The three Ilhas Desertas, or "Deserted Islands," stretch slender and mysterious off the Madieras' southern shore toward the Canarias. The hazy silhouettes of Deserta Grande, Bugio and Ilhéu Chão, just visible from the Funchal Marina, only hint at their rocky majesty, rising to sudden heights from the foaming waves.
They famously beckon birders with their protected and isolated populations of Cory's and manx shearwaters, Madeiran storm, Bulwar's, and Fea's petrels, canaries, linnets, and several types of terns. But you'll also find a breeding population of monk seals, as well as whales, dolphins, and other sea life offshore.
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The Desertas Islands are located about 25km (16mi) south by southeast of Funchal, Madeira. You must book private transportation to the islands.
Several operators offer tours, some overnight; birders and other nature lovers should make sure yours includes a trained naturalist guide. Even if you visit with your own boat, be aware that this is a Nature Reserve, with restrictions on fishing and other activities.