Madeira island is a great destination for all canyoning lovers, from beginners to advanced ones. If you ever thought about trying this adventurous activity for the first time, Madeira is the place! Beautiful canyons, waterfalls of all sizes, lagoons with crystal clear water, and spectacular surroundings make canyoning in Madeira one of the best outdoor experiences.
Initially, we never thought of Madeira as a canyoning destination, but we knew we had to try it for ourselves once we learned about it. This was our first time canyoning, and here we offer you a guide of everything you need to know before doing it yourself.
So, let’s jump right in!
What is canyoning?
Canyoning (also known as canyoneering) is an adventurous sport of descending narrow canyons and overcoming obstacles of nature by using a variety of techniques such as rope techniques and rappelling or abseiling (the highlight of canyoning), and swimming or jumping into water pools.
A canyon’s difficulty is determined by its length, the obstacles to overcome to get through, and the verticality.
Why is canyoning so popular in Madeira?
Madeira is in the top 5 best places for canyoning in the world. Besides its beauty and raw nature, the main reason why Madeira is the best place for canyoning is that you can do it all year round, 365 days a year. Moreover, Madeira is a volcanic and mountainous island with numerous canyons of different degrees of difficulty, from those for beginners to advanced, making it suitable for everyone.
How to choose the best company for canyoning in Madeira?
We chose to do canyoning with Epic Madeira, a young company formed in 2013, but with the most enthusiastic and knowledgeable guides out there.
We discovered them through Instagram and instantly knew we wanted to do the canyoning with them. They’re so fun and love what they do. After doing a bit of research, it was clear they’re the best company out there.
Also, another thing that sets Epic Madeira apart from others is that they try to start later in the morning, so you can kind of avoid the most crowded times for each canyon.
Canyoning in Ribeiro Frio
Our first canyoning experience was in Ribeiro Frio canyon in Madeira Island with the Epic Madeira crew, and we loved it. Ribeiro Frio is one of Madeira island’s most scenic and beautiful canyons. However, canyoning in Riberio Frio is usually available only during the winter when there’s enough water in the canyon.
Ribeiro Frio in Portuguese means ‘cold river’. The canyon is on the island’s north side in the Laurel Forest. The Laurel forest is one of the seven wonders of Portugal and was declared as a Natural Heritage by UNESCO.
There are several rappels on this route, with the highest waterfall being 15 – 20 meters.
You need about 10 minutes to descend from the road to the canyon and about the same time to exit it when you’re done. However, the whole route through the gorge takes about 3 hours to complete.
Canyoning in Ribeiro Frio is considered to be something between beginner and intermediate level.
Our full canyoning experience
The meeting point was at Casa de Abrigo do Poiso restaurant. We got the necessary equipment (neoprene wetsuit, neoprene socks, shoes, helmet, and neoprene gloves). The neoprene suits are there to keep you warm. This was the hardest part of the tour as it took some time to squeeze in the suits (literally). 😀
We decided not to take the gloves as we wanted to use our action camera on the adventure, and we were just fine as it wasn’t that cold.
Everyone also gets one more addition to their suits. It’s what they call a green diaper. 😀 And no, don’t even think about it. It’s used for sliding down rocks and as extra protection if you slip.
After introducing us to the equipment and basic rope techniques, and safety precautions, we started descending into the canyon. And then the fun begins!
We remember stepping into the river for the first time. So much happiness! The water was freezing, but we only felt a bit of the refreshment as the suits protected us from cold water quite well. We, of course, got water into our suits, but it got squeezed out quickly.
The whole experience consisted of walking through the river bed while climbing over big rocks, a bit of swimming (loved it!), a few jumps into the clear water pools, and of course, the highlight of the whole experience – rappelling down a few waterfalls.
The first waterfall is a very small one and is perfect for getting familiar with the rope for the first time. It’s only a few meters high, but we’ll never forget the fear we felt when we had to try using the rope for the first time. Little did we know what still awaited us. 😀
However, once we got over that initial fear and felt that the rope was strong and we were well secured, it became fun and addicting. We quickly realized that it was not as scary as it seemed at first.
Moreover, our guides, Marcos and Lucas, were very professional and helpful with explaining everything so perfectly. They were absolutely one of the reasons we had such an epic time.
Marcos is the animator, splashing you with water whenever he gets a chance. But he’s also the one giving you the pep talk before jumping in the water pools. For example, Arijana probably wouldn’t be able to jump from the last waterfall if Marcos wouldn’t be so patient and encouraging. It took her a solid few minutes, but she did it in the end.
Lucas on the other hand is a master of rope techniques and we felt incredibly safe under his guidance.
The last jump included jumping a meter in the distance to avoid the branches below, and Arijana is super uncomfortable and insecure during those kinds of jumps. She loves jumping into the water and is not afraid of heights, but jumping in the distance terrifies her. But Marcos explained how we needed to jump and helped her overcome her fear (read: he didn’t let her give up because he saw that she wanted and could do it). Thanks to that, Matej also had to do it (peer pressure). 😀
That’s why we recommend you to try jumping even though you’re scared! This is the perfect opportunity to do so, as you have people who know what they’re doing and can help you with tips on how to do it safely. However, if you’re scared to jump at whichever point, they can always find a way for you to go around or use the rope to rappel down, so don’t worry.
