Madeira

Bedecked with dramatic cliffs, fertile mountains and sun-gorged beaches, Madeira is a lush, colourful island of plants, paradise and Portuguese-flavoured pleasures. Bathing in year-round sunshine, Funchal - the lowkey capital of Madeira - is perfect for slowing the pace, and toasting the thrilling scenery with a bottle of the island's famous wine. Narrow, cobblestone streets line the old town, where whitewash buildings, iron-wrought balconies, and tiled patterns carry echoes of Lisbon. Rua de Santa Maria is the city's oldest street, and the doors have been vividly painted by local artists. Sit for a drink, to sample your choice of Madeira's renowned wines - Boal is the ideal option for those with a sweeter tooth.

You'll also find Corpo Santo Chapel here, one of the few remaining buildings to have survived from the 15th century. Blossoming parks and gardens splash colour around, and the sweet smell of pollen lingers in Parque de Santa Catarina. Look out over Funchal harbour between the fountains and blooming flower beds, as ducks and swans enjoy leisurely days on the lake. Madeira Botanical Garden waits in the hills over the city, along with Palhero Garden – a sophisticated and elegantly landscaped English garden, 500 meters above sea level. For an even more dramatic view of this gorgeous setting, head up to Cap Girao – a rusty-red cliff with a cable car strung up to its sheer drop. The cliff falls away vertically to the vivid blue waters below. Or head down to the sea, to enjoy Funchal's gorgeous pebble beaches rustling, framed by colossal, craggy cliffs.

tour 1 Bird Watching the Raptors

This excursion is an excellent opportunity to watch and learn about Madeira's endemic raptors and learn of the differences of the continental birds. Depart the port and drive to Camacha for your tour that includes visits to nestling areas, hunting perches and grounds. Lucky visitors may get to observe socialization and interspecies interaction as well as hunting behaviour and prey catching of these raptors and other birds. Species spotted may include Macaronesian Sparrow hawk, Macaronesian Kestrel, Madeiran Buzzard and the Peregrine Falcon. Other visiting raptors may also be observed. Make the 30-minute return drive to the pier.

tour 2 Bat & Barn Owl Watching at Night

Enter the inaudible ultrasound world of bats on this night excursion that offers a unique opportunity to watching these amazing mammals. Observe bats chasing their prey and learn all about these singular species' ecology, as well as the Barn Owl. This tour is the only night wildlife tour on the Island dedicated to observing local bat species and owls. Follow your guide to observe Madeira Island rare bats like the Madeiran pipistrelle and the Madeiran noctule and Madeira's Barn Owl subspecies. The tour is led by a biologist or naturalist guide, who uses ultrasound detection equipment that allows you to enter a new universe by hearing insects, echolocation and social calls of bats. Species observed may include Madeiran Pipistrelles, Madeiran lesser noctule, Kuhl's pipistrelles, Grey long-eared bats, Madeiran Barn Owls. Make the 30-minute return trip back to the port.

tour 3 Geology of The Origins

On today's excursion take a journey through time, going back millions of years before the island emerged from the ocean. Take a tour of the eastern side of the island, enjoying the amazing volcanic landscapes while learning about the origin and aging of this beautiful island. Depart the port and drive 45 minutes to Machico village on this tour that focuses on the geology and origin of the Madeira Archipelago islands. Learn about the evolution of these islands until present day and the influence of the geological history on the rich biodiversity. After a 2.5-hour visit, make the 45-minute return drive to the port.

tour 4 Star Gazing

Experience the grandeur of an unspoiled night sky filled with thousands of bright, twinkling stars. Witness a stunning sight that goes far beyond the ordinary, the skies which allow you to explore the many fascinating jewels of the night. From the port, drive to Pico de Ariero, a mountainous area of the island located far away from the pollution of artificial light in urban areas where you can enjoy an authentic experience of stargazing. The guide orients you to the various types of objects in the bright night sky, from planets, moons, galaxies, nebulae, star clusters, and to look at beautiful sections of our galaxy, the Milky Way. Your guide is there to educate you on the relationship of the existence of life on earth with the stars. Enjoy the sweet simplicity of a snack of tea and biscuits as you gaze at the night sky. Once you have had your fill, make the return trip to the port.

tour 5 Reef Fish Watching

For active guests only, this snorkelling tour is the only one on Madeira Island dedicated to the several colored fish species that can be found on the Island's reef shallows. Snorkel Madeira's clear waters while observing beautifully-colored fish and learning about the sponges, algae, sea urchins, anemone, corals and other marine organisms that call these waters home. Depart the pier and drive 30 minutes to Machico village. Change into your swim and snorkel gear and receive a safety briefing. Join your marine naturalist and certified diver guides on two to three snorkelling spots (conditions/tides depending). Destinations may include the beautiful Pico do Facho Cliffs or São Lourenço Bay, all located away from urban areas and pollution, with clear waters. See stunning fish like the peacock wrasse, Rainbow wrasse, Zebra sea bream, Damselfish, Pearly razor fish, ornate wrasse, Mediterranean parrotfish, barred hogfish and others. Your first snorkel spot is a rocky shore with the possibility to snorkel along 200 m of coast, the second snorkel spot is a mixed rocky coast with sand and reef shallows, close to 500 m in length and the third snorkel is about 500 m long and a mixed reefs with pebble coast and beaches. After your nearly two-hour adventure, change into your dry clothes and return to the port.

