Today I moved to Funchal, the capital of Madeira and by far its biggest city. I went there via Cabo Girao, a tall cliff on the south coast where they have a built a glass platform over the cliff edge which allows you to look straight down 580m to the sea. Although I am very small compared to the other big tourists stomping over the glass, I stepped very gingerly and tried to make sure that I kept each paw on a different pane.
It was a nice site, and looking straight down past my paws to the sea was a novelty, but the view wasn’t that different from all the other pretty seascapes I’d seen on Madeira, and I found the constant stream of tourists rather oppressive. I headed on to Funchal where my flat was in the old town and looked out over Madeira’s old fort.
I will write more about Funchal in a later post.My first activity in the afternoon was a boat trip to look for dolphins and whales. We headed out to sea in a small RIB (rigid inflatable boat) for about an hour. I scanned the horizon for fins sticking out from the water. Occasionally I got excited when I thought I’d seen one, only to realise that I’d seen the shady side of yet another wave. The skipper of the boat was better at spotting marine life than I was. “There they are!” he shouted. At first, I couldn’t see anything but then I realised we were in the middle of a big group of dolphins swimming right around the boat. The guide explained that they were Atlantic Spotted Dolphins, and this was a good thing because this species was very sociable and would come and do some “human watching” if they weren’t busy hunting fish. I spent the next ten minutes with my camera primed, trying to snap the moment when a dolphin fin or tail would break the water.
It was hard to get the timing right, and I ended up with lots of photos of swirling water eddies marking where a dolphin had been. I switched to filming video instead.
The guide said that the authorities had strict rules about bothering dolphins, with a limit of ten minutes for observing each group. When our time was up, the skipper accelerated our boat and we headed off to look for more marine life. Our first group of dolphins tried to follow us, occasionally jumping from the water, but eventually got bored and swam off.
Very soon we came across another group of the same dolphin species, and the whole spectacle repeated itself. Apparently, dolphins are easy to spot, since they are very common and they welcome human contact. Whale sightings are rarer – we didn’t see any. On the way back, we went past the base of Cabo Girao, and admired the impressive cliff from the bottom.
With the excitement of filming the dolphins, I hadn’t felt sea-sick at all, but instead felt slightly queasy when I got my paws back on firm land at Funchal Marina. For dinner I had fresh dorado on the terrasse of my flat and tried a bottle of “dry” Madeira – which still tasted sweet to me but was very good all the same.