My wife and I used Madeira seekers to provide us with tours of the east and west of the Island and a visit to the Nun's valley. It was a package of three tours. The first tour was by minibus of the East of the Island and it was very good, the guide, Bruno, was excellent and made us feel we had seen the East of the island, even following up questions from the 6 passengers.
Contrast this with the tour of the west of the island on the wednesday when we were in a full coach with 34 people. The coaches are really too big for some of the roads. The Madeira Seekers web site says that they are more expensive than the avarage foreign tour operators - they say the major advantage they offer is excursions in an air-conditioned, 8 - 15 people, mini buses. They go on to say that the advantage of the mini bus is that you don't waste all that time picking people up and then dropping them all off again. Also there is a lot less confusion climbing on and off the bus at your various siteseeing points. Add to this my wife and I think that there is no real chance to engage with the guide and that coaches cannot stop and some of the less spacious viewpoints and you can see we had a poor experience of the west of the Island.
So our message is to insist on a minibus tour in a minibus. Our contact in Madeira seekers, Nicholas, insisted a 34 seater coach is a minibus and so make sure you are in a small minibus! We had 6 people in the bus on the Monday and this was just perfect. If you cannot get this assurance then use one of the many other cheaper tour operators.
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