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Madeira is a truly lovely island.Blessed with a near perfect climateit offers an enticing combination ofsunlight, warmth and a wealth of wildlife,and all only a few hours from the UK. Part ofMacaronesia, which also includes the CapeVerde Islands, the Azores and Canaries,Madeira rises from the Atlantic Ocean over300 miles from the African coast. Inland itsvolcanic landscape rises to over 1,500metres, while beneath the sea its slopesplummet sharply to form deep canyons. Itsseparation from other landmasses, pleasantoceanic subtropical climate and underwatertopography make Madeira a special placefor wildlife both on and offshore. Inland,you'll be falling over flowers such as Bird-of-paradise and hibiscus amongst a headyblend of colourful blooms that attract awealth of butterflies and other insect-life.Such specialities as Madeiran Mahoganyand the island's indigenous and rareLaurissilva forest are of further interest tothe botanist. Out at sea, many special birdscan be seen between late spring andautumn, among them such rarities asZino's, Fea's and Bulwer's Petrel. However,on this tour we focus primarily on one of theless well known aspects of thearchipelago's rich wildlife, its cetaceans.Madeira is relatively undiscovered as awhale and dolphin-watching destination, yeta good variety of cetaceans are present inthese waters at all times of the year, withabout 20 species having been recorded sofar. Bottlenose Dolphins are regularly seen,with a resident group of about 25 animalspresent, and these numbers are oftensupplemented by visits to these waters ofthe larger, transient oceanic BottlenoseDolphins which can be seen inshore aroundMadeira. Short-finned Pilot Whales are alsoencountered frequently on boat trips outfrom the marina at Funchal and we are verylikely to see these two species. There arelarger cetaceans here too, and from Maythrough to December Bryde's Whalesappear to feed around Madeira onmigration. We'll be hoping to see this warm-water species, single animals of which, oroccasionally a mother and calf, are mosttypically seen in Madeiran waters. Commonand Risso's Dolphins are among the smallercetaceans that we will be looking out for, aswell as some warm-temperate andsubtropical species such as the highlyacrobatic and attractive Atlantic SpottedDolphin. In September Striped Dolphins,False Killer Whales and the deep water-loving Rough-toothed Dolphins are present,but unlikely to be seen.Throughout this holiday we will be based ina comfortable 4-star hotel in Funchal, fromwhich we will join a team of marinebiologists each day for dedicated whale-watching trips aboard our privatelychartered vessel, Ventura do Mar. Eachdedicated whale and dolphin-watchingsortie will typically last between three andfive hours, and we'll be assisted in ourefforts through radio contact with keen-eyed'vigias' (look-outs) on land. Among thecetaceans we may encounter as we headout to sea from Funchal are pods of Short-finned Pilot Whale - a stocky, medium-sized and highly social cetacean which livesin closely-knit family groups and is oftenseen resting, or 'logging', at the surfaceduring the day. If we are able to get close toa group we may lower a hydrophone intothe water to try and listen to their vocalinteractions, which are somewhatreminiscent of a squeaky door! Other, deep-diving species such as Sperm Whales andsome of the elusive beaked whales,including Blainville's, are recorded eachyear around Madeira, but we'd have to bevery fortunate indeed to see one of thesespecies during a short visit. There is also achance of encountering Bryde's Whale, andMadeira represents the best place to seethese essentially tropical whales in Europe.Our local guides have been conductingresearch into the social and feedingbehaviour of Bryde's Whales, so we can relyon their expertise to spot these little-knownand elegant roqual whales if they arepresent.Although most of our time will be spent outat sea in search of whales and dolphins,there will be some opportunities toexperience a variety of Madeira's seabirds,including an optional dusk excursion to seebreeding Zino's Petrels, as well as some ofits other special birds and wildlife inland. Inaddition, we will enjoy the relaxedatmosphere and balmy evenings aroundFunchal, with strolls around the old town,soaking in the scents of abundant flowersand perhaps mulling over our day'sadventures at sea with a glass of theisland's famous Madeira wine. In fact, it'sreally rather easy to fall for Madeira'smanifold on and offshore charms!RIBEIRO FRIOFUNCHALMADEIRAPAUL DA SERRA94Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryOutline itineraryDay 1Fly Funchal.Day 2 Morning and afternoonwhale and dolphin-watching at sea.Day 3Morning land-basedexcursion; eveningcetacean-watching.Day 4Full day's whale anddolphin-watching at sea.Day 5Fly London.AccommodationA charming 4-star hotel within aneasy walk of Funchal's marina; allrooms have private facilities.FoodAll breakfasts, plus lunch on Day 4,are included in the price. Dinners inFunchal are not included; allow£60.GradingA. Easy walks only.FocusWhales and dolphins; plus somebirdwatching and other naturalhistory.LeaderCatherine Strong, plus localnaturalist guides.Single room supplement£95.ExtensionsWe strongly recommend spendingextra nights in Funchal. Optionsavailable on request.Web quick search: PRT06Whales & Dolphins of Madeira A 5-day holiday in search of dolphins, Bryde's Whales and other cetaceans from the beautiful island of Madeira.Saturday 1st June - Wednesday 5th June Cost: £995Tuesday 10th September - Saturday 14th September Cost: £995Bryde's WhaleStriped DolphinsAtlantic Spotted Dolphins

