The Pearl of the Atlantic, Madeira is famous for its subtropical climate, crystal-clear waters and incredible scuba diving. Meet some of Madeira’s 20 or so whale and dolphin species, explore some of the world’s best wrecks in 40m viz, and dive colourful reefs surrounded by rays, sharks, turtles and more.
Funchal is the capital of Portugal's two-island archipelago, Madeira. Scuba diving in Funchal is famous for crystal-clear waters filled with an endless variety of marine life. Large pelagic sightings are common here, like manta rays, whales, dolphins, and the rare monk seal. After exploring underwater, you will enjoy this city's historical sites and cute markets.
Diving in Madeira
Winner of the 2015 Best Island Destination aware, the Madeira archipelago has a year-round summer climate, world-class whale and dolphin watching, and clear blue waters full of colourful life. All of which make Madeira an outstanding destination for scuba diving.
The islands might be small but don’t let that fool you. The Madeira archipelago has an abundance of dive sites, all teeming with life and surrounded by crystal-clear turquoise waters. Jacques Cousteau once said he found some of the cleanest waters in the world there.
Volcanic backdrops and rocky landscapes make great photography subjects and host a diverse array of life, including colourful reef fish such as wrasses, seabreams, damselfish, parrotfish, hogfish and plenty of passing rays and barracudas. Leatherback turtles migrate along Portugal’s coastline in the summer and are often seen cruising Madeira’s reefs.
Home to some of the finest wrecks in the world, diving in Madeira also offers plenty for rust fans. The Eco Park and Garaju Marine Nature Reserve have excellent wrecks to explore, including the Bowbelle, Pronto and Afonso Cerqueira. Madeira’s sister island Porto Santo is home to two of the world’s best wrecks.
Diving in Madeira’s rich offshore waters is not to be missed. You’ll find numerous pelagics, including blue sharks, hammerheads, mantas and devil rays, plus more whales and dolphins than you could ever hope to see. Madeira’s waters host around 20 different whale and dolphin species, some of which are present all year. You’re also likely to encounter sea lions when diving in Madeira, as the Desertas Islands hosts one of the largest sea lion colonies in the world.
With consistently warm waters, ranging from 18 to 23 °C, you can go scuba diving in Madeira all year. There are a handful of Madeira dive centers to choose from on Madeira and Porto Santo, making it easy to explore the islands’ many dive spots and take dive courses in Madeira. This stunning archipelago is a great place to learn to dive and you can choose from easy boat dives or shore dives straight off the beaches. Whilst there are no major liveaboards at Madeira, you can join small catamaran diving safaris.
Best places to dive
There are several marine reserves to explore when diving the Madeira archipelago, including the Garaju Nature Reserve on the southern coast of Madeira near Funchal. Created in the 1980s, this large nature reserve covers around 7km of coastline, encompasses seven different dive areas and understandably attracts divers from around the world. Whether you like shallow or deep diving, reef life or pelagics, the Garajau Nature Reserve will meet your needs. Highlights include exploring huge rocks surrounded by barracudas, sharks, morays and rays, and meeting the famous friendly groupers at Praia do Garajau.
Madeira’s Reis Magos is a great dive spot for finding macro life such as seahorses and frogfish, whilst Ponta de São Lourenço at Canical has striking rocky landscapes with rare black corals and octopi.
For some of the archipelago’s best diving in clear waters, visit Porto Santo. With visibility up to 40 meters, it is a perfect destination for wreck diving, and you’ll find two of the world’s best wrecks there; the Madeirense and the Corveta General Pereira d’Eça. Sunk in 2001 and sitting at 30 meters depth, the Madeirense hosts abundant marine life, including dusky groupers, kingfish and amberjacks. The Corveta General Pereira d’Eça, a Portugese Navy warship, was only sunk in 2016 but is already busy with colourful life. As well as wrecks, Porto Santo also has impressive walls, canyons and deep reefs over 50 meters deep to explore.
Madeira is no stranger to wreck diving either and hosts a handful of excellent wrecks, including the Bowbelle. The most well-known wreck in Madeira, the Bowbelle is an impressive 90m long sand dredger just off Ponta so Sol. Once a dredger in London, England, she now sits at 32 meters in clear blue water and is home to numerous morays and groupers.
If you love sea lions don’t miss the Desertas Islands Nature Reserve. A short boat trip from Madeira, the islands have one of the largest sea lion colonies in the world and are an important nesting site for seabirds. As well as offering the chance to encounter sea lions whilst diving, the waters off the islands are incredibly biodiverse and offer deep diving up to 60 meters depth.