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Spring Break in Lanzarote

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We were a less than a metre away from one of the largest groupers I’d seen in a long time. She hovered motionless under a deep overhang, her beautifully silky smooth skin glistening in our torch lights. Unlike many of the groupers we’d already seen she was remarkably at ease despite our close contact. This was her spot, large and confident and used to divers, she wasn’t moving!  It was a great moment – just one of many we were having on this dive trip.

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We were still just in the month of March; the Easter holidays had just started and Spring was imminent. My stepson and I had come to an old favourite short haul holiday destination of mine, Lanzarote. He was doing his advanced open water course, and I was enjoying some real easy diving, not too far from home, where hopefully we’d have some great weather and good value for money diving. I’d spent my honeymoon here, visited my first volcano, explored amazing bleak scenery and seen my first Angel shark. I was hoping Arthur would share similar experiences too and even perhaps see his first Angel shark.

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seahorseDSC_0019Lanzarote is one of seven volcanic islands that make up the Canaries. Located in the Atlantic Ocean around one hundred miles of the coast of Morocco they cover an area of some 550 kilometres. Part of Spain, Tenerife, Lanzarote, Grand Canaria, Fuerteventura and La Palma are the biggest and easiest to get to, with the least developed, smallest and most unspoilt islands El Hiero and La Gomera. Due a ‘hot spot’ in the Earth’s crust the islands have been volcanically active for thousands of years. Most of the islands mass is below sea level meaning only the very tips of the volcanoes emerge above the water. The last eruption was in 1971 at Teneguia on La Palma.

Pink Anemonelanzerote017Each island has something to offer. Tenerife has Mount Teide, the third highest volcanic structure and most voluminous in the world. Lanzarote has the Timanfaya volcano and a national park. Here, just 10 metres below the surface, temperatures approaching 600 degrees are still recorded! This is despite the last volcano erupting here over 250 years ago.

Lanzarote is the lazy diver’s dream. Right off the shore in the busy tourist resort of Puerto del Carmen there are a whole host of fantastic dive sites. They are found off the beach between Playa Chica and the old harbour. There is even a dive centre located right on the beach. Safari Diving is ironically named as it suggests going on some Red Sea adventure using tents; to the contrary, it’s in a dream location opposite a shallow sheltered bay. With new equipment (all the top brands) for rent at reasonable rates, a range of excellent dive masters and English owners Wendy and husband Steve, it’s the perfect place for either beginners learning for the first time or experienced divers like myself looking for a hassle free service.

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The sea is literally a few steps from the dive centre, and once you’ve swum a little distance out and descended on to a sandy bottom, you find yourself swimming past small wrasse and damsel fish, parrot fish, and schools of bream patrolling up and down the bay’s protected mini cliffs.

We were diving one of Playa Chica’s most famous sites, the Cathedral. We’d swum straight out from the dive centre and slowly descended past 20 metres over the sand, past a colony of garden eels, the odd flounder and weever fish, some frisky cuttlefish, and arrived at the main drop off. Here the bottom had fallen away quite sharply well past 40 metres. To our right we’d briefly explored the top of the wreck of a small boat, before crossing back to our left to a small outcrop to look at the large old blind moray who has lived here for at least the last 8 years (although perhaps not always blind!). We then ducked under the overhang and found our giant lady grouper. I had wondered how many divers she had watched pass this spot in just one day! Since the troubles in Egypt, Turkey and the migrant situation on other islands such as Greece, many more divers were heading to the Canaries, with diver numbers up well in excess of 30 percent!

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We had spent the week on guided dives, but now that Arthur had qualified we’d rented tanks and got in the water ahead of the crowds. It was sadly overcast and the visibility was only around 10 metres, not its more normal 20 to 30, but still better than the east coast back in the UK! The water was just about warm enough – we were in 7mm wetsuits (although I had seen the odd instructor still in a drysuit!). Leaving the Grouper behind we headed further to our left and into the darkness. We were entering the Cathedral, a vast cave which many divers could fit in to – which was just as well, as by the time we reached the back a group was entering, their lights a faint glow at first as they headed towards us. As they got closer I could see their leader was wearing a drysuit and tick gloves and in a technical diver’s crossed-arms pose! He made me feel colder than I actually was, seeing him kitted up more typically for a dive in UK waters!

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We left them swiftly and headed out the cave and back to the sloping sand, back past more frisky cuttlefish, flounders, lizard fish and garden eels. Arthur delighted in swimming through the bubbles we’d left in the cave, which were now percolating through small holes in the roof. They were being added to all the time by more divers beneath us. Moving up the sand before heading back into the bay and exiting at the beach we explored the rocky wall to our right, where groups of parrot fish cruised in and out of little gullies and a group of mullet worked the sand around the walls base, closely followed by some goatfish and bream. At 6 metres this was a perfect place to spend a 5 minute safety stop at the end of our dive.

