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  • Writer's pictureRuben GT

Madeira - The Ultimate Adventure - All the Elements Combined

This was originally written by me as a flight diary entry in November 2013.


I'm reposting it now since it's still very insightful for all those seeking to come to Madeira Island to fly and enjoy its Mystical element surrounded Nature.


Come with me on this shared journey..


"Hi Guys, we just had an amazing week with 6 French pilots visiting the Island.

They were literally blown away by it's natural elements..


All the pictures from the trip are in this link, you can check them out after reading this post ;)


Paragliding pilots around Madeira Island

I always do my best to show the best of Madeira and the real image, with its huge potential in every aspect.

It's truly an "Atlantic treasure".


I really believe that in a few years time, everybody will recognise the massive importance of the outdoor lifestyle in Madeira.


I decided to write a short travel diary, jumping the tecnical parts, so that you guys can travel along, and share some of the trip emotions and adventures with us.



Day 1


After a late arrival on friday night, well, more saturday than Friday, since it was already 1 am..


We got the guys to the Hotel with a light meal to welcome them to Madeira.


Interesting enough, we had a very bad weather the week before, and this night was the "turning point", we even got a light welcoming drizzle at the airport.


Paragliding pilots at Fanal in Madeira Island

The meeting point was around lunch time, giving room to some rest after going to bed around 2 am.


Also just enough time to enjoy our first meal together, at Funchal, right after the security briefing and overall explanation of flight conditions in the Island.


Paragliding pilots hosting in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots meal at Rubi in Madeira Island

Straight after their first Madeira meal, we premiered the island air with one of the paragliding Meca's.. Cabo Girão.


Paragliding pilots at Centromar in Madeira Island

Everybody was super excited and obviously, aware of the local aerology conditions and landing procedures.


Paragliding pilots preparing wings at cabo Girão in Madeira Island
Paragliding takeoff at cabo Girão in Madeira Island

All the pilots took off one after the other and no more than 20 minutes later, the sky was an even more beautiful place to stare at.


Paragliding pilots flying at cabo Girão in Madeira Island

With the wings spreading colors, while flying up to 1200 meters, and off to the mountains to a bit longer flight above the south coast.


The scenery was breathtaking and we could hear the excited shouts on the radio and sometimes, even without it.


Everybody was imediately transported back to their "childhood" and after a flight of this dimension, both fisically and mentally, nobody was indiferent by the lifechanging experience.


It's my profound conviction that this Flight, from Cabo Girão as well as 3 or 4 other places around the Island, are a kind of a Meca for Paragliding and should be conserved somehow.


Paragliding pilots view from cabo Girão in Madeira Island

After the amazing flight, most of the pilots landed on Praia Formosa, the best landing beach on the island, since it's 80% black sand at the moment.


Max landed at Câmara de Lobos, local fishing town and told me:


Max Paragliding pilot at câmara de lobos in Madeira Island

 - "I could go home tomorrow, and I would be happy, after this incredible flight!"


Almost all the pilots went for a swim on the calm ocean and now it's time to replace the "lost water" in the body..


Paragliding pilots at Praia Formosa in Madeira Island

.. get to know some of the local delicacies and Funchal downtown.


Funchal local teams handball game

We even got to see a handball game of 2 local teams, before some poncha and a very nice fish dinner.


Paragliding pilots having fun in Funchal at Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots having dinner in Funchal at Madeira Island


Day 2


The guys barely slept in antecipation for the next day.. we had something special planned for them.. the North Coast.


Meeting on the first light of the day, we drove all the way to São Vicente where we made our first stop, making some important notices while enjoying the magnificent scenery ahead.


Paragliding pilots preparing wings at São Vicente in Madeira Island

We took some time to visit some spots along the coast and they were amazed and eager to go flying above that mystical place.


Paragliding pilots at the North Coast of  Madeira Island

We even got to watch part of Seixal downtown on BTT and taste some local pastry at São Vicente.


Seixal downtown BTT

The guys were crazy about the Pastel de Nata and Broas de Mel 


Paragliding pilots at a local pastry shop in Madeira Island

Despite the thick cloud base, the conditions on the top were amazing and allowed a lot of soaring, smooth and super fun flight to everybody.


Paragliding wing viewed from below
Paragliding pilots flying at Fanal in Madeira Island

The official landing at Seixal is the most tecnically demanding of the whole island, being very narrow, short and rocky, but the guys have a great control of the wing so had no problems landing there.


Paragliding wing talking off from Fanal in Madeira Island

After the mindblowing North Coast, the comments were starting to be more and more entusiastic..


- "from another world", was some of the ways our French friends described it.


