Madeira (May ’23)

Madeira cake, Madeira wine, Madeira diving? Absolutely!

Fling along the south coast to the airport

Saturday – Surface Day
Nigel & Claire arrived Saturday, myself & Vicki Sunday & Geoff and Teresa Monday allowing Madeira to get used to the influx of quality divers & their companions!

View from the hotel not too shabby

Sunday – Surface Day
Arriving early afternoon on Sunday we had a little kip (getting up at 3am will do that to you!) & then Vicki & I took a wander around to get our bearings & maybe sample a local brew 🙂


Monday – (Mostly) Surface Day 🙂
Vicki & I took a taxi trip to the Botanical gardens & then on to Monte & the 18th century church (up lots & lots of steps), skipped the 2nd set of botanical gardens at the top, avoided the toboggan (looked a little scary & a large queue) & back down to Funchal on the cable car (incredibly smooth & quiet) for a relaxed mooch around the town – lovely!

The amazing botanical gardens

The amazing churches

The amazing cable car

I suggested a night dive Monday night, Nigel passed having done his (successful) tryout earlier in the day but despite a very early start in the morning (2am) Geoff was up for it.


Monday – Dive 1: Pestana Carlton House Reef – 12.6m (night)
Kitting up was very relaxed as we waited for it to get dark & DivePoint organised the groupings: a 6 & a 4 (with an extra guide they had arranged to keep the groups small).
Then Nigel saw us off as we walked to the jetty, put our fins on switched on our torches and jumped in as the twilight started to edge towards full dark.
There was a fair bit of surge in the shallows but as we got out & deeper it slackened off & we were able to relax more; the landscape was initially large boulders and strange shaped concrete blocks then rocky outcrops to sand. There was certainly no shortage of a wide variety of wildlife (I’ve noted them in my non-scientific way as cuttlefish, blue fish, fat fish, lazy colourful fish, tiny fish, pipe fish, crab, sea cucumber, squid & octopus) as well as 2 anchors & some minor wreckage (spars & the like) – our guide was very good at pointing things out. Snorkelling the house reef several times later in the week our other halves were repeatedly impressed with the amount of fish
We stopped to check luminosity (torches off) but there wasn’t much (I tried the UV on my torch but  it was no better) after we’d swum out & circled left before returning (with lots of little detours on the way)
A really good 1 hour dive.


Tuesday – Dive 2: NRP Alfonso Cerqueira F488 (31m)
Tuesday was the first full diving day – we took some stick for having set expectations diving would be over by lunchtime (expecting the usual early start) but DivePoint were much more relaxed than that & we met at 10 for an 11am dive then back at 1/1:30 for a 2;30 dive. In the end it worked out fine as we were back between dives for lunch & a chat & an exchange of diving/snorkelling stories
The Alfonso was purposely sunk to act as an artificial reef around 4 years ago so the sea life is just starting to take it over. We all met at DivePoint the girls (Vicki, Claire & Teresa set up camp with a good view of the jetty while Geoff, Nigel & I listened to the briefing, kitted up, walked to the jetty steps, donned our fins & jumped in to swim to boat (this would be the standard start to all dives). We headed 10-15 minutes west, did our checks & jumped off the back & round to the front & down the shot to the middle of the wreck.

The bridge

A few fish

Parrot fish (I think)

Miguel took us towards the stern past the large gun & over some small ones that he left 2 of the party drawing (some kind of observation course), then looped round the stern, signalled them to join us & we went in a starboard hatch on the side to the engine room with all the pistons, we headed through multiple compartments & popped out on the starboard side again.
Round the bow (very impressive) along for a bit admiring the superstructure & various large shoals of fish then in the port side, to the left & up to the bridge – I got to steer (see photo) then out the starboard exit & towards the stern. There were various other explorations including through the canteen.
A marvellous dive with 25m viz at least
Dropped the camera getting to the boat – due to the great visibility Pietro retrieved it but it looked wet & steamed up inside so I didn’t take it on the dive – bridge photo is from Geoff & the others from other dives, sorry.
A 1 hour break to grab a sandwich & a chat before swapping cylinders (dumpy 12s) & back to the boat


Tuesday – Dive 3: ECO Park Funchal – Club Naval (23m)

Preparing to descend

This one was also to the west along the coast but only 10 mins. Wilfred shot it & Miguel took us down to a very impressive wall around 7 metres high dropping to sand; we followed it east for 1/2 the dive venturing into the various canyons that presented themselves then up & back along the top.
Great visibility (20m+). No rays on the sand but lots of sand eels plenty of groups of other fish & later in the crevasses plenty of moray eel
The dive centre guides soon cottoned on to the fact that the English guys seemed to know what they were doing & were even happy for the least qualified of us to push the limits of their training if we felt comfortable doing so – with 25 metre visibility, little to no current, small groups & the presence of other experienced divers this made perfect sense
All that diving had worked up an appetite so we all took a walk into Funchal & had a lovely dinner at The Beerhouse which has its own brewery & of course it would be rude not to sample (5 of) the beers 🙂


Wednesday – Surface Day!
Vicki & I took a boat trip out with Claire & Nigel to spot dolphins & actually saw quite a few; it was also pretty relaxing as the boat was only around half-full

Our boat (far right)

We all wandered into town in the evening for a lovely meal & afterwards hearing music coming from the boardwalk found a band playing & a classic car festival!
Thursday – Dive 4: Garjau – Beach (28.5m)

Approaching the Grouper

Your hand (and arm) would go comfortably in this ones’ mouth!