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There are more than a half dozen great dives off the beach at Playa Chica. The Cathedral is the most accessible and scenic but the Blue Hole is also high on people’s list. Earlier in the week I joined one of Safari Diving’s group dives while Arthur did his course. Also in the group was someone I hadn’t seen for over 20 years, another keen photographer called John Collins from Ireland. It was great to catch up with John and swap stories on Photo and diving gear etc. To reach the Blue Hole we had jumped off the harbour steps a short walk along the front from the dive centre. Swimming out to the Hole took longer than the swim to the Cathedral, but it was nice scenic dive, starting with a deepish swim through starting in around 18 metres and exiting at about 26 metres. Once through the swim through we explored a small cave full of encrusting life and a few small shrimps. Below us we watched 2 nice sized Groupers slowly swim away. I also joined John on Safari Diving’s harbour wreck boat dive. It left as planned at 2.30pm, again from the harbour steps.

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Arthur was also on our dive doing one of the specialties for his course. The dive is one of the best in Lanzarote and most people’s favourite. Some 35 years ago, between 6 and 7 wrecks were purposely sunk by the first dive centre on Lanzarote. Mostly old fishing vessels, some literally on top of others, can be explored at depths from just 14 metres down to about 40 metres. Well protected from the worst weather, the wrecks have remained in relatively good condition. The first wreck you come to literally hangs off the side of the harbour wall, resting on the reef, its stern now full of rocks which were put there during the recent harbour wall rebuild.

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As we cruised round and down beneath its bow, a lovely shoal of bream cruised by above us. We soon dropped down to 30 metres right on top of the next 2 wrecks, which seemed to be sitting on top of each other. There was a bow section,  some winches, and various other parts of wreckage, some of which was covered in fishing nets. Much of the wreck’s original wooden decking was still in place. Swimming on a bit further more wrecks appeared; it was all a bit of a huddle though – it was hard to make out where one started and the other ended! A real mashup of hulls, decking, machinery and fishing equipment, it was all a bit hard to take in at 30 metres with one eye on my computer and the other on Arthur doing his first real deep dive!

On another day I’d like to go deeper and explore the wreck which was just out of our time and depth. It’s found between 35m and 40m and  known as the “Propeller” wreck, because it still has its iron propeller and rudder.

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Arthur really enjoyed his first combined wreck and boat dive, and when I asked him at the end of the week which his favourite dive was, it was a three way tie. I was definitely in agreement; as well as the wreck and boat dive, the other two were his first night dive and our dive at the Atlantic Museum down at Playa Blanca. It was dark by 8.30pm and we entered the water at about 9pm right off the beach from the dive centre. Arthur was amazed at how far we could see underwater and by the amazing bioluminescence which we could see when we switched our torches off and swiped our hands through the water. Our guide Debs was brilliant, coping well in showing five of us various night time creatures – some sleeping, some active, such as octopus and squid, spider crabs and sea hairs. I think the most memorable find was an angel shark so well camouflaged, at first all we could see was its green eye poking out through the sand! With a few of us feeling the cold the dive was over after just 45 minutes, and I reluctantly exited with everyone else. After nearly 30 years diving I still absolutely love night dives, the time just shoots by and I always feel I could stay a lot longer!

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There is one dive site you don’t want to miss on Lanzarote. Located on the  south west side of the island at Playa Blanca,  The Atlantic Museum consists of many incredible sculptures which have being installed on the seafloor in Colaradas Bay in Playa Blanca at a depth of 15 metres. The museum, the first in Europe of its kind, has been designed by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who has created  similar creations in Cancun, Mexico and Grenada in the West Indies. The creation is sure to be a mega attraction for divers.

Keep an eye out for my report on the Atlantic Museum on Scubaverse soon!

Summary

Volcanic scenery and volcanoes still smoking, secret lagoons, fantastic beaches, water parks, guaranteed sunshine and turquoise waters all just 4 hours from the UK. What are you waiting for? Book some winter sun and spring diving now!

Oh, just one tip – take a thick wetsuit (unless your going in summer or autumn!).

Gavin dived with Steve and Wendy Hicks at Safari Diving Lanzarote. For more information, visit www.safaridiving.com.

LANZAROTE FACT FILE

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Water temperature:

17°C (63°F) in February to 24°C (75°F) in August

A drysuit may be preferable in winter months, although a 7mm semidry should also be sufficient. 5mm wet suit should be fine in summer.

Visibility:

20 – 30 metres (65 – 100 feet)

Type of diving:

Caves, tunnels, sheer walls, wrecks

Marine life:

Angel sharks, rays, moray eels, garden eels, cuttlefish, octopus, lobsters, jacks, barracuda, grouper, trumpetfish, scorpionfish, parrotfish, wrasse

When to go:

All year, although June to October may be preferable if you prefer warmer water. Winter is the best season for the Angel sharks.

