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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

Located in the middle of the NorthAtlantic some 560 kilometres off thecoast of north-west Africa, theMadeiran archipelago consists of fivelarger islands and a few small islets. It is aseabird enthusiast's paradise! Of thelarger islands, only Madeira and PortoSanto are inhabited. The Desertas Islands,situated 25 kilometres south-east ofMadeira, are designated as a SpecialProtection Area on account of theirinternationally important seabirdpopulations and are, arguably, the ultimatedestination for anyone with an interest inthe seabirds of the Western Palearctic.We first turn our attention to Madeira'sspecial landbirds though, with a full day'stour in search of such specialties asTrocaz Pigeon and Madeira Firecrest (bothfull endemic species); also other islandand regional endemic species andsubspecies such as Pallid and PlainSwifts, Spectacled Warbler, Chaffinch,Berthelot's Pipit, Kestrel, Buzzard andSparrowhawk. With a traditional lunchmidway through the day, we will also stopat designated viewing points for some finesea-watching!From above Funchal three distant islands25 kilometres to the south-east can beseen: the alluring 'llhas Desertas', the focalpoint of our holiday. The Desertas arebarren, devoid of both permanent humanhabitation and fresh water. Officiallyprotected since 1990, the area is now anature reserve comprising the islandsthemselves and the surrounding sea to adepth of 100 metres. There is a permanentresearch station on Deserta Grande and itstwo wardens are the only human inhabitantsof the islands today. Viewed from Madeira,the islands look small; approached by boat,however, they are imposing, risingmajestically from a crystal clear sea.To get to the Desertas we embark on a31/2-hour voyage from Funchal aboard ourprivately chartered vessel, the Ventura doMar, looking out for Cory's, Great, Manxand Little Shearwaters and, with luck,Bulwer's Petrel, Madeiran Storm-petrel andthe two sought-after Pterodromas, Fea'sand Zino's Petrels. An exciting variety ofcetaceans also inhabits these watersincluding Common, Atlantic Spotted andBottlenose Dolphins. Short-finned PilotWhales are often found 'logging' at thesurface, and Fin and Sperm Whales arealso seen here as well as the occasionalBryde's Whale. On our arrival at Deserta Grande, we dropanchor in the sheltered bay in front of thewarden's hut. After an opportunity to swim,snorkel and do some fish-spotting in themagically clear water, we will take a guidedtour of the island, visiting nesting areas ofBulwer's Petrels and Cory's Shearwaters.As dusk falls, rafts of birds congregate onthe sea offshore. As darkness descends,Bulwer's Petrels are normally the first birdsashore, their dog-like barking being heardall around! Some fly so close that theirwings almost slap you, before they thudclumsily ashore. Cory's Shearwaters willalso be heard (they breed higher up thecliff) and, a little later into the night, theMadeiran Storm-petrels will arrive, theirsqueaky calls demanding our attention.For those who wish to do so, it is possibleto sit up on deck, even sleep on deck,listening to the calls and looking at themoonlit silhouettes of shearwaters, petrelsand storm-petrels! From 5am the Cory's will begin to file awayfor a day out at sea. By daybreak the showis usually over. Daytime on the DesertasIslands is contrastingly peaceful. Just afew terns and the resident Canaries andBerthelot's Pipits disturb this stillness. Theislands are also home to an important, ifsmall, population of one of Europe's rarestmammals, and with luck we may even seeone of the 20 or so endangered MonkSeals which live here. We will enjoybreakfast, perhaps another swim, and then cruise back to Funchal (once againhoping for more seabirds and cetaceansen route), where we should arrive aboutlunchtime ready to catch up on somesleep! We end our tour with an excitingnight-time visit to the breeding site of oneof Europe's most threatened birds, theZino's Petrel. This nocturnal seabird isendemic to Madeira and was presumedextinct in the mid-1900s, until it was'rediscovered' in 1969! Today the speciesis confined to the high central massif,where between 65 and 80 pairs breed. Theaim of this carefully guided visit is toexperience the company of thisendangered marine bird amongst somespectacular scenery and to listen to theeerie calls of the birds as they arrive backat their colonies as darkness falls. Madeira & Desertas Islands - A Seabird Extravaganza! A 5-day holiday in search of the special breeding seabirds, cetaceans and endangered Monk Seals of Madeira, including an exciting overnight excursion to the remote Desertas Islands. Wednesday 12th June - Sunday 16th June Cost: £895Wednesday 10th July - Sunday 14th July Cost: £895Outline itineraryDay 1Fly Funchal.Day 2Birding on Madeira.Day 3Desertas Islands. Day 4Return Funchal.Day 5 Fly London.AccommodationThree nights in a comfortable,family-run, 3-star hotel nearFunchal, all rooms with privatefacilities. For one night we will bebeneath a simple shelter onDeserta Grande, or aboard a boatanchored just offshore. Facilitiesare simple in both cases!FoodAll included in the price, except fordinners in Funchal. Allow £40.GradingGrade A. Easy walks only.FocusBirds and cetaceans.LeaderFilipe Alves or Luis Dias.Single room supplement£80.ExtensionsExtra nights in Funchal, or otheroptions, available on request.Web quick search: PRT0296Call now or visit your free Trip ItineraryILHEU CHAODESERTAGRANDEBUGIOPICORUIVOPAUL DA SERRARIBEIRO FRIOFUNCHALMADEIRACommon DolphinFea's PetrelSperm Whales