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Friday, January 15, 2016

Camaro de Lobos (Chamber of the wolves) Madeira Island

Camaro de Lobos (Chamber of the wolves)
Madeira Island 
GPS:  N 32d38'53.4" W 16d58'26.7"

After seeing Madeira's Mountains, we had plans to spend some time on the coastline.  I had spent a lot of time with my little guide book from The Living Planet, flipping through its pages to plan our trip around the island. It neatly organizes all of the islands excursions into sections.  The Western Madeira section was filled with pages of colorful fishing boats, and a glass floored viewing platform hanging over the edge of a cliff.  It was one of the days I was most excited about on the island, along with the North Coast.

      No Car? No Problem!
Book a tour HERE to see this part of the island, 
along with other spots along the west coast of Madeira. 

View of the clifs and an Agave attenuate (Swans Neck) -- a specie of agave known as swans neck, foxtail or lions tail raceme is 8-10 feet high.
Leaving the main hotel area and the capital of Funchal behind, you head west towards a fishing valley called "Camaro de Lobos". Camara de Lobos is a traditional European island fishing village, located only 5 km (3 miles) west of Funchal.  The views here inspired Sir Winston Churchill to paint this beautiful coastal town.  If you are curious about the translation of the towns name, the island received its name form Joao Goncalves Zarco (discoverer of the Madeira Islands) and Tristao Vaz Teixeira.  When they found the village, they noticed the shape of the bay, and the many sea lions (Lobos) living in the area.

Boats in Camaro de Lobos Harbor 
Boas Festas (Merry Christmas) decor extending across the harbor

Here in the harbor, you will no longer find sea lions.  A small colony of the rare monk seals can be found at the Desertas Islands, part of the Madeira archipelago and a protected nature reserve.  Even though the sea lions have left, you will find a different form of Madeiran Charm in a fleet of colorful fishing boats, bouncing in the harbor or hauled up on shore.

Famous colorful fishing boats of Camaro de Lobos

fishing boats of Camaro de Lobos
Camaro de Lobos is also the second largest city in Madeira, although it won't feel that way when you watch the small fishing boats leave the harbor.  This harbor is home the the fishing fleet that goes out at night to reel in the Espada Preta, or Black Scabbard, a black eel like looking fish.

Black Scabbard-- Espada Source
"The Black Scabbard is calculated to reside between 600 and 1,600 metres below sea level. The theory is that the fish rise to the level of 600 metres below sea level when it is dark and then descend a couple of a hundreds metres further below when it is light. Some connection to solar rays has been surmised. But the mystery of why it is easier to catch the Black Scabbard at night remains unresolved.

For most of the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries the Black Scabbard was considered unique to Madeira. Recent discoveries of the same fish in places as far afield as Southern Ireland, and even Japan, have dispelled that special qualification for Madeira. The fish has been caught successfully for some years off the shores of North Africa, Portugal, and even the Canary Islands. However, it seems that the only locale where the fish is caught at sustainable economic or industrial levels is the village of Câmara de Lobos itself".--Madeira Island Direct

The scabbard fish can be found in nearly every restaurant. The traditional way to eat the scabbard fish is with a banana and passion fruit sauce. While it was a little sweet for me, it is a Madeira Island local favorite. I preferred the fish grilled or pan fried without the sauce, it was one of the best fish on the island. The delicate white meat melted in your mouth.

Espada with Banana and Passion Fruit- Traditional Madeiran Meal
Camaro de Lobos is the center of Madeira's traditional fishing industry.  It is a place where you can drift back into time, watching the small fishing boats head out to sea at night to hunt the Espada fish.  The story goes that you can find the fishermen drinking Madeira's famous and strong Poncha in the late afternoons, preparing for their voyage out to sea.  You can spend the afternoon in this fishing village, in the comfort of one of the areas many bars and cafes, and watch the boats leave the shore.  

Harbor of Camaro de Lobos 

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