This blog post provides information about sustainable tourism and volunteering in Madeira, Portugal.
I must admit, I didn’t know much about the island of Madeira until I heard a talk about digital nomad villages at the Thriving Nomads Summit. Goncalo Hall, the founder of Remote Work Movement, had given a talk about setting up a nomad community on the island. He spoke of scenic cliffside landscapes, unspoiled coastal regions, and quaint European towns of colourful buildings and homes with orange roof tiles and white walls. It wasn’t until I saw the images that I truly understood how beautiful this place was.
Madeira is located in the Atlantic Ocean to the North-West of Portugal’s mainland, some 400 kilometres north of the Canary Islands. The island is well known for its mountain ranges, delectable wines, abundance of marine life, and…well… Cristiano Ronaldo, who was born in the capital city of Madeira, Funchal.
More recently, Madeira has become popular amongst nomads due to Portugal’s more accessible visa options. As a part of the Schengen Agreement, many visitors can apply for a visa on arrival which allows them to stay in the country for 90 days. EU citizens can, of course, stay as long as they wish. US citizens can apply for a 120-day stay visa.
There is only one way to reach Madeira, by flight. TAP Air Portugal operates daily services to Funchal, Madeira from Lisbon.
Need a flight to Portugal? Compare prices using Kiwi.com.
Where to stay
Madeira has a range of accommodations, from homestays to hotels, Air BnBs, and coliving spaces. Funchal is the very-happening capital however, people also prefer to stay in Santa Cruz or Ponta do Sol.
Related reading: Where to stay in Madeira: 12 of the best areas
You can also use popular booking platforms such as Booking.com or Air BnB to make your booking.
Sustainable Tourism in Madeira
Madeira has many ways to practice sustainable tourism thanks to a number of organisations working to preserve the island and keep Madeira beautiful. Below are some local organisations running tours for visitors to the island.
Explore Nature is a certified tour operator focused on taking guests walking, hiking and trail running in Madeira. The group or private tours are led by official guides who were born and raised in Madeira and designed to show visitors the best places on the island, learn the history and traditions, and discover the flora and fauna, specifically the Laurissilva forest that occupies twenty percent of the island.
Lobosonda Whale Watching
Lobosonda has been offering whale-watching tours in the southwestern waters of Madeira Island since 2003. As a responsible whale-watching company they see their work as so much more than simply running a business. It’s a gift to enjoy the opportunity of meeting these wonderful animals out in the open ocean and raising awareness for the protection of our precious marine life.
True Spirit is a tourism operator inspired by nature, with an aim to contribute to the touristic, economic, and cultural development of Madeira Island. They take guests on a number of nature tours either on one of their thrilling jeep rides, on foot, or by boat. The operator is committed to operating in accordance with the principles established on the Sustainable Tourism Agreement +20 (2015) and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Madeira Slow Tourism
Madeira Slow Tourism is run by two high-school friends, Helena and Graca. They are passionate about sharing the hidden parts of Madeira with small groups of people, slowly. Their tours include an interactive workshop to learn the art of Madeira embroidery, a Sunday at the farmer’s Market tasting tea and cake, a guiding tour of a winery to taste the finest Madeiran wines, and many more.
Volunteering in Madeira
It’s quite common for travellers to want to give back to the places they are visiting, and one way to do this is by volunteering. There are a number of ways to experience volunteering in Madeira, Portugal, but before you go I’d encourage you to learn how to volunteer responsibly.
For a detailed guide on responsible travel and responsible volunteering, download the Nomads Giving Back! Madeira Giving Back Guide below.
Below are some volunteer opportunities in Madeira:
- ARTE.M Cultural Association – Language, Arts, Community
- Workaway – Agri-tourism, Language, Farming, Community
- SPAD – Animals
- Thumbs Up For Gaia – Agri-tourism, Building, Holistic Practice e.g. Yoga
Ready to travel to Madeira? Don’t forget your travel insurance. I recommend SafetyWing, as they fully cover COVID-19 related illness as of August 1, 2020. They even cover PCR tests if deemed medically necessary by a doctor. Read more here.
Interested to learn more about Madeira? Contact me via any of my social media platforms and I’ll put you in touch with a local expert.