Into the Big Blue

Think of Madeira and what image comes to mind?
Lush gardens of palm trees and flowers?
Towering mountaintops reaching above the clouds?
Balmy afternoons taking tea on the terrace and looking out over the sea?
Or even a bottle of Madeira wine?

Madeira is all of these things of course, but can also be much more. Off the island’s rocky shores, not very far below the ocean surface, there is whole new Madeira – and a side of the island which relatively few visitors have yet discovered. Madeira may not be one of the world’s top diving destinations, but it is a great place for beginner divers, and those who have never dived before, to get to grips with this increasingly popular sport.

The prospect of scuba diving for the complete beginner can be daunting, and most learner divers would confess to being rather nervous the first time. Worries about breathing, getting in and out of the water, and of course, things going wrong, are perfectly normal, and instructors are well aware of your anxieties.

My first dive, known in the trade as a try dive was in the bay of Machico, just in front of the Dom Pedro Hotel in Machico. There was some swell, but the sea in that area was relatively calm. Nevertheless my heart rate increased significantly as my instructor calmly prepared my equipment and explained to me the few things I had to remember to do. Kitted out in all your gear, you feel as if you weigh a ton, and are sure to sink straight down to the seabed. You don’t, of course – and when you first get in the water you will remain happily bobbing around on the surface until your instructor feels you are ready to go down. The first time you go under the water is both exciting and confusing – part of your brain is telling you that you can’t breathe under there, yet you are doing. For more nervous divers like myself, this realization can take a while to get use to, as can the fact that you don’t have to gasp for air, or take big deep breaths – your air supply is more than adequate and you can breathe perfectly normally.

It took me maybe three minutes to get over the initial amazement of breathing under water and to start enjoying the new world I was experiencing. And it really is another world. A silent world in which all you can hear is your own breathing and you are acutely conscious of every single breath you take. A world with a blue-green backdrop, but full of other colourful citizens, of all shapes and sizes, busily swimming about their business. A world whose floor is covered with a soft carpet of fingers gently swaying to and from. It is a world which seems to have no gravity, like the inside of a space ship, where you can float around upside down, do tipple tails, or just let the water carry you about.

The great thing about being a beginner is that your equipment and its correct functioning are totally your instructor’s responsibility. He or she monitors your buoyancy, checks your air supplies and generally makes sure everything is running smoothly. You may also be attached to your instructor by a line, so there’s no way you can float away or get lost. Literally all you have to do is breathe pop your ears from time to time and look at all the lovely fish. It really couldn’t be much easier. My try dive lasted for about 30 minutes, and passed only too quickly. Yet is was 30 minutes of my life that I will never forget, and climbing out of the water I felt ridiculously pleased with myself for having done it. I also, like most learner divers, wondered what on earth I had been so worried about – although it is normal, and even expected, there really is no reason for it.
But my other overwhelming reaction to the dive was, I later learnt, by far the most common of all, and may be of some comfort to all those would-be divers out there who have yet to take the plunge. It was quite simply when can we go again?

(Article written by Herman)

Websites …

Stars

There is a special attraction that most visitors to the island are not aware of. Or maybe they find it to scary to do it. For those who have transportation …. they can go to the rooftop of the island (for example Paúl da Serra) 1400m above the sea level and …. see the stars. Mind you … the view is not the same as you can see from Funchal, hotel or at home. On the high planes of Madeira … where there are no artificial lights, no houses or buildings, above the clouds … you can see the stars, the Milky Way …. the Galaxy.

Yesterday night we went by car to Paúl da Serra. Driving at night on a dark road …. in the mountains …. full with curves ….. with no street lights … is an exciting experience. And when we arrived at the high planes …. we had clear sky. The night sky was so full of stars … that it was not that dark. It seemed like a full moon was present and its glow was shining … but there was no moon. Only stars …. millions, billions … zillions!

Unfortunately I did not have my camera with me …. but I even doubt I could capture the image of the stars in the sky with it.

An advice for those who are thinking to drive up there at night:

  • Be careful when driving on the roads at night. Anticipate any possible obstacle in front of you.
  • Drive slowly and take your time. There are a lot of dangerous curves and you are driving in the mountains (it is a long way down).
  • Take warm clothes with you. The temperature will drop considerably the higher you get.
  • Check the weather before you go up driving to that area. Avoid going up when there are too much clouds and mist on the way to the mountains.

Popular Saints

The celebrations begin with Santo António (Saint Anthony), in the parish of the same name, where on the night of 12 June there is a traditional street parade with lots of colour, fun and excitement.

