Madeira 8. Plans were for culture in the morning and a boat trip in the afternoon. Slightly thwarted before lunch, and a huge (literally!) bonus in the afternoon. I was intending to go to the Museum of Sacred Art in the morning. A short walk took me to the Plaça do Municipio.
(The city hall is the lower building on the right).
And I arrived a few minutes before 10.00 when, according to my guide book, the museum was due to open.
It didn’t. I was astonished at this fundamental error in the book, and sat on a bench nearby to study what I could do instead. After a few minutes, a couple arrived, looked at the opening times, studied their guide book, and looked puzzled. I saw them later – they had decided the same as I had for an alternative, the Quinta das Cruzes museum, which was originally the home of Joâo Gonçalves Zarco, the Portuguese captain who ‘discovered’ Madeira. It promised to be filled with priceless antiques from all over the globe.
This had involved a steep climb. If you go south to north in Funchal that is inevitable, and there are limits on what you can do by just strolling east-west. When I got there, the receptionist told me that the sacred art museum used to open on Sunday mornings until recently, (so you are forgiven Lonely Planet). She also told me that today this museum was free. What she didn’t tell was was that only the ground floor was open. But I did see some priceless antiques.
And then wandered around the garden, not taking many photos.
After much needed refreshment at a nearby café, I wandered back down north to south, aiming for the municipal gardens where I had had my first meal six days previously. But first I went to right to the seafront to book my passage for the afternoon. Again I took not many pictures in the garden.
I’d seen a kapok tree in flower earlier in the week This is one in fruit.
I took time over my lunch, and rejoiced in seeing at a great distance a gorgeous butterfly I didn’t recognise, on the extreme leaf of this tree.
It was only on arriving home that I was able to identify it. A Monarch! That’s the butterfly that in its thousands flies all those thousands of miles between, say, Canada and Mexico each year. I didn’t know that it was found outside North America! Wow!
In due course, it was time to join my fellow passengers for the boat trip.But no, I didn’t go on this ship in the event. A little bird in the group had alleged to me (I’d better be careful) that it had not passed all of its latest safety tests. I was already tempted to go on the whale- and dolphin-watching catamaran trip, (run by VMT Catamaran) and that decided me. How glad I am that I did, for reasons that will becomes apparent!
There were only about 15 passengers, and a crew of four, which made moving around very easy. Very good commentary in (always first and quite right too!) Portuguese, and then English.
It was this sort of boat, looked identical to me.
We set off eastwards, on water that was very blue because very deep. The island of Madeira being only the protruding top of a volcanic complex that is six kilometres high, the land falls off immediately to the depths at the water’s edge.
After a short while the sails went up. First the mainsail,
and then the jib. (I think it’s that).
And then they came down again.
We were into the serious business of watching whales and needed the manoeuvrability that the engine would give. No dolphins, but Sperm whales! A first for me. Some were fairly close. I took literally hundreds of photos, and many would say that these selected results are not that wonderful if so. But the fact is that whales stay largely below the water surface, and are not easy to capture on ‘film’!
and the obligatory…
… disappearing tail flukes
The head is one-third of the length of the sperm whale, and contains, in a space the size of a small car, the very valuable spermaceti, oil so sought after by the whalers. Sperm whales are now of course protected.
Not a small fin but a very large vertebra
I reckon we must have seen and sailed alongside about five different whales before I thought I saw at a great distance, on the other side of the boat, the characteristic splash of a whale that had just breached – that is, completely jumped out of the water. I just couldn’t be sure of my identification, so I kept my mouth shut and my eyes peeled, and did indeed see the whole action, once or twice, by which time the crew had seen it too. (I hadn’t liked to draw attention to the initial splash for fear of being proved a fool, though I am quite used to trying to spot distant cetaceans.)
And – poor things, but mine own – I managed to get these photos!
Once we had sailed on – the time you can stay by a group of whales is limited, in function of the number of boats there are around, and there were two today of course – I had to share my excitement at my pictures. The main commentator insisted I show them to firstly the captain, and then to the professional photographer on board. Then a young German couple asked me to email them to them in due course. And bought me a drink.
We sailed on further eastwards and I got this very zoomed shot of the airport runway extension. Tomorrow!On the way back westwards, this half volcano tip was pointed out to us, the rest eroded by the sea.
Setting off for her next destination.
Late afternoon views of the coast, around Funchal,
To the west
To the east
And we arrived back just a smidgeon too early to get the perfect sunset shot.
What a fantastic end to a most enjoyable week. Madeira may be a little too built up for my liking, but I think I have been spoilt previously by some far-off wildlife holidays where there are no buildings or any signs of humans for tens of miles at a time. I see that one of my favourite holiday companies does three consecutive and different trips here in June each year. It is certainly my hope to return to Madeira in the fairly near future, and may well do one of even two of those trips. I’d really love to go back.