How to get there:

From the UK – numerous flights direct from all major airports. Flight time is about 4 hours.

Accommodation: 

All inclusive 3 star with flights you can get for £499 with Jet 2 holidays

Gavin Anderson has been an award winning underwater photographer for the last 25 years, in which time he has written for many of the UK's leading scuba diving magazines. He won BSoUP's newcomer trophy in 1993 and is the co-author of the lonely planet dive and snorkelling guide to the Red Sea. He has made over 5000 dives all over the world from his native Scotland to the South Pacific Islands of Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, and Vanuatu; Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and Malaysia; the Caribbean and the USA; the Canary Islands, Corsica, Ibiza, and many other destinations. To supplement his diving career Gavin also runs a wedding and portrait studio based in central scotland.

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10 Great Coral Reef Destinations for Every Snorkeler

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There is nothing like drifting over a coral reef, watching vibrant fish life and thriving corals as the sun shines overhead. If you’re lucky, you might spot a passing sea turtle, manta ray or even a whale shark whilst you explore. Reef snorkeling is simply one of the best experiences and you don’t need to travel far to try it.

Whether you’re looking for an affordable destination close to home, a family-friendly trip, an idyllic island getaway, or a touch of luxury, we’ve got you covered. Read on for our pick of 10 great coral reef destinations for every snorkeler to enjoy.

Family-friendly coral reef destinations

  • Easily accessible.
  • Year-round sunshine.
  • Plenty of facilities and entertainment for families.
  1. Egypt

Egypt is a classic family destination that offers clear blue waters teeming with life. There are dozens of snorkeling spots just off Egypt’s beaches, especially at bustling Sharm El Sheikh. Snorkeling there is like swimming in an aquarium, and it is a perfect for adults and kids of all ages.

For a more laid-back vibe, head south to Marsa Alam. This small resort town is renowned for its sandy beaches and coral reefs. That said, the real highlight there is snorkeling with large families of spinner dolphins, dugongs and sea turtles.

  1. Australia

Australia might be further afield than Egypt for many people, but the big marine life and year-round sunshine make it hard to beat.

Take a trip to Cairns and you can visit two UNESCO World Heritage sites at one place: the enormous Great Barrier Reef and the ancient Daintree Rainforest. As well as plenty of smaller reef life, the Great Barrier Reef hosts reef sharks galore, plus dwarf minke whales and humpback whales in winter.

Love whale sharks? Head west and to snorkel with these spotty giants at Ningaloo Reef and explore the remarkable UNESCO-listed Ningaloo Coast.

Luxurious coral reef destinations

  • Romantic settings.
  • Luxurious accommodation options.
  • Combine world-class reef snorkeling and relaxation.
  1. Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Sitting in the heart of the Coral Triangle, Raja Ampat has some of the highest marine biodiversity in the world. There are numerous manta rays, whale sharks and pastel-hued soft corals, putting diving in Raja Ampat at the top of many wish lists. These stunning islands are best enjoyed by hopping on a Raja Ampat cruise.

  1. Wakatobi, Indonesia

If you want to indulge in a luxury getaway and explore coral reefs that few people visit, go to Wakatobi. There you will find palm-fringed islands washed by azure waters with almost no other people in sight.

Underwater, Wakatobi is known for having huge sponges and corals that are busy with prized Coral Triangle critters. There are healthy seagrass beds with plenty of juvenile green sea turtles and you can spot Hawksbill turtles on the reefs.

  1. The Maldives

The Maldives is what luxury getaways are all about. Picture-perfect islands, warm waters, soft white sands and fantastic food. All with a generous helping of excellent snorkeling just a few paces off the shore.

Whether you hop on a day-boat to the outer reefs or explore around your resort’s house reef, snorkeling and diving in the Maldives are hard to beat. You can swim with whale sharks, hang out with hundreds of mantas at Hanifaru Bay, or simply enjoy a cocktail whilst the sun goes down.

Idyllic island destinations

  • Perfect for island-hopping adventures.
  • Tropical destinations far from daily life.
  • Easy snorkeling at some of the world’s best reefs.
  1. Fiji

Fiji is known as the ‘soft coral capital of the world’ and doesn’t disappoint. The reefs at this welcoming destination are swathed in vivid soft corals in just about every color you can imagine.

As well as eye-popping reefs, Fiji has fantastic seasonal marine life, including plenty of whales during winter and large pelagic fish. Go island hopping to swim with mantas or become a certified diver to join Fiji’s famous bull shark dive. The choice is entirely yours.

  1. The Solomon Islands

 The Solomon Islands offer some of the finest snorkeling in the South Pacific, if not the world. Whilst there are numerous destinations to choose from at these volcanic islands, don’t miss Marovo Lagoon.

