Early morning view from Santana to the IBA at Ponta da São Lourenço, Madeira
Birdfinders have tours planned to Madeira.
Landing on Ilhas Desertas may not be possible presently for reasons of safety. There is a persistent danger of rock slides following volcanic / seismic activity in summer 2004. Visiting the Ilhas Desertas is easily arranged via the various kiosks near Funchal harbour.
We have heard that Ventura do Mar which runs half and one day visits to the islands, has good ornithologists and naturalists.
It is understood that it might be possible to arrange permission for a wardened visit to Ilhas Selvagens on application to Parque Natural da Madeira, Quinta do Bom Sucesso, Caminho do Meio, 9050 Funchal, though actually getting there could be more of a problem!
General: you may wish to travel in an organised tour but independent travel is perfectly feasible. Most of the land species can be found fairly easily and seawatching from land may produce some of the pelagic species. Trips on boats will be needed to give you the best opportunity to see the pelagic species however.
Language: the national language is Portuguese and English is widely spoken.
Flights: there are flights to Madeira from several European countries and in particular from Portugal, Germany and the UK. We found travel from the UK to be inexpensive. There are also regular flights betewen the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo. The main airport on Madeira is built between the ocean to the south and the mountains to the north. The area around the airport was once said to be good for seawatching but access to the coastal side is limited with the expansion of car parks.
Boats: occasional cruise liners stop at Funchal Harbour. There is a daily ferry from here to Porto Santo. There are a number of kiosks at Funchal Harbour for half day or day trips to sea for game fishing, whale watching and birdwatching.
Visas: visas should not be required for people with EU passports but you may wish to check with your local embassy or travel company.
Vaccinations: your local doctor should obviously be consulted about health matters and the range of inoculations which is advised.
Driving: cars can be hired from a number of operators at the airport. We found car hire to be expensive. An expressway runs from the airport to Funchal where many visitors will be staying. This expressway actually encircles much of the island at the time of writing (November 2008) and uses extensive tunnels through the mountains. Once off this expressway, however, the roads can be precipitous and much of the island's road system is on narrow and steep mountain roads where care must be taken.
Public transport: taxis are available for hire at the airport, in Funchal, and in many of the smaller towns. A number of people hire a taxi for day trips to the mountains. The local bus services operate out of Funchal and visit many areas of the island. A timetable can be collected from the main bus company offices near the harbour in Funchal.
Currency: the Euro is the unit of currency. Many places including hotels and restaurants do not take credit cards and so it is necessary to carry plenty of cash. Fortunately, there are many banks on the island and cash machines are common at supermarkets as well as banks.
Timing: based on our experience in 2008, October is a good time to visit to find the land birds but more difficult for pelagic species. The breeding season for seabirds is between April to September and these months would almost certainly be more productive for seawatching and visits to the islands.
Travel Guides: there are a number of travel guides for Madeira.