The two-island Madeira archipelago recently won “World’s Leading Island Destination.“ Only 15 minutes are needed to circle Madeira Island. Though small, you can enjoy the beautiful mountain landscape, the city of Funchal, walking along a “Levada,“ and diving or swimming in crystal-clear water. The even smaller island of Porto Santo is famous for its 9 km white sand beach surrounded by turquoise waters. Jacques-Yves Cousteau once said that he found some of “the cleanest waters in the world“ here.
Diving in Portugal’s Madeira archipelago is nothing short of spectacular. Crystal clear water set against a dramatic, volcanic backdrop offers divers amply opportunity to see a wealth of marine life hiding amongst the rocky bottom. Water temperatures fluctuate between 17ºC in the winter and 25ºC in the summer. Still, even on the chilliest day, diving Madeira is well worth it as it brings in exciting, large pelagic encounters.
Madeira’s marine life is not the only thing attracting divers here from all over the world. The Eco Park and Garajau Marine Nature Reserve are home to excellent wreck dives like the Bowbelle, Pronto, and Afonso Cerqueira. Dubbed two of the finest wreck dives in the world, Madeira’s sister island Porto Santo is home to the Cordeca and the Madeirense wrecks, where visibility averages at 40m.
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Wildlife in Madeira
With the wildlife attracting Azores nearby, the Madeira archipelago is one of the largest whale sanctuaries in the world with excellent whale watching opportunities above and below the water year-round; however, the best time to see both whales and dolphins is between April and October. The tiny island of Desertas has one of the largest sea lion colonies in the world, so diving in Madeira almost guarantees sightings of these playful pinnipeds. Other marine life in Madeira includes colorful reef fish like peacock and rainbow wrasse, zebra seabream, damselfish, sea bass, parrotfish, and hogfish, plus plenty of sharks, rays, and barracuda.