today, and with the current that’s always prominent in this area, we all had to use our full force to row ourselves across the channel, along the coastline and back to port.
After a good lunch to renew our energy, we headed off to Caloura to enjoy a couple of hours of Coasteering. There we traveresed over the rough volcanic terrain along the coastline, jumped into the natural pools and had some fun being spun around in the whirlpools before being spit out by the currents into the sea. We enjoyed exploring some small caves and swimming around the bays to climbing back up onto the black boulders to the end of an epic day.
Day 5 – Sete Cidades + Ferraria + Mosteiros
The final day upon us, we started later than usual to give our clients some free time to explore Ponta Delgada and purchase some local artefacts and delicacies to take home. Then off to Sete Cidades where we hiked to view the many small lakes in the area and through the forest, leaving the best for last; the view of the two lakes from Boca de Inferno. With clear skies and the sun shining brightly the colours of the green and blue lake where highlighted in all their glory.
Later we set off to Ferraria to experience the natural thermal hotspring right in the Atlantic Ocean. Its always a pleasant surprise when you hit the water for the the first time, expecting freezing waters and finding the opposite. While some of us relaxed our sore muscles in this natural wonder, others snorkeled out to see the abundance of marine life in the area. With great reluctance we left the area completely relaxed for our farewell dinner.
For our final hours together we organised a BBQ at the best location to watch the sunset on the island; Mosteiros. This was a very special event as we had a big surprise up our sleeve. An impromptu wedding reception! During our week with the Maltese we discovered that there was a newly wed couple, who sadly, due to the recent pandemic, weren’t able to celebrate their wedding as is custom. The couple was truly speechless and it was emotional for all of us to see their dream come true. We surprised the bride with a bouquet of flowers, they had their first dance surrounded by their friends who shared some loving words of advice for the future, the bride, being a professional singer, treated her husband, and us, with her beautiful voice singing out her wedding vows to her husband, we had cake, champagne and amazing food and drinks, with the backdrop of the sunset. It was a truly special night topped off with stargazing and a comet while we partied the night away!
Time flies when you’re having fun, and soon we all said our heartfelt goodbyes. It was a pleasure being in such great company all week, all positive vibes and enthusiasm. We hope to see some of these friendly faces again in the future, until then, we hope that this time in the Azores with us was an experience of a lifetime, and I’m sure that everyone went back home with some very special memories.
Hello Everyone! It’s true, we’re back in action! After the last couple of months with the Azores on lockdown, the team finally had the freedom to go out together in nature again 😊. Fun Activities, in collaboration with Junta Freguesia Lomba S. Pedro, began work on making a new canyoning and hiking trail in Jan 2020. So, for our first venture, we decided to check out our project to see if mother nature had caused any damage in our absence.
Being one of the newest members of the Fun Activities team, I was warned that this hike is about 6km long and rated as difficult, so, armed in my sturdy hiking boots, I was ready to go! I was very excited about seeing this new route as I was promised an adventure full of surprises!
I was not disappointed, as you quickly find yourself in the thick of the forest, surrounded by an expanse of lush greenery, looking down over the valley. This view, these surroundings, feeling like you’re in the middle of nowhere, is for me, the true essence of the beauty of the Azores, with Nature at its best, untouched by man.
With that in mind, I’m proud to say that all the work that has been done so far and will continue to be done by Fun Activities here, will be made with utmost care to work with nature, to embrace it and enhance it for sustainable tourism. In fact, the idea to make a new canyoning route started three years ago, when the Fun Activities team, realized that the island is in desperate need for an alternative Canyoning route, as the ones being used at the moment have become too popular due to easy access, and are being exhausted by tourists and locals alike. In reality, Sao Miguel Island is made up of 60% of greenery, a lot of which is uncharted territory waiting to be discovered and explored.
So, we came up with this plan which got approved by the Tourism Directorate and hence started this project for a new canyoning route and a new hiking route, involving and committing the local farmers and fishermen. Our goal is to make sure that not only is the environment protected, but also to help the locals improve their lifestyle. By starting this project and partnering up with the local council we hope to improve the area for everyone to enjoy, to benefit the local community economically and to include locals with social problems to help them gain new skills and a chance at better future prospects.
However, we are a long way from finishing, and today, with a bit of slipping and sliding on my part, we made our way down the steep slope down the valley, to the sound of rushing water as our guide. Reaching the bottom, we were welcomed with an amazing sight; 360 degrees of greenery, a river flowing down, topped off with a beautiful waterfall.
If you want to get to the foot of the waterfall though, you have to be willing to get your feet wet and walk up the river bed. Luckily for us, this winter season hasn’t been particularly wet and the river was quite low, so we found some logs and driftwood and built ourselves a makeshift bridge to higher ground.
Getting closer to the waterfall, you wouldn’t think it could get any better, but it does! It’s not just the waterfall, or the beautiful blue pond below it, that beckons you for a dip, but all the lushness surrounding you with a curtain of spring water coming down on all sides of this enclosed area. The suns’ rays pouring in making it look even more magical. No photo can do this sight justice. So here we sat for a short break and enjoyed the peace and the sound of the birds and listened to the swish of the trees.
Making our way back up to the start of the hiking trail took my breath away, literally, but continuing on to the hiking route was my reward. All along the way you are surrounded by the many endemic trees and plants of the Azores, and the soothing smell of Eucalyptus.
I soon found out why this trail is marked as difficult, but if you enjoy a route with an obstacle course like I do, then this is definitely for you. There are a couple of spots where balance and lightness of foot is essential to pass through unscathed and some slippery wooden walkways and bridges. I’m ashamed to say that my post quarantine agility left me ankle deep or sitting in the mud in most of these spots, but still we had a good laugh. Dredging forward, we had to get our hands dirty with a bit of scrambling, and climbing up a wall with the help of a rope that is not for the faint of heart.
However, getting to the top of the final waterfall in this trail was well worth the struggle. Personally, I’m very excited about having a canyoning activity here in the near future. Whether you’re afraid of heights or not, this location makes you want to abseil down under the waterfalls or if you’re brave enough, to just jump off a ledge and down into the pool below.
We took the circular route on this day, but there are other options to getting back to the starting point. It was interesting to see that during the works that we’ve started recently, the team uncovered an old trail that had been made and previously used by our ancestors, and so now, we have integrated this into our route also. Throughout this whole adventure, it was hard to keep my attention on my footing as I really just wanted to look up at the old, grand and magnificent trees around me, or look towards the river and waterfalls along the way and imagine all the fun possibilities in this canyoning playground.
Knowing that I have a lot of muddy clothes and shoes to wash later didn’t dampen the fact that it was a great day and we had a lot of fun! I can’t wait to come here again, and once the building works have been finished and the trail officially opened to the public, we can bring all you adventure lovers for a morning or day of Canyoning, so you can experience all of this with us too. Stay tuned for further updates 😉