Madeira is a picturesque island in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa with a warm climate that allows year-round diving. The island is relatively small, 35 x 13 miles, with most hotels and dive organisations based on the south coast at the capital Funchal, Canico, near the Gurajau marine reserve, and Machico, towards the eastern end of the island. The island is very rocky which means that there are good shore diving sites but few sandy beaches.
Strictly speaking, Madeira is the name of the archipelago of 7 islands of which only 2, Madiera Island and Porto Santo, are occupied. Porto Santo is much less developed than Madeira and offers the chance to get away to peace and quiet but also has a number of good dive sites as well as a sandy beach 5 miles long.
Shipwrecks - There are a number of shipwrecks around Madeira, both natural and artificial, including the Bowbelle, infamously remembered as being involved in the accident in which the Marchioness pleasure boat sank in the Thames in 1989 with the loss of 51 lives. Following the accident the boat was sold to a Madeiran company and renamed the Bom Rei. During routine dredging operations, the Bom Rei sank in 32 metres of water about 45 minutes by boat from Funchal and now forms one of the most popular dive sites on the island. As well as viewing the wreck, sealife is also in evidence with groupers and eels making the site their home.
Baracudareef - Two rock pinnacles that rise from 30 metres, covered with yellow Anemones offer a fascinating view of great Barracudas, Stingrays and Morays, Congas and swarms of Mackerel and Trigger fish.
Garajau Marine Reserve. The single marine reserve is at Garajau, near Canico on the southern tip of the island. Diveable from the shore or by boat, one of the major attractions of this site is the possibility of meeting one of the large, tame groupers that live here and are attracted by divers' bubbles. Away from the shore, large shoals of fish can be seen and there is the possibility of sighting a manta ray.
Machico. Shore diving is possible in this area at the eastern side of Machico Bay. Further offshore, Baixa da Cruz boasts a reef from 4 - 38 metres planted with black coral.
Canical. Canical at the east of the island offers shore diving with numerous colourful anenomes, urchins and star fish. There are many caves in this area with conger and moray eels and the chance to see rays.
Ponta de Sao. In the summertime, visibility can reach 50 metres at sites around the eastern tip of the island.
Porto Santo. There is one dive operator on Porto Santo offering trips to more than 20 sites around the island with depths ranging from 15-20 metres to more than 50 metres for advanced courses and divers. Visibility is normally above 20 metres and often as much as 30 metres. Sites include a 70 m long purposely sunk transport ship close to the dive centre.
- Bowbelle (Bom Rei) wreck
- Garajau Marine Reserve
- Porto Santo
|Climate:||Mild climate with warm summers and extremely mild winters|
|Diving season:||Year round|
|Water temperature:||Winter 16C (61F)|
|Summer 22C (72F)|
|Air temperature:||Winter 18C (64F)|
|Summer 24C (75F)|