It is the world’s largest saltwater lagoon and is dotted with hundreds of jungle-clad islands, many of which are uninhabited. The waters are calm, and the reefs are thriving; with huge sea fans, countless reef fish, shallow shipwrecks and stunning coral gardens

Coral reefs off the beaten path

  • Great for adventurous travelers and experienced snorkelers.
  • Go the distance and enjoy the rewards.
  • Few other tourists in sight.
  1. Sipadan Island, Borneo

Sipadan Island was formed by living corals growing on top of an extinct volcano and offers fantastic snorkeling thanks to the deep-water currents that bring up nutrients to the reef.

There you will find mesmerizing underwater landscapes with around 600 species of coral and 1200 fish species. There are huge schools of barracuda, plus parrotfish, reef sharks, tiny critters tucked among the corals, and abundant sea turtles.

  1. Papua New Guinea

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is well off the tourist trail. But if you don’t mind the travel time, you can snorkel among untouched reefs and immerse in a tribal culture like no other.

With over 600 islands, there are numerous destinations to choose from in PNG. Kimbe Bay was voted as one of the world’s most beautiful reefs by National Geographic. Take a trip to Tufi and you can snorkel in the shadow of dramatic fjords and experience PNG’s incredible marine diversity.

  1. The Marshall Islands

With around 5000 visitors a year, the Marshall Islands are one of the world’s least-visited countries. Don’t expect to go there and find endless restaurants and resorts. Instead, you will find friendly locals and vibrant reefs that few people ever get to see.

Even better, the Marshall Islands has been home to the world’s largest shark sanctuary since 2011 and this island nation continues to be committed to ocean conservation. Go there before the rest of the world finds out.


Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Virgin Pure partners with PADI Aware Foundation to highlight plastic waste threat

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To help hammer home the severity of the issues of plastic pollution home water filtration system, Virgin Pure – which has made it a mission to reduce the number of single use plastic bottles we consume in the UK – has partnered with marine conservation charity, PADI AWARE Foundation, to reimagine four classic fish recipes as they might be in 2050, by including one incongruous ingredient: plastic.

Imagine tucking into a hearty portion of fish and chips, or a comforting fish pie, but instead of eating fish, you’re confronted with dirty, discarded plastic. The starkly damning image of whole fish replaced by plastic waste could well be a reality by 2050, when research predicts there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans. It may seem an extreme image, but it is already happening, albeit invisibly; studies continue to reveal how much we consume in the form of microplastics in our food and water.

The average Londoner still buys more than three SUP water bottles every week, an eye-watering 175 bottles every year per person. In total, some 7.7 billion plastic bottles are bought across the UK each year, resulting in substantial amounts of single-use plastic waste.

Data from PADI AWARE Foundation, which works with scuba divers across the world to remove plastic waste from the seas, also reveals there are over 8 million pieces of plastic entering the ocean each day; it estimates that there are 46,000 pieces of plastic in the ocean for every square mile, with the majority (80%) of that plastic coming from the land.

Virgin Pure has recreated four recipes as a wake-up call to all bottled water buyers: Golden Beer-Battered Fish with Chips, a seafood Linguine, a traditional Fish Pie and a Seafood Paella to the same quality standard but with one additional standout ingredient replacing the majority of the seafood in each: plastic. All the plastic used in the dishes has been retrieved from the ocean by PADI Aware Foundation, meaning it’s the exact plastic rubbish that’s being dumped into the world’s oceans which causes serious issues for marine animals and the environment.

These plastics are not only ingested by animal life, but through the water we drink and the food we eat. In fact, researchers believe that between 10 and 30% of fish in any sample will be contaminated with microplastics.

Tom Stazicker, CEO of Virgin Pure, comments: “None of us want to be consuming plastic, visible or not. Our products filter out harmful substances like chlorine, rust and microplastics that are commonly found in regular tap water, giving a better reason than ever before for people to stop buying bottled water. We’re delighted to be supporting the work that PADI AWARE Foundation does by partnering them, and proud to be able to offer a solution for those who want to kick the plastic bottle habit for good.”

Danna Moore, Global Director, PADI AWARE Foundation adds: “We hope this campaign helps bring to life just how severe the problem is, and encourages people to do better, get involved in ocean conservation and cut down on single-use plastic bottles. Whether you are a certified diver, a fisherman or a small child building a sandcastle at the local beach, the declining health of the oceans affects us all.”

One of the benefits of Virgin Pure is that it provides clean tasting, filtered drinking water on tap, making it that much easier to stop buying bottled water altogether. The devices also filter out microplastics from tap water, the same microplastics that are also commonly found in fish and other seafood.

To donate to PADI Aware Foundation, visit: https://netdonor.net/page/81717/donate/1

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