The expectactions were getting higher and higher and they were getting eager to know even more of Madeira by air..

It all came down to our readings and final decision on where to go next.


Paragliding pilot taking off at Fanal in Madeira Island
Rúben GT giving instructions on the radio at Fanal in Madeira Island

So we decided to cross to the other side and fly above Calheta, at Rochão Takeoff.


Paragliding pilot preparing the wing at Calheta in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots preparing wings at Calheta in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot taking off at Calheta in Madeira Island

After the second great flight of the day, this time mostly thermic condition, the landing was at Madalena do Mar, where the pilots got the chance to do some ground handling and some even went for a swim.. what a Perfect Day.


Paragliding wing entering the sun in Madeira Island beach
Paragliding pilots ground handling at Madalena do Mar  in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot ground handling into the sun in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots wings landing at Madalena do Mar in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots group sunset photo at Madalena do Mar in Madeira Island

We took them to dinner yet another local specialty.. espetada, bolo do caco and milho frito.


Paragliding pilots espetada dinner in Madeira Island


Day 3


Today we decided to return to the North Coast, this time to Porto da Cruz to fly at Maiata.


This place is very special to me and we only take pilots here when we are sure they have great ground handling skills, because we have to control the wing at the road and takeoff on a short grass space.

(Nowadays we takeoff in "cobra")


Paragliding pilots preparing wings at Maiata - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot taking off at Maiata - Porto da cruz in Madeira Island

The "leap of faith" takeoff makes everybody enjoy even more the magical flight. The comments on the air and on the ground are ecstatic!


Paragliding pilot taking off at Maiata - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot taking off at Maiata - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island

This would be a massive place to have better conditions at takeoff and landing, many more people could fly at one of the most beautiful soaring flights in the world.


Paragliding pilot taking off at Maiata - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot flying at Maiata - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot flying at Maiata - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island

The landing at the moment is a moto cross dirt track close to the Ocean.


And this is how they feel about the flight:


Paragliding pilot celebrating at Maiata - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots celebrating flights at Maiata - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island

After this one, the wind fell down from the stable 23Km/h to a shy 10 Km/h, and by then we decided it was time to take the guys to the top of the Valley, at Lamaceiros, just in time before it started to rain a little..


Paragliding pilots preparing wings at Lamaceiros - Portela - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot taking off at Lamaceiros - Portela - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island

Another amazing day on the Island.


Paragliding pilots relaxing by the ocean at Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island


Day 4


Today, the forecast was above the flying limit and so, being safety of the most importance to us, we took them on a beautiful walk in Paul da Serra to start the day.


Walking a levada in Paul da Serra at Madeira Island

Then a short passage on Casa das Mudas to have some lunch and enjoy the great view and nice exposition.


Paragliding pilots relaxing at Calheta in Madeira Island
Calheta mountain view

After that, we did the barefoot walk at the Hotel dos Prazeres, huge success among everybody.


The different materials despite being uncomfortable sometimes, makes us feel a lot "lighter" in the end.


Paragliding pilots doing barefoot walk at Prazeres in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots celebrating barefoot walk at Prazeres in Madeira Island

Feeling very relaxed we decided to finish the day with a swim at Calheta Beach.. with some wing playing for the picture.


Paragliding pilot having fun with the wing at sunset in Calheta at Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots relaxing sunset at Calheta in Madeira Island

Followed by anther great fish dinner, this time at Praia Formosa in Funchal.


Paragliding pilots having dinner at Funchal in Madeira Island


Day 5


Today the forecast was appealing to return to Porto da Cruz and should be ok for the first half of the day.. and it did!


The wind was a little bit better than the 3rd day, when it was a bit from the left (NW), today was coming in from N and allowed some magical flights!


Right from 30 to 1100 meters and crossing over the sea to Penha d'Águia, possible several times!


It was delicious to watch from below and we even got the company of some people, that seeing the gliders at distance, came closer to speak with us and enjoy the amazing show of color in the air.


Paragliding pilot wing viewed from below in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots wings in flight at Maiata - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot wing viewed from below in Madeira Island

The guys, getting used to a lot of action and completely hooked to the island, didn't want to stop for long.


Many places still to know, local pastry to taste and some traditions to unveil and so, we just made a quick stop at the town to book our dinner at Pipa and drove off to Santana and Queimadas.


Paragliding pilots at Queimadas - Santana in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots having dinner at Pipa in Madeira Island


Day 6


Today, the forecast was on the high end, meaning any flight being possible should be at sea level where it should be more sheltered and always paying attention.


Our readings were right and even at sea level in Maiata was too strong for normal gliders, only the small little cloud 15sqm could fly.


