- We fly from London to Funchal and, after checking into our hotel and a lovely lunch, we go coastal birding in the easternmost tip of Madeira, in a protected area renowned for its endemic flora species. This area is home to a large colony of yellow-legged gulls; other species targeted in our walk incude Berthelot’s pipit, Madeira rock sparrow, red-legged partridge, kestrel and clouded yellow butterfly. We then visit the local village in our quest for the Spanish sparrow and common tern.
- A walk in the mountain should allow us to spot the endemic Madeira firecrest and Madeira subspecies of robin and greenfinch. Late afternoon we head back to the hotel in time for dinner.
- Accommodation: Hotel Amparo, 4-nights on full board basis
- This morning we board our inflatable boat for an ocean ride in search of the finest species of whales, dolphins and pelagic birds. If we are lucky we should see short-finned pilot and Bryde’s whale at this time of year, along with the resident sperm whale, common and bottlenose dolphin, accompanied by Cory’s and manx shearwater and Bulwer’s petrel. Our crew of naturalists on board will help us using the hydrophone to locate the whales, listening to their song, while land spotters will secure the best spotting.
- In the afternoon we go on the Levada nature walk, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site for its laurel forest. We walk to an amazing viewpoint over one of the deepest and most beautiful valleys of the island. This is ideal habitat to see the Trocaz pigeon, Madeira firecrest and chaffinch, and is also a great environment for butterflies such as the speckled wood or small white species.
- Today, as we drive west, we cover a large part of the island and its various habitats, with a chance to tick many gems off our list. Our first stop is along the coast as we look for the roseate tern, before reaching the laurel forest for more Trocaz pigeon, Madeira firecrest and chaffinch, whilst observing the superb endemic bay, Madeira and Canary laurel trees. Here we should also spot the Madeira brimstone (Cleopatra) butterfly.
- After lunch by the sea, close to the natural lava pools, we travel to the westernmost tip of the island to look for Berthelot’s pipits, spectacled warblers and other native birds such as the Atlantic canary, linnet, or butterflies such as the long-tailed blue and Macaronesia red admiral. The dramatic scenery won’t fail to impress with its steep cliffs surrounded by turquoise water.
- After dinner we head out on our Zino’s petrel night tour at Pico do Areeiro to listen to the call of this highly endangered bird on its breeding ground. Occasionally barn owls or manx shearwater can also be heard.
- This morning we return to the Pico do Arieiro area in the daytime to enjoy the scenic views and to further understand how the Zino’s petrel breeds, before ticking off any missing seabird species in the Funchal Ecological Park.
- In the afternoon we head out on a whale and bird-watching tour. Our first focus is on whales and dolphins, as we aim to see common, bottlenose and Atlantic spotted dolphins, plus short-finned pilot, sperm and with any luck, some beaked whale. Later in the day, as we approach sunset, we should see Madeiran, white-faced and storm petrels, as well as some migrating species including European, leach or Wilson’s storm petrel.
- We may have time for a little birdwatching locally before driving to Funchal to catch the return flight to London.
All prices are per person and include:
- Services of the naturalist leader
- Most meals
- Guided activities
We stay in a family-run, uniquely designed guesthouse in the picturesque, historical beach town of Machico. The comfortable en suite rooms each have their own design in keeping with traditional Portuguese beach style. The central location is excellent for visiting contrasting habitats, and is in close proximity to the whale-watching excursions departure point.
All meals are included, apart from dinner on our last evening.
Most breakfasts and dinners are taken at the hotel. Lunches are a mix of picnics and leisurely sit-down meals taken at one of the region's traditional restaurants.
Late spring is not only the migrating season, but also the seabird breeding season in Madeira, offering unique opportunities to spot some of its rarest and most endangered species.
- Zino’s petrel
- Atlantic canary
- Berthelot's pipit
- Madeira firecrest
The trip concentrates on the marine mammals in Madeira’s waters, with more than 20 cetacean species having been recorded here. Depending on the season we can see different species of whales and dolphins migrating north or south from the North Atlantic Ocean.
- Atlantic spotted dolphin
- Sei whale
- Short-finned pilot whale
- Pygmy killer whale
The key insect to be seen in Madeira is the butterfly, particularly in the laurel tree forest. Species include the famous migrating monarch and the small white butterfly
- Madeira brimstone
- Madeiran speckled wood
- Macaronesia red admiral
- Long-tailed blue
Madeira is famous for its endemic laurel trees, with some of its forests having been protected and even classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Natural Site. As such the trees are some of the best preserved vegetation of Macaronesia. The island also enjoys endemic flower species such as the Madeira goodyear orchid, and remarkable varieties in some of the harsh mountainous areas.
- Madeira laurel
- Canary laurel
- Mountain ash
- Lily of the Valley
Madeira offers superb and dramatic scenery with its steep cliffs falling sharply into the turquoise waters, its endemic laurel forest and rich flora, mountainous trails and beautiful beaches.
The trip includes night walks in a remote part of the island in search of the Zino’s petrel's nesting sites, which should also provide perfect opportunities for star gazing.
Weather permitting, we enjoy two boat trips to see whales, dolphins and sea birds. These trips are based on a 12-seater RIB, with a crew of naturalists.
Photographic opportunities on this trip are good to excellent, especially for seabirds, shorebirds, sea mammals and the stunning coastal scenery.
Most activities are based on nature walks for bird watching. Most walks are gentle, along the coast, in the forest trails or in the mountains. We have a 1.5 kilometre walk uphill to a stunning viewpoint, and a night walk to see the Zino’s petrel, all of which are done at a leisurely pace, taking in the scenery and looking for birds.
Price includes return scheduled flights London - Funchal – London.
Ground transportation is by minibus with driver.
We travel to over 1,800 metres above sea level.
May is the end of the spring season in Madeira with very pleasant temperatures reaching 19 to 21C with sunny days. At night the temperature remains mild with an average of 16C.