Day 11 - Thursday, April 20, 2023 – Whale Watching; Eastern Madeira’s Soaring Peaks & Island Traditions; Optional Tour
As usual, we had breakfast in the hotel dining room. The highlight of our day was the whale watching tour.
With our cameras, raincoats, and plenty of sunscreen, we walked to the marina at the harbor of Funchal. There was a little mix-up because of recent construction so Henrique had to make a few calls to find the location of our zodiac tour.
Carolina was waiting for us and explained the safety features of the 18-passenger rigid zodiac. We didn’t leave the harbor until about 9:30 and we sailed about two miles out into the Atlantic. As the spotters on land were in constant radio contact with our boat, our biologist and driver had a better idea of where we should go for possible sightings.
We had been warned that we might see several species of whales and dolphins or we might see nothing. The minute our boat slowed down our hope soared. A large pod of pilot whales and their young were feeding about three miles from shore.
Carolina explained how the whales are smaller than most species and will protect their young from us until they feel secure that we won’t hurt them. As our zodiac floated on the sea, several groups of the pilot whales came closer to us. These whales never breach so we saw their bodies and fins, but never the whole mammal out of the water.
We watched the frolicking whale families for about an hour and then our driver took us another mile out to look for dolphins or other whales but we did not see anything else. On our way back to the marina, we sailed very close to the shore. We could see the volcanic layers of the cliffsides and the small plots of banana groves and other fruit gardens.
In the afternoon, the whole group decided to go on the optional tour of the eastern region of the island. Our driver and guide, Carlos was a master of driving and also educating us as we explored Madeira.
There was an included lunch at O Lagar Restaurant, in Camara de Lobos. Our meal was the special espetada madeirense, skewered beef cubes grilled over a wood fire pit. We started with a carrot and pumpkin soup, green salad, fried corn, (palenta), and bolo do caco, a flat, circular bread. Passion fruit pudding or chocolate mousse capped our meal for dessert.
The waiter brought everyone a glass of Madeira wine before dinner, white and red wine were on the table, and after dessert a glass of poncha made from passion fruit or orange juice, honey sugar, and sugar cane brandy was served.
After lunch we got back on the bus and Carlos navigated our bus up the narrow roads to the top of Cape Girão to the west of Funchal, known to be the highest sea cliff in Europe. It was raining hard by the time we made the climb to the overlook so no photos, but the drop off even in the fog and rain was spectacular.
We had a leisurely walk around the town of Camara de Lobos, a fishing village that Winston Churchill made famous in his paintings. The local fisherman are hardy souls that work a week on and then have a week off. During their off time they play cards in the village square and talk to each other.
We also stopped at the Eira do Serrado overlook and had 30 minutes to look around, climb to the top of the overlook, and for Carolos to have a cup of coffee. Back on the bus at 6:00 we traveled back down to Funchal for a free night on our own.
With plenty to do and some extra time, we enjoyed a light dinner and then tried to get to bed a little earlier tonight.
Accommodations: Castanheiro Boutique Hotel - - - Meal: B
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It's always fun to see whales. The sky in your photo of the terraced gardens looks blue. I'm glad it wasn't raining the whole time. What a day!
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Oh, you saw whales. The boys and I went on a whale watching trip in California once and saw nothing. And this land-locked Kansan got seasick! They will never go with me again!
Day 13 - Saturday, April 22, 2022 - Depart for U.S.
The hotel prepared a box breakfast for us as we had to be in the lobby way before the breakfast room was open.
Last night we found out that our departure flight back to...