The highest waterfall was our favorite one as you had to focus a bit more and show your skills. It looks so high when you look down from the top of the rock, but once you start rappelling, it’s easy-peasy (or at least that’s what we like to think). This one sparked our wish to do this again!
Midway we had a short break as Arijana lost one of her contact lenses (she didn’t close her eyes properly while jumping), so she had to replace it. We also used this time as a snack break and enjoyed an energy bar with a waterfall view.
Canyoning has been on our bucket list for a while, and we’re so glad we did it here in Madeira! 10/10 would recommend this experience!
Is canyoning safe?
As long as you follow your guides’ instructions, canyoning is very safe, as they are well trained and are there to keep you safe while having fun.
Moreover, always check for a company with insurance included in the price, just in case.
Who can go canyoning?
Canyoning is perfect for everyone who’s healthy and somewhat fit and doesn’t have a big fear of heights. It’s great for both kids and the older generations.
If you’re not sure about canyoning, you can always contact the company and see with them if you should give it a go or not. Although, the beginner tours in Madeira should be suitable for everyone.
Levels of canyoning in Madeira explained
Canyoning is not as difficult as it sounds and is perfect for beginners who want to try something new. In Madeira, canyoning can be done differently depending on difficulty, and the type of activity one prefers.
There are three different levels of canyoning in Madeira that you can do, beginner, intermediate and advanced. We will describe each of them below.
The beginner canyoning tour in Madeira is a perfect activity for people who are just discovering canyoning and want to start with an easier introduction. With this tour, you don’t need any experience at all, and it’s great for families as well. Nonetheless, rest assured that you will know how to abseil down a waterfall at the end of the day!
The intermediate canyoning tour in Madeira is for those that have done canyoning before or just want a bit more of a challenge if they’re fit and comfortable to do it.
At this level, you’ll be taking a little bit more risks than in the beginner one. However, you’ll still learn the technical skills of safe waterfall rappelling and have more chances to push yourself and explore your limits on bigger jumps and waterfalls.
The advanced canyoning tour in Madeira is designed for those with more experience who want to conquer the island’s most challenging canyons and waterfalls. Although they will be happy to take you on the advanced canyoning tour, they will also be thrilled to do it themselves as they genuinely enjoy the most adventurous activities.
Is jumping into water required when canyoning?
No, jumping isn’t required when canyoning in Ribeiro Frio, Madeira. The guides can always provide an alternative route or ropes to rappel if you don’t want to do it. However, we’d highly encourage you to try jumping because this is the perfect opportunity to try it in a safe environment with professionals around.
What is the best time to go canyoning in Madeira?
Luckily, canyoning in Madeira is possible all year round as each season has its advantages, and every canyon is different, so the fun is guaranteed no matter when you do it.
What is the price of canyoning in Madeira?
The prices of Canyoning in Madeira vary depending on which level of canyoning you choose, with the beginner level being around $66, intermediate $88, and advanced $130 per person.
The price of Canyoning includes certified technical gear (neoprene suits, socks, gloves, shoes, and helmet), specialized guides, permits and safety insurance, and a snack (energy bar and water).
Should I book my spot for canyoning in Madeira in advance?
Yes. If you want to do canyoning on a specific day and want to secure your spot, book it in advance before coming to Madeira.
There is a low season in Madeira, but the tours and activities seemed operational and busy even then.
What to wear for canyoning?
When going canyoning, you don’t need anything except your bathing suit or even underwear if you’re comfortable like that. You’re provided with everything else.
In addition, you need to take a towel with you to dry up after getting out of the canyon.
Depending on the season, you need to take some warm clothes to put on, at least after you’re done. For example, we did canyoning at the end of December, and it was pretty chilly in the mountains of Madeira.
We highly recommend having quick-drying microfiber towels, and we travel with six different ones (two small, two medium, and two big). We bought ours in Decathlon, but you can also find similar quick-dry towels on Amazon.
Can I do canyoning if I wear contact lenses?
Yes, you can do canyoning with contact lenses. Make sure to use daily ones, though, and have extra ones with you. The guides can store them in their waterproof bag for you.
Arijana had to change them mid-tour as she lost one. But if you always close your eyes while jumping in the water, you’ll be fine.
How the process of going canyoning in Madeira looks like
Here’s a simple summary of the canyoning tour in Madeira:
- Book your tour
- Meet at the meeting point or get picked up (check this beforehand)
- Change into the canyoning gear
- Get briefed about rope techniques and safety protocols
- Descend into the canyon
- Have fun while swimming, jumping, rappelling, and walking through the canyon
- After a few hours of fun, exit the canyon and change
- Say goodbye 🙁
Canyoning is, hands down, one of the best outdoor activities in Madeira you can do. This was our first time canyoning, and we had so much fun! We’re addicted, and we want to repeat this activity more often. We also plan to return to Madeira and do another tour with Epic Madeira because they’re simply the best!
Big thanks to our excellent guides, Marcos and Lucas, for everything. They were so professional, helpful, and friendly during the whole tour, making this experience even more memorable.
Next time we also want to do coasteering with them! Our guide Marcos guides those tours as well, and he showed off his skills while jumping into the water pools, and now we want to learn the same. Madeira is a perfect spot for coasteering, but this is a more weather-dependent activity, so those activities were suspended due to a yellow warning when we were there.
Would you go canyoning in Madeira? Or rather.. when are you going canyoning in Madeira? 😉