Glamping in Paradise
Camping in the middle of Madeira in a Mongolian yurt called ‘Mango’? Is this the kind of holiday a party-animal might ponder?
About a half-hour’s drive from Funchal, Madeira’s capital, ‘Canto das Fontes’ clings to the side of a cliff. There was a funky funicular to carry our luggage up to glamping level and in a few minutes of zigzagging through the leafy landscape, we were unpacking our bamboo toothbrushes, non-fluoride toothpaste and looking towards a healthy few days of seclusion.
Madeira has to be one of the most fertile places on the planet. Over the centuries, miles of terraces have been carved into the island’s verdant slopes to take advantage of the prolific growing conditions while innumerable ‘levadas’ or aqueducts carrying fresh water from the mountains.
For generations, small farms have been worked by local families. Many still are! This particular property belongs to Roberto Varela who, from the age of 8 had been helping his grandmother look after the banana trees.
“Miles of terraces have been carved into the island’s verdant slopes”
Branching into the high-tech games industry then developing a renewable energy business on the island, entrepreneurial Roberto decided to acquire his grandmother’s land which by then lay largely abandoned. His initial idea was to invite friends for barbeques in his own little corner of paradise.
Roberto gradually bought adjacent terraces to grow fruits and vegetables, even employing someone to look after the place. As they cleared the dilapidated, overgrown plots and the vegetation began to grow, the natural beauty of the place sprang to life. It became clear that it was a waste to keep all this wonderment to himself. So, Roberto decided to share it!
I must admit, I wasn’t sure about my girlfriend’s ‘great idea’ of “getting-away-from-it-all” with little more than a good book and our swimming costumes – not that we needed them! There are two other teepees on the site that are tucked away on their own sequestered terraces. During our three days on-site, we never saw another soul!
“A spring-fed, tiny waterfall trickled nearby, seducing me into an early afternoon nap!”
The name, ‘Canto das Fontes’ has two meanings, either ‘Corner of the Fountains’ or the ‘Singing Springs’. Both describe the place equally well. Along with the ‘Singing Springs’, the facility has a well-equipped kitchen, an alfresco shower room with volcanic stones underfoot to drain the suds away and a perfectly civilised bathroom. The yurt itself is fit for an Arabian prince and big enough for half his hareem. A spring-fed, tiny waterfall trickled nearby, seducing me into an early afternoon nap!
Our first night under the stars was fabulous. Self-served dinner was a synch and with no other distractions, it was bed by 9 pm; the comforts of the yurt and lack of electronic stimuli somehow soporific. I’ve never slept so well for years! Apart from the tinkling waterfall, there were no other sounds. Talking of tinkling, I did get up in the middle of the night and stood staring across a moonlit Atlantic, a million stars twinkling back at me.
Ponta do Sol
In case you think we were stranded in the boondocks, civilisation is only a couple of miles away in the form of Ponta do Sol, Madeira’s sunniest and most charming hamlet. We’d arranged to meet a friend for drinks on our second day and an impromptu afternoon wine-tasting lasted late into the evening. As much as I enjoyed it, a part of me resented not having another full evening at the yurt. This place could do your soul a serious amount of good!
Levada do Ponta do Sol
Close by is a famous Levada-Hike with a wonderful waterfall and a scary tunnel.
In these challenging times, holiday choices are much more of a consideration so hanging out on the side of a mountain surrounded by Mother Nature suddenly did seem like a ‘great idea’… Just don’t tell my girlfriend!
Our days were spent lying around in hammocks or rummaging through the labyrinth of terraces appreciating the abundant plant life that Roberto has carefully cultivated. Everything is organic with lots of herbs, fruits, flowers and native plants thriving in the pure, fresh, subtropical Atlantic climate. “Help yourself,” said Roberto!
If you want to explore further, there’s plenty to see around & about with the lovely beach of Anjos only three-minutes away where you can swim or sunbathe. Madeira, of course, has a myriad of things to see and do along with one of the best year-round climates on the planet.
My only regret was that we hadn’t booked enough nights! Three was good but five would have been better to let the ‘Mango Yurt’ and its multifarious elements work their magic!
As for WiFi, Roberto, at the time of our visit told me he was going to install it but has since decided to make services available only in the shared ‘social’ teepee where you can hang with the hood. Also in said social teepee, you’ll find an honesty bar where you can prepare your own Mojitos with fresh mint leaves plucked from plants outside along with limes from the tree next door. I just can’t wait to go back and do that!
‘Canto das Fontes’ glamping site is 40-minutes from Funchal’s international airport and 30-minutes from the centre of the city. For further information visit www.cantodasfontes.pt
David J Whyte flew with Jet2.com from Edinburgh to Madeira. Jet2.com offers low fares, great flight times and a generous 22kg baggage allowance to Madeira from Edinburgh & Glasgow Airport. Flights start from £71 one way including taxes and for more information visit www.jet2.com or call 0800 408 5599.