Madeira - spring on an Atlantic island

Discovering the natural history of this volcanic Macaronesian island, we will explore less-visited natural areas from subtropical laurel forests to stunning coasts, at a relaxed pace.
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Madeira has been a popular and well-known holiday destination for many years, famous for its mild climate, high standards and its numerous gardens with plants from around the world. However, most of its natural wealth is unknown to the majority of its visitors. Its unique biodiversity has been an attraction to many naturalists and was the reason for the classification of two thirds of the island as Nature Reserves.

Madeira is the largest and main island of this Portuguese archipelago. This group of islands and islets was colonised by man 600 years ago but there are still many picturesque villages, many full of ‘tropical’ flowers, some now growing ‘wild’. In the more mountainous areas, the lush, green Laurisilva rainforest is an ancient remnant (90% primary forest) of European habitat that is now designated as a World Heritage Site. It has a surprising paleoflora with many giant plants and some endemic genera. The forest is also home to an impressive number of invertebrates and some endemic birds. The varied topography and micro climates enable several unique habitats to survive and many flowering shrubs and annuals to flourish.

We will visit a variety of ecosystems throughout the island including mountain heathlands with tree heather Erica arborea, pastures, semi-desert grasslands and colourful ancient volcanic landscapes as well as the laurel forests. Breathtaking vistas of the island are found everywhere, from the highest peaks to the rural terraces and dramatic coasts. This holiday is an ideal introduction to the natural history of Macaronesian Islands as well as a chance to see the Madeiran endemic species. Our itinerary includes relaxing walks in less visited natural areas, as well as a selection of the best gardens and a taste of the local culture, all before the main tourist season.