Canyoning in Madeira was a truly epic experience. It was my first time abseiling and doing serious canyoning but by the end of the day, I had water crashing down onto me as I abseiled down an 80-meter waterfall with views of the ocean behind me. It’s a true adrenaline rush with different types of waterfalls and canyons for all different levels.
I did my canyoning with Epic Madeira. It’s a group of local guys who have been operating for almost a decade. They live and breathe canyoning and explore the islands discovering new canyons and adventures in their free time. It’s not a job for them, it’s a lifestyle. It was refreshing to learn from Francisco, Peter, and Alfred from Epic Madeira because they had a raw passion for canyoning and I think they even had more fun on our tour than me!
In this blog post, I will share with you the details of what a Madeira canyoning experience is like, my photos from the adventure, and the different options of canyoning available on the island. You won’t need any gear or even any experience to participate as it was my first time as well. It’s an activity that is easy to learn as you can rely on the team of guys for the technical know-how to keep you safe!
MY MADEIRA CANYONING EXPERIENCE WITH EPIC MADEIRA
When I got in contact with the boys from Epic Madeira, I told them I had only abseiled once and never near a waterfall. However, I mentioned that I wasn’t afraid of heights and the physical challenge would be fine. They took my details and told me they would cook up an epic itinerary for me. They weren’t wrong.
They came all the way to Calheta to pick me up then we headed up to Seixal to begin the adventure. They had taken my sizes when I made the booking so they had all of the shoes, wetsuits, helmets, booties and dry bags ready to go for me.
The adventure begins with a short trek through a remote village in Seixal where just nine people still live. Basically no-one ever comes through the region except the residents. It looks all the way up to Fanal with layers of jungle between the top of the cliffs and the gorges we were about to explore.
The tour began in a very relaxed manner but as soon as we made it to the top of the canyon, the guys became a little more serious and their level of attention to my movements became very high. They made sure to warn me every single time there were slippery rocks, moments of potential danger and always took care to make sure I wasn’t edging towards a risky area near the edge of a drop-off. As they explained, the safest part of the tour is when you are abseiling down the waterfall because they have your back on the belay rope. When you are walking along the slippery rocks, you need to care for your own steps so they do their best to keep you safe during these ‘in-between’ moments.
The first little abseil was next to a small waterfall but was more of a warm-up to make sure I was comfortable with the activity and wouldn’t panic in moments of stress while abseiling. Everything went to plan and we were ready to continue down the gorge.
The second waterfall was a big step up from the first. It was a huge 60-meter fall from the top to the pool at the bottom. The abseil line was directly through the water pouring down from the top. It was pretty crazy to tip off the edge and start walking down the waterfall. At the halfway point it still looked so far down. It’s hard to understand the size of a waterfall from the top of the bottom but when you are abseiling down the middle of the falls you suddenly feel very small.
That was the biggest waterfall of this canyon tour (there would be a bigger one in the afternoon, which I’ll detail later in the blog post. From this point on we had another eight abseils down waterfalls of varying sizes and technicality. The boys taught me a few of the ropes and harnessing techniques. By the end of the canyoning, I was improving my technique at abseiling and feeling more comfortable with the movements.
This canyon is only accessible to those who abseil down the waterfalls. The sides of the gorge are too steep for hikers to reach. The boys explained to me that there are only a few people who have actually been in that canyon. It’s a unique feeling to be somewhere so wild, where only a handful of people have ever set foot. These were some of my favorite parts of the canyon, but to be honest every single corner we turned was another epic display of the power of water and time.
There wasn’t just abseiling on this tour. There were a few moments where we took the express route down to a lower level by cliff jumping into the pool below. It’s always nice to have a guide in these situations so you know exactly whee to jump to avoid any rocks or shallow waters.
The final waterfall down to the coast was a bit different. Halfway through the abseil, it was set up for you to let go of the rope and follow the zip-line down to the ground. It was a little bit scary to trust letting go of the rope you had been grasping to all morning but the ride went down without a hitch. Here’s a video of that maneuver below.
Part two of the Madeira canyoning adventure was also near Seixal but a little further down the road looking out over Sao Vicente. The waterfall is actually called Sao Vicente Waterfall and is only separated from the beach by the road. We had to hike up a sketchy, narrow, cliff-side path to reach the top.
Once we made it to the top of the steep hike, we first had to abseil down a 20-meter waterfall. It was the prelude to the giant 80m Sao Vicent Waterfall that would be the highlight of the entire day.
At the top of the Sao Vicente Waterfall, you have a view down to the towering cliffs behind Sao Vicente, which look like the pyramids of Madeira. The boys worked hard, safely rigging the ropes so we would be good to go when we headed down the gigantic falls. It’s pretty unique to stand on top of such a huge waterfall while looking directly down onto the breaking waves at the beach below!
I thought the 60-meter waterfall was big. After a few minutes of working my way down the Sao Vicente Waterfall, I thought I must be getting close to the end. I swung around and looked down to see I wasn’t even halfway there yet. The views were seriously off the charts and it’s one of my favorite adventures on Madeira so far!
Here’s a video I took on the GoPro Max 360 while I was hanging at the halfway point of the Sao Vicent Waterfall.
MADEIRA CANYONING TOURS WITH EPIC MADEIRA
There are three levels of canyoning in Madeira as offered by Epic Madeira. There are different options to suit your level of experience.
Beginner: This is the perfect option for people that want to learn and discover canyoning. If you want excitement and adventure in your life this is it! You don’t need ANY experience at all to join this tour but by the end of the day you will have abseiled down some small waterfalls. Perfect for families or those new to canyoning and abseiling. You can check out the details here: Beginner Tour with Epic Madeira.
Intermediate: Have you already done canyoning before or are you fit enough to take a bit more of a challenge? This is the ‘medium’ level where you can push your boundaries a little bit more while still learning the technical skills of safely abseiling down a waterfall. This is the level to choose if you want some more excitement and adventure whether it is with big jumps, big waterfalls, or long canyons. You can check out the details here: Intermediate Tour with Epic Madeira
Advanced: If you want a truly epic Madeira canyoning adventure and you have previous canyoning/abseiling experience, this is the option for you. The guys at Epic Madeira will chat with you and identify what the most awesome waterfall or canyon is the right fit for you. They sent me to an 80-meter waterfall that looked over the coast after we had to hike up a narrow cliff-side to get there. They are pretty good at analyzing the person and choosing an activity that will challenge you but not be too crazy for your skillset. You can check out the details here: Advanced Tour with Epic Madeira
I hope you enjoyed this guide about canyoning in Madeira and have a great experience yourself!