The other members of the group took the time to learn the basics of air-modelling, and how to control the small radio controlled glider.. what you expected, Flying is in the blood, hehe.


Paragliding pilot taking off at Maiata - Porto da Cruz  in Madeira Island
Learning the basics of air modeling radio controlled airplanes in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot wing viewed from below along a Zagi, a radio controlled glider at Maiata in Madeira Island
Learning the basics of air modeling at Maiata - Porto da Cruz in Madeira Island

We still got time to go site seeing and for a nice walk till the Island's end.. Ponta de São Lourenço.


The view from here captivates everybody, it does not seem to belong to the island, being so different, and allowing a glimpse between the north and south, priceless.


Max Paragliding pilot walking Ponta de Sao Lourenço in Madeira Island


Day 7


With a much better forecast, we were going to try to make 2 different flights, and it worked quite nicely..


To start, we went to Madalena do Mar to check the landing conditions and then climbed up to Rochão at almost 800 meters to takeoff.


Paragliding pilot wing talking off at Calheta in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot wing viewed from below in flight at Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot wing viewed from below with the sun in Madeira Island
Paragliding wings viewed from below with the sun rays in Madeira Island

Time to have some lunch before "round 2" on Cabo Girão, some more amazing air time to everyone.


Paragliding pilots relaxing at lugar de baixo in Madeira Island

The flight was deeply inspiring and everybody on Cabo Girão view point was super excited, some even asked where did the guys takeoff are were inquiring if they also could do it.


Paragliding wing flying in the sun at Cabo Girão in Madeira Island
Paragliding wing from above the ocean in Madeira Island
Paragliding wings viewed from below climbing to the clouds at Cabo Girão in Madeira Island

The sunset was coming and the colors starting to change to a beautiful orange.

Profound privilege being able to fly in such magical conditions in such a epic place.


The "Big Rock" separates the East from the West and more than that, stops time and makes us travel to another location.. mentally, it's a true balsam.


Paragliding wing viewed from above in flight at Cabo Girão in Madeira Island


Day 8


For the last day we had something special reserved for the guys.. Madeira highest point, Pico Ruivo.


If it was possible, they would be among a select few in the world that have been able to fly from the third highest point in Portugal, I have only flew once from some meters below the summit, many years ago.


Paragliding pilots having fun at Pico Ruivo in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilots waiting for good flying conditions at Pico Ruivo in Madeira Island

Unfortunately the clouds spread stubbornly all over the scenery and even climbing some meters along the time we were there, still was not good enough to fly safely.


However the scenery and energy of the place were massive and everybody was happy to have been here.


Paragliding pilots at Pico Ruivo in Madeira Island

However, the day still had some juice and we tried our best every second of every minute to give the guys the best Madeira Experience ever.


After going to the summit, we crossed the entire north coast by road and the scenery was inspiring, however did not allow any flight inside our safety recommendations, so, we came back to the south and to Rochão above Calheta to another mind blowing sunset flight.


Paragliding pilot taking off at sunset in Calheta in Madeira Island
Paragliding pilot taking off at sunset in Calheta in Madeira Island
Paragliding wing flying at sunset in Calheta in Madeira Island
Paragliding wings landing at Madalena do Mar  in Madeira Island

With this amazing and Dream scenery flight, with the light breeze from the west and the friendly and warm sunset orange colors, the six pilots that arrived 8 days ago as perfect strangers to us and to the island, were now leaving and without neither of us expecting, got some special places on our lives.


For us, this was one of those experiences in life that make us better persons, help us to grow at all levels and definitely mature and "write" some more pages in the book of Life.


See you soon Jacques, Pierre, Phillipe, Maxime, Seb C. and Seb P.


All the best my friends and let's hope together that the island continues to allow everybody to enjoy this life changing experiences, only possible when All the Elements are combined.



Feel free to share this diary and spread the love everywhere!


It will surely help show the importance of respecting and taking care of our treasure Island's Nature.



Interesting details of the trip:


  • 8 days;

  • 100 active hours;

  • 1500 road Km;

  • many hundreds of Km Paragliding


  • 6 Different Takeoff places (North, South, East and West);

  • From 30 meters to 1300 meters in the air;

  • Thermic and Soaring flights;


  • 3 amazing Walks (Levada Alecrim, Caniçal and Pico Ruivo);

  • Barefoot Walk;

  • 3 different beaches for a swim;


  • 6 Restaurants with local delicacies and super food;

  • (Bolo do Caco, Madeira Wine, Pastel de Nata, Espetada, Filete de Espada, Queijada, Poncha, Lapas..)

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