Photographing the Fanal, Madeira’s Huge and Ancient Laurel Cloud Forest

If you have never been to Fanal, know that it’s at its best when cloudy and foggy, if you visit and it’s full sun, it can be a bit disappointing.

The Fanal area is one of Madeira’s largest laurel forests, known for its mysterious and unusual landscape with trees said to be up to 600 years old. It grows in the northwest of the island, part of the Laurissilva ecoregion of Paul da Serra which has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1999.

This dense forest has been protected as the Madeira Natural Park since 1982. The Fanal laurel forest is a type of cloud forest. Cloud forests are found on mountain slopes where the moisture from the sea is precipitated as warm moist air masses blowing off the ocean which are then forced upwards by the terrain, cooling the air mass to the dew point. The moisture in the air condenses as rain or fog. The resulting climate is wet and mild, with the annual temperature moderated by the close proximity of the ocean below it.

This ancient laurel forest is a landscape photographers’ dream in the right conditions. I say that because it’s a waiting game. It’s impossible to predict the best conditions. I was very lucky in this respect, as I had a few days of perfect conditions to get lost in the mist.

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