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Madeira coastline
We cruised about 15 kilometres out from the coastline to find whales - and we found them!

Whale Watching in Madeira: Our Experiences

  • By Finnoy Travel
  • October 22, 2021

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Madeira and Whales

Madeira is one of the most beautiful islands in the South Europe. There is an eternal spring on this green island which has also incredibly diverse fauna. The island is a must-to-visit destination for every nature lover especially for those who love hiking.

Many people are unaware that also whale watching is a popular activity in Madeira. Even though you can see whales in other destinations too, having a whale watching cruise in Madeira is more comfortable because of the pleasant weather. The ocean, the sun and fresh sea air belong together!

Madeira in January

Winter is a popular season to visit Madeira even though it's not the best month to see whales. But as this story reveals, it is still possible to spot whales in January. Also the weather in January is not too hot but pleasant for outdoor activities. In addition to whale watching, driving on the peaceful roads of the island in the wintertime is a great way to explore the island's fauna. Shortly said, the island is a place to relax!

Whale Watching Cruise from Funchal

We visited Madeira in January 2019. Honestly, we didn't know about the possibility to experience whale watching cruises in Madeira in the winter months. As soon as we heard about this option, we wanted to try it right away.

In the Port of Funchal, there are a few stalls selling whale watching tour packages, but as always, we wanted to do some price comparison on the internet before buying. After some Google searches, we ended up to GetYourGuide which sells travel-related activities. We noticed that a whale-watching cruise was 10 euros cheaper on the internet than the prices in the stalls. So finally, we booked a cruise from the internet.

Departure from Funchal

The whale watching cruise included a fetch from any hotel in the Funchal area. Because we booked the tour only 2 hours before the scheduled departure, we called right away the operating company, Atlantic Pearl Catamaran, to tell our hotel's exact location in Lido area. Atlantic Pearl Catamaran had very friendly phone service and in a few minutes, we had agreed on a pick-up time.

The driver came just on time and took us to the Port of Funchal by a decent car. The journey from the Lido area to the port took only about 15 minutes.

Cruise on a Brand New Catamaran

The boat was a big surprise. We were expecting an old, small and crowded boat but the cruise was operated by a new catamaran which looked modern. The boat was just three years old. Its crew were extremely friendly and because there were only a few customers, we had almost the whole catamaran for ourselves. This was a great start for the cruise. Our expectations were exceeded even before the cruising had started!

Madera coastline
After the start of the journey, it took us 45 minutes to sail to the outer sea from the coastline.
On the catamaran
On the outer sea, the catamaran shut down its engines and used its sails for environmental-friendly cruising.

The whale watching was scheduled to last for 3 hours. Before the departure, we were told that whales or dolphins are not always seen at least in January but we have good chances to see them. The crew informed us that summer is the best season to spot whales as, during this time, these mammals tend to travel and move around for food back and forth. So we just needed to wish for the best.

Niko and Ceasar on the catamaran
The catamaran was brand new and in very good condition. We also had friendly pilots.

Whale Flocks

It took about 1 hour before we were far enough from the coastline to see whales and dolphins. We were really lucky to spot whales right away after arriving at the open sea. The whales were swimming in large pods and jumping on the surface now and then. The catamaran was moving slowly so seeing the mega-pod of dolphins was easier.

Whale watching boat.
We saw another boat doing whale watching too. It helped our crew to find whales and dolphins.

Windy Sea

We were happy to see whales first time in our lives. Unfortunately, our happiness was combined with seasickness because the catamaran was quite shaky and photographing distracted our senses of balance. It was not that windy day but in the Atlantic Ocean, there are always some waves.

Peaceful Cruising after Whale Watching

After we had seen whales for 20 minutes, the catamaran started its way back closer to the coast. The sea was calmer there and we started to feel better. It was also possible to buy drinks and snacks on the boat so having a few soft drinks made us feel better.

The route back to the port went along the coastline of Lido and it took about 90 minutes together. The scenery was amazing and we got so many instagrammable photos. We got the chance to snapshot the existing highest cliff in Europe, Cabo Girão which is also a famous sightseeing attraction in Madeira. Even though you may not always see whales on the cruise, the scenery makes the journey worthwhile.

Cabo Girão
On the way back, we passed Cabo Girão that looked amazing from the sea. We recommend you also drive up to the cliff to take great photos of the Atlantic Ocean.

Madeira Whale Watching Tips

For your convenience, we list our best whale watching tips.

Best Time for Whale Watching in Madeira

We did whale watching in Madeira in January which is not the best season. The air temperature on the sea is below 20 centigrade so you need warm clothes with you. However, as our experience showed, it is possible to see whales and enjoy the cruise in the winter season too.

The best time to see whales in Madeira is from April to October. In the summer season, the weather is even nicer and according to many sources, whales also come closer to the coastline. But don't skip a whale watching tour even though you were travelling in winter. You can see whales all year round.

Booking Whale Watching Tour

Book a cruise on the internet. Don't let yourself be overcharged in the stalls. On the internet, you can compare prices easier and you don't need to decide right away which cruise to choose.

Weatherproof Clothes

There is an eternal spring in Madeira but the spring is not always warm. The sea may be cool during the wintertime and even though the sun is shining, you may feel cold. So take a warm shirt and a jacket with you. In the summertime, it is warmer. Some cruises include also an option to swim in the sea if the weather is suitable.

Sea Sickness

Don't be afraid of having nausea. That may happen to anyone but we still recommend you to experience a great whale watching cruise. There are a few ways to decrease the risk.

Have a meal a few hours before the cruise but don't eat too much. Don't consume alcohol but prefer pure water. On the boat, do not move too much. Stay outside the cabin and keep your eyes focused on the horizon line. With these simple tips, the risk of getting motion sickness becomes much lower. The cruise of Atlantic Pearl Catamaran we took had a bed located on lower floors in addition to some cushioned spaces where passengers could lie down when feeling bad.

Photographing Whales

Whales and Dolphins are faster than your reactions. Take many photos. By taking 100 photos, we are quite sure there will be a few good shots too. You get better photos with a camera with optical zoom. Mobile phone cameras are good too but their zoom function is typically insufficient. Take your best camera with!

We were lucky to see whales. Photographing them isn't an easy task as they are fast-moving.

Where to Book?

Booking on the internet is recommended. We booked our cruise on GetYourGuide because we had only had successful experiences with this practical tour booking service. Its price level is also competitive. We can also honestly recommend choosing Atlantic Pearl Catamaran Cruise. Luckily, GetYourGuide has many options so you can compare them and choose the most suitable.

Bottom Line

Madeira is one of the best locations to have a whale-watching cruise. The odds to see whales are high and a cruise without whales is still a lovely experience. Visiting Madeira without a cruise on the sea leaves you to miss something.

If you are worried about getting motion sickness, we recommend you prepare better. Even though we had little nausea, we would do the cruise again. We wish someone would have warned us so we could have prepared better.

Where have you seen whales? Comment below.

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Destination: Portugal

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