Why we do not run Desertas overnight cruise

For a long time in Madeira the only longer/offshore sea trip available to watch seabirds was a trip from Funchal to Deserta Grande. And for birdwatchers this trip became very popular as that was the only chance of seeing Fea’s/Zino’s Petrels Pterodroma feae/madeira. Even when Wind Birds started in 2004 we partnered with another company to offer these trips to Desertas to our clients birdwatchers. By then there were only 3 vessels with a total capacity of 85 people offering these cruises…but everything changed since 2010!

In February 2010 Wind Birds acquired its own boat mainly to run the offshore pelagics and to allow our customers to watch Zino’s Petrels Pterodroma madeira at sea and to learn how to distinguish them from Desertas’ Petrels Pterodroma deserta though in order to monetize we started offering short trips for bird, dolphin & whale watching and it is now on these two hour trips that birdwatchers have very good chances of watching Desertas’ Petrels at a closer range than on any of the Desertas cruises.

Well you may say we do not step foot on Deserta but we believe that is the best way to conserve the island and its seabird species as there is not much to see there. Nowadays there are many more boats running cruises to Deserta Grande and the government allows up to 200 people daily (which in reality will be between mid-day and 4 pm when most boats are there) at Doca - the very small bay where boats anchor and where there is a house of the Institute of Forest and Nature Conservation (IFCN). This house is for the teams of IFCN’s wardens to stay for periods of 2 weeks, to manage and apply the conservation policies. It has a room with some posters about the fauna and flora of the island with a tiny shop to sell t-shirts. So mainly, when you disembark at Deserta Grande you can walk for about 150 meters around the house, watch Atlantic Canaries and Berthelot’s Pipits and visit the posters’ and shop room.

On some holes of the built stone walls there might be Bulwer’s Petrels and Madeiran Storm-petrels breeding there. Although it is forbidden by law, some people take the birds out of their nests to watch them close but unfortunately in Desertas the law does not apply equally to everyone. Wind Birds does not run an overnight trip at Desertas as we believe it is much better to watch the birds closer, during daylight, on our Zino’s Petrel Pelagic Expedition.

On Deserta Grande at night you will hear and see the silhouettes of hundreds of Cory’s shearwaters and a few Madeiran Storm-petrels heading back to their nests on the sea cliffs. You can try to get the same seabirds ‘show’ around Madeira coast, wherever there are dark sea cliffs (out of the public illumination), between March and September, about 2 hours after sunset, you will hear Cory’s shearwaters calling and flying into land. As for the Madeiran Storm-petrels, they may also be heard though not so frequently as Cory’s shearwaters on the cliffs above isolated and dark beaches, such as Garajau or Ribeira da Janela. Winter months might be easier to hear them as they will be the only seabird species around. As you know, Madeiran Storm-petrels have a winter and a summer breeding colonies in Madeira archipelago. So, instead of a trip with an uncomfortable night at Deserta Grande, Wind Birds prefers to show the birds at sea with greater chances of photographing them close to the boat and return for a good night sleep at your place of accommodation. And guarantee much less disturbance to these vulnerable seabirds!