Been looking forward to this since we bumped into a woman selling tours on the way into Funchal who was a diver & insisted we get the dive operator to take us to the marine reserve!
It was the usual 10am start with 11 divers in total including the guides for the 10-16 minute journey east followed by the muscle memory of jump in, move to the front of the boat & go down the shot (which this time we shared with another boat already at the site)
Visibility was maybe 20m as we found ourselves in a canyon that we followed south to the sand & the end of the rocks then east along the edge. There was certainly no shortage of fish on this one with huge shoals as we reached the point where we turned & came back along the top; there was a (very) big grouper there too, just sat on the bottom as we surrounded it & Paolo tickled it. Later he spotted a butterfly ray buried in the sand that wasn’t moving even if you stroked it.
The ride back was a little bumpy but worth it after the wonderful dive. We grabbed a veggie baguette & checked in with the ladies before we were off again!


Thursday – Dive 5: Garjau – Lazareto (29m)
The second dive of the day was not quite so far east (only 10 minutes) though still in the marine park with only 7 divers including Paolo this time.
The route followed the previous pattern of exploring the deeper parts of the reef/wall before coming up to explore along the top on the way back – very efficient! The rock shapes here were particularly interesting along with the usual wide variety of wildlife. Geoff spotted a nudi at the end when it was just him and me with spare air after the others had gone up.

Everyone looks so serious!

Coming up the shot at the end

Friday – Dive 6: Garjau – T. Reef (30m)

This guy literally swam into my camera, a tad aggressive!

It was a10am start & we were off to the marine park again – a 10 minute journey then the usual jump in, round to the front of the boat & down to sand between the two pinnacles; the larger ones tops out at 22m below the surface and the smaller 15 metres below.

We went round the smaller one at the base & then the larger one before continuing to circle it inspecting & surprising the wildlife (a wide variety of fish and moray eels) as it was feeding or playing chasing games (which seemed very popular!) until it was time to head for the shot & up. There were lots of barracuda off in the distance & other shoals closer.  I stayed at the end with Geoff as we had gas left for 5 mins before we too went up

Friday – Dive 7: Pronto (33m)

Pretty much the whole ship

There was no shortage of these guys!


The boiler (and a few divers for scale)

Geoff surrounded on our ascent!

The Pronto sank at her mooring just outside Funchal harbour so its only a 5 minute trip from the hotel; the skipper dropped anchor & we headed down to the sandy bottom & then round the wreck, the bow is mostly collapsed but the rest is very obvious and with the great (standard) visibility you can see her end to end (she’s 35 metres long)

Took a slight detour at the stern to see a ray take off then round the stern & over the ship: engine, boiler etc & spotted dragon fish, ,eels & some interesting large gears among the wreckage.
A lovely little dive

The three underwater explorers

Saturday/Sunday/Monday – Surface Days
Saturday we took a taxi tour with Jose Miguel & his luxurious taxi. Same price as a coach tour but personalised & individual – do it if you get the chance!

Cabo Girão Skywalk – a tad scary on the (glass) platform, I’m staying on solid ground!

One of many scenic (working) fishing villages


The very different coastline on the north coast

We were leaving on Sunday (& the rest of our party on the Monday) so had our goodbye meal on Saturday night & thought about our favourite recollections of the week:-
  • Nigel claiming he had an empty head that caused potential buoyancy issues, turns out its not empty just full of useless facts & awful jokes!
  • We learned to watch that Geoff, claims he’s conserving air by hovering above you then when he spots something he comes from your six & swoops down like a sparrow-hawk to start taking shots of something you would never have spotted in a million years
  • The surprise of a classic car show with live music on the sea boulevard after Wednesdays meal, a lovely finish
  • Teresa surprised she enjoyed her swims after Vicki sort of bullied her in
  • Claire relating the pitfalls of running in a place you don’t know where some of the routes aren’t even open when you’re running (it wasn’t really a respectable time 😉 )
  • The several swims through the Alfonso & the chance to drive it & sit at the table in the canteen (service was awful)
  • Miguel retrieving my camera from the house reef when it’s tie came undone (the benefits of 20m plus visibility)
  • The fine selection of 5 taster beers from the beer restaurant on the waterfront
  • The amazement that before the many tunnels that coaches used to traverse roads that look barely more than a ledge
  • Spotting pilot whales & dolphins on our cat trip with Claire. & Nigel
  • Finally getting the hang of what floors each of the 4 sets of lifts in the hotel went to – I think!
  • Scouring the restaurant for a spoon & Vicki’s focus on locating coffee (else she warned she’d get grumpy & since she’s already Green you wouldn’t like her when she gets angry as well 🙂
  • The ease with which we sailed through Funchal airport
  • The superb weather
My thanks to Geoff & Nigel & their respective partners Teresa & Claire for joining Vicki & I on this excursion, it would not have been the same without you & Madeira has so much more to give that one visit is not enough – we must go back!

The party exploring in the mountains


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