Best Job in Madeira Archipelago

Do you remember this advertisement: the best job in the world? About working as a caretaker of the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.

Now we know: such job exists in Madeira archipelago – to take care of the Desertas islands. And this week we had a chance to see it with our own eyes.


This week Green Steps project took us on board of NRP Schultz Xavier ship which performs surveillance, patrol and defense around Madeira archipelago and some waters near continental Portugal.


One of Schultz Xavier’s tasks is to transport caretakers to the Desertas islands and check nearby waters for illegal fishing. If the weather is good they can take visitors.

Three times we had been refused because of rough sea, and finally the fortune was on our side.

The trip to Desertas takes about 2.5-3 hours, and all the time you can enjoy beautiful views of Madeira island, blue ocean water, sun, and if you are very lucky – dolphins and even whales. We didn’t see the oceanic animals, but as for the rest the trip was good. Nobody even got sea sick although the Executive Officer said that it’s normal to feel sick on board – wrong is not to feel it! It was nice of him to take us on a small excursion inside the control cabin. Some equipment looked quite old, like from steam-punk movies because the ship was constructed in 1970s, but it worked perfectly fine – especially with coordinated and professional work of the crew. The XO said the ship’s maximum speed is 30 km/h, so it’s quite slow but powerful – as sometimes they need to pull big ships if they are in trouble.


Finally the Desertas are near! The most adventurous part of our trip starts. We have to jump into small inflatable boats which are rocking on big waves! Worse – when the boat speeded up, we were bumping with our butts against the rubber board which seemed as hard as asphalt, feeling waves and risking to fall out.


And only the crew was relaxed, barely holding to a rope and smiling to the breeze. Real sea wolves!


We stayed on the island for about half an hour – the time needed to change the team of caretakers, bring new supply of food and fresh water. Meanwhile one of the caretakers took us on a small tour.


The Desertas are a natural reserve for wild animals and birds which exist only in this part of the world.


There is a colony of sea lions which extinctive several years ago and started growing again thanks to caretakers’ efforts.


There used to be many goats but they were removed from the island because they were eating out some endemic plants.



In general, life of caretakers is peace and quiet: working on an uninhabited island during the day, surfing or playing the guitar at night.


On the way back there was a surprise – the crew treated us with cold and sweet sangria! Beautiful ending of a beautiful day.



Thanks a lot to the team of Schultz Xavier for the ride.


Photos: Art Photography Madeira


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