tour 6 Endemic Flora of Madeira

This excursion is ideal for those who love plants and wish to observe Madeira Island's unique species and habitats. Departing the port drive 45 minutes to Ribeira Brava, your first of several botanical communities visited on this tour where you can learn about the Island's flora evolution and colonization. Learn the story that began almost 100 million years ago and ended with the arrival of the settlers and the species they have exploited. In addition to Ribeira Brava, visit Encumeada and São Vicente valley. Flora species spotted may include Madeiran Olive Tree, Madeira Asparagus, Madeira Bindweed, Anemone leaved stork's bill, Wollaston's Mushia, Madeira Willow, Giant Buttercup, Sow Thistles, Barbasano Laurel, Canary St. John's Wort, Tree Heather, Besom Heath, Pride of Madeira, Rock Mustards, among many others. Make the 45-minute return drive back to the pier.

tour 7 Hiking Ponta São Lourenço

   

Take a hearty hike along São Lourenço Point, visiting some of the finest cliff scenery in Madeira. Today's excursion sends you on a walk exploring the long, thin peninsula at the eastern end of the island. Depart the pier and drive 30 minutes to the beginning of the trail at São Lourenço Point, the eastern-most Peninsula of Madeira Island, named after the caravel sailed by João Gonçalves de Zarco, one of the three discoverers of Madeira Island. This area is volcanic in origin, and is mainly made of basalt, although there are also some limestone sediment formations. The stone partition marks where the Regional government's land begins and is part of the Madeira Natural Park is classified as a partial natural reserve. All the land and sea by the North coast, up to a depth of 50m, is part of the European network of important community sites. The semi-arid climate and its exposure to North winds have sculpted the low vegetation and explains the lack of trees, which distinguishes this area from the rest of the Island and is a veritable natural heritage. Here you can see the Island's basal plate at its best and several rare and endemic plants. Hike for 75 minutes, take a rest, and then hike 90 minutes back to the bus. At the end of the trail is the Sardinha port, the base for a group of Rangers who work for the Madeira natural park, and who are responsible for watching over the area. On the horizon to the South you can see Ilhas Desertas (Deserted Islands) and to the North the Porto Santo Islands, before making your way back. Return to the port.

tour 8 Laurissilva Forest 4-wheel Drive

Explore the beautiful and rugged terrain of Laurissilva Forest on Madeira, so stunning it is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Center. Leaving the city, head 45 minutes into the interior of the island; your destination is the breathtaking valley of "Serra the Agua." Aboard your 4x4 vehicle, climb up towards Encumeada pass at a height of 1,000m above the sea level that offers a phenomenal view of the north and south coasts, as well as the valleys of Ribeira Brava and São Vicente.

After this fabulous photo stop, continue descending to one of the largest forest of laurel trees, the magical subtropical forest called "Laurissilva." Arriving at the remote north side, explore the fantastic beaten tracks within the open-roofed land rovers through the Laurissilva Forest. Stepping off the trail, take another 45-minute scenic drive to reach the fabulous Northern vineyards of Madeira, with the opportunity to visit the lovely Quinta do Barbusano and enjoy their local table wines of rosé, red and white, accompanied by some tapas before returning back to Funchal. Make the 1-hour drive back to the port.

tour 9 Monte Palace & Botanical Gardens

Visit two of the most beautiful and best-known gardens in Madeira and see Madeira from the air on this dynamic excursion that includes a cable car ride. Depart just 15 minutes from the pier to the cable car station to begin your adventure. The Monte village region is a favorite destination for visitors to Madeira since the late 19th century, when a steam railway was built to haul cruise liner passengers up the hillside from Funchal. Though the railway closed in 1939, now the cable car has been built so visitors can still experience the beauty of these gardens. Begin at the old section of Monte village to board the cable car and take the picturesque trip up to Monte (1,677 ft., 550 m), where the first image to take in is the impressive twin-towered façade of the Church (18th Century), a landmark throughout the city.

Visit the tropical Monte Palace gardens, an excellent place to see a comprehensive collection of beautiful trees from all over the world. Dating back to the XVIII century, the garden has an area of 70,000m2 and is considered to be amongst the finest on the island. This spectacular garden features several lagoons with exotic Koi fish. See some marvelous panels with tiles that date back from the XVI to XX centuries and the gardens that contain thousands of different plants from various parts of the world, a dazzling array of variety and beauty. After your cable car trip, a short drive takes you to the Botanical Gardens. Situated on the grounds of a former private house, the gardens are host to a profusion of plants and flowers from all parts of the world, which thrive in the island's temperate climate. See the herbarium, as well as terraces and greenhouses with many rare and indigenous plants, all labelled in Portuguese and Latin. The gardens provide an excellent view over Funchal, so be sure to bring your camera. Make the 30-minute return drive back to the pier.

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