This tour to Madeira, a naturalist'sparadise often referred to as thefloating garden, is timed to coincidewith the peak flowering times of a vastarray of beautiful plants, and the breedingseason for most of the birds. It is a tour forthe all-round naturalist, concentrating onthe species that are unique to the islands.Situated in the north Atlantic about 560kilometres off the north-west coast ofAfrica, the Madeiran archipelago is verymuch the Galápagos of Europe, being ofvolcanic origin and isolated fromcolonisation from the continent by thepredominantly westerly winds. Like theGalápagos, many of the species found inMadeira are found nowhere else on earth.Unlike the Galápagos, however, very littleis known about most of them! The Madeiran archipelago comprises fivemain islands. The largest, Madeira itself, isonly about the size of the Isle of Wight, butrises to over 1,830 metres. The landscapeis rugged and spectacular, with deepravines, gorges and swathes of lush andpristine Laurissilva forest-home to the rare and endemic Madeiran Laurel Pigeon.The vast system of levadas-man-madewatercourses-which run at a steadygradient along the sides of the mountainsand hills throughout the island provides anideal means of exploring its little-knowncorners at a gentle pace. The incrediblenumber of 1,163 plant species has beenrecorded from the islands, of which 113are endemic! Even in a week, by carefullyplanning the itinerary to visit as wide arange of habitats as possible, we will beable to appreciate the great richness anddiversity of this wonderful island.This 'floating garden' is aptly named for,apart from the wild flowers, birds andbutterflies for which this tour is planned,the whole island is also awash withcultivated flowers. Indeed most roadsideverges are planted with lilies and otherflowering plants and the process iscontinuing as can be seen from ourminibus as we traverse the island eachday. Funchal, the main city where we arebased, is a garden in itself with manybeautifully managed squares planted withstunning tropical and subtropical trees,shrubs, plants and creepers of all kinds;even the rivers running through the centreare covered in a canopy of bougainvillea,and it is this lush flora with its nectar,pollen and attendant insects that is anatural magnet for birds and especiallybutterflies.The second largest island, Porto Santo,which is less than a tenth the size ofMadeira, has a much smoother landscapeand is considerably more arid. Situatedabout 55 kilometres to the north-east ofMadeira, the sea crossing both ways willprovide us with excellent opportunities toobserve the numerous seabirds. Mostcommon will be Cory's Shearwater andBulwer's Petrel, but with luck we should seeManx and Little Shearwaters, and possiblyone of the Pterodromapetrels (either Fea'sor the endemic Zino's Petrel-knownlocally as Freiras) or a MadeiranStorm-petrel. There will be a chance to visitthis island as an optional extra on our freeday, advised not only for its differing floraand abundant birdlife, but also for theexcellent sea-watching on the crossingsand the dolphins that are regularly seenplaying in the wake of the ferry.The remaining three islands in thearchipelago are known as the Desertasand form a chain lying about 25 kilometresto the south-east of Madeira. They aredesignated as a Special Protection Areafor their internationally important seabirdpopulations. They are managed by theNational Park Service of Madeira and, dueto the vulnerability of the Fea's Petrelcolonies, access is restricted.The colours and fragrances of Madeira, the stunning and varied scenery, and theopportunity to observe some of theextremely localised birds will surely makethis touronetoremember.Madeira - The Floating GardenAn 8-day natural history tour exploring the Madeiran archipelago in search of birds, plants and butterflies.Tuesday 4th June - Tuesday 11th June Cost: £1,195Book direct on 01962 733051or see page 284 for Booking InformationPORTO SANTOILHEU CHAODESERTAGRANDEBUGIOPICORUIVOPAUL DA SERRARIBEIRO FRIOFUNCHALMADEIRAOutline itineraryDay 1Depart London for 7 nights Funchal.Day 2 Ribeiro Frio, Balçoeslevada walk.Day 3Walk up Pico Ruivo.Day 4Punta do São Lorenço.Day 5 Encumeada levadawalk.Day 6Day off - optional extrato Porto Santo. Day 7Paul da Serra, Rabaçallevada walk.Day 8Fly London.AccommodationComfortable, family-run 3-star hotelnear Funchal, with private facilities.FoodAll included in the price, except forevening meals in Funchal. Allow£80+.GradingA/B. Mainly easy day walks.FocusBirds, plants and butterflies.LeaderPaul Harmes or Derrick Donnison-Morgan.Single room supplement £140.ExtensionsAvailable on request, with orwithout car rental. Web quick search: PRT0195Madeiran Stork's-billMadeiranFirecrestView from Encumeada