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Garajau Marine Reserve

In 1986 was declared the first and only Marine Reserve in Portugal, with 6 miles in length, 376ha and around 600 meters wide. The intention was to protect the local and endemic species and to use the reserve has a nursery to develop and establish species such as the groupers and the monk seals. The Garajau Marine Reserve is included in Madeira National Park along with the Desert Islands and the Savage Islands. You can say that nearly all Madeira Archipelago is a National Park, and that alone is a big reason for a visit. Dives along Garajau are unique. Only here you can paddle 65kg groupers like pets as they lay on the sand sideways for you to scratch their belly; only here you can see giant anemones giving shelter to clown shrimps; only here you can dream watching a monk seal in a regular dive; only here you have good diving conditions nearly everyday in a year. Under water you see massive stone blocks. You will imediately note the absense of gorgonians, soft or hard corals, alowing the fishes to be the kings. And there are plenty. The sand around is heavy and mixed with broken shells so, even on hard current days, the water is crystal and those annoying sand clouds produced by divers as they go by, is less intense in density and time to settle. So if you want to see something cool, you just wait a bit and you can, rather then other places where the cloud will persist and, sometimes will ruin your entire dive.  In around 6 to 12 meters you can see lots of fire worms, sea-spiders, common and zebra sea breezes, damsel fish with their typical territorial attitude, and the energetic Mediterranean rainbow wrasse with colours you will never forget. Between the stone blocks the garden eels and amazing spotted moray eel with glasslike teeth can surprise you anytime. Around 12 to 24 meters, you usually see hogfishes and incredibly yellow groupers comfortably familiar with divers and therefore, a very cool and predictable species. Pay attention between the stones for giant anemones and you will find tiny clown shrimps sheltering in, under and around the anemones. Also at the bottom where the stones and block finish and the round and hard sand starts you often see brown eagle rays and big groupers in their cleaning stations. Don’t be surprised to see a shrimp inside a grouper’s mouth having breakfast or lunch. Water is very clear so look up and around all the time to see what’s coming. Maybe a turtle, manta rays or barracuda schools will make your day. If you explore the sand line you can find garden eels and lizard fishes disguised perfectly in the sand. Madeira is an island so, you can go deep if want. Depths around the island go really deep and, literally anything can come up for a visit, like manta rays, deepwater octopuses or even sharks. The local monk seal colony at Garajau is well and growing as well as many other species thanks to the reserve and bio-responsibility of visiting divers and we can expect to dive here for many years. Garajau is certainly one of the top 10 dives in Portugal. If you are a top diver you shouldn’t miss it.

 

 

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