Between 23 and 25 June is the time when São João (Saint John) is celebrated. In Funchal, this time sees lively, typically Madeiran folk festivities in the streets of Figueira Preta, Travessa dos Reis and Largodo Carmo. In Porto Santo, the festivities in honour of this saint mark the start of the summer festivities on the island. These include numerous socio-cultural activities, a highlight of which is the traditional popular street parade on Saint John’s night.

At the end of the month, São Pedro (Saint Peter) is commemorated with great pomp and circumstance in the town of Ribeira Brava. The town is decorated with paper flowers and other characteristic embellishments and during the entire night visitors can watch several decorated boats which offer sailing trips in the waters near to Ribeira Brava.

Source: Madeira Tourism Board

Fresh Weekend

The company “Fresh Produções”, in an unusual initiative taking place between the 14th and 18th of June, is promoting the “Fresh Weekend” event, which, in addition to a musical component, also has other activities of great interest.

The “Quinta da Rochinha” lodge at Ponta de Sol and the Hotel Calheta Beach will be the hosts for this event where the philosophy is based on the “Fresh” spirit, in which ecological awareness, relaxation, nature and pure fun live together with culture and an urban life-style.

The objective is to promote Madeiras an attractive destination appealing to a young and active public. A special package, starting in Lisbon, has been created for people to attend this event and includes accommodation, guided visits to local cultural places and other sporting activities.

This event will have several high quality musical performances, with the highlights being “United Colors of Fresh”, “Barbecue 01” in Seixal, “Hi.Tech 01”in sunset format at Ponta do Sol lodge, and “Hi.Tech 02”.

Source: Madeira Tourism Board

Surf’s Up!

I am going to Madeira for Holidays.

What? Madeira?? Only old people goes for holidays to that island! There is nothing there for young people like us.

(Looking at his hair …. grey!) Like you??

Yes! Name one typically thing that young people can do there on that island …. Just name one!

SURFING

The island of Madeira is probably one of the best big wave spots in the entire world. Jardim do Mar (Ponta do Jardim), Paul do Mar, Ponta Pequena and so on.

Not many people knows this …. but slowly the waves are reaching the fanatic surfers all over the world about this hidden surf paradise.

Madeira Surf

Want some proof? Just check out for example the weblog MADEIRASurf … with beautiful images of Madeirense surfers taming the Atlantic waves.

But mind you …. Madeira is NOT for the beginners … this is for PRO’s only. Madeira is the perfect cult location for the first class surfers. It floats perfectly receiving the swells from the North Atlantic Ocean.

Check it out, dude! (= 70’s slang). Surf’s up on Madeira.

More about surfing on Madeira? Check the links on my Del.icio.us page: del.icio.us/madeira/surf

By the way … the reaction of the grey-haired person was … DUH??

BASE Jump from Cabo Girão

Last 4th of May (2006) a BASE Jump took place at the 2nd highest cliff of the world (580m) namely here on Madeira island, Cabo Girão.

But first … what is BASE Jump?

BASE jumping is the sport of using a parachute to jump from fixed objects. “BASE” is an acronym that stands for the four categories of objects from which one can jump; (B)uilding, (A)ntenna (an uninhabited tower such as an aerial mast), (S)pan (a bridge, arch or dome), and (E)arth (a cliff or other natural formation). BASE jumping is much more dangerous than skydiving from aircraft and is currently regarded as a fringe extreme sport.
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BASE_jumping

Now I was already wondering why not any jumper did discovered the island of Madeira … which offers a lot of great S and E. Mário Pardo did! He is Portugal’s number 1 BASE jumper …. came to Madeira to take a view from Cabo Girão …. and did what thousand of tourists were afraid to do …. To take a step and see what is on the bottom of the cliff. Well Mário did not take a step …. He took his motorbike instead … to get down there much quicker!

Check the video at Google

By the way … I heard some rumours that, after this (successful) jump, the tourist board is planning to move the toboggans from Funchal to Cabo Girão and to create a new attraction called TOBOJUMP. Parachutes are included …. Plus the extra that you, the toboggan and both drivers will be picked up by the replica of the Santa Maria. 😉

Flower Festival 2006

Yesterday was the main highlight of the traditional Flower Festival of Funchal, the parade of flower. More than 1000 of participants, mainly children, covered with the most beautiful flowers parading the streets of Funchal.

And as I am man of few words … let the pictures tell you how beautiful it was.

Click here to see more pictures

(Update 2006-05-01)
I saw more than hundred photographers walking yesterday around capturing the flower festival with their cameras and I was wondering how many of them will put it (also) online?

Daniel Jove (from Spain)