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Reefs, Wrecks and Caves: Lanzarote Dive Trip Report

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Lanzarote is somewhere visitors either love or hate; probably more for the landscape than anything else, but, along with the other Canary islands, it is coming back into fashion. Over the last three years the resorts have seen increasing numbers of tourists. Is it because of unrest elsewhere in the world, or is there something more? Mark Milburn re-visits the island.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe relatively short flight of under four hours from Bristol was certainly appealing to us. The fastest ever customs check followed. We grabbed our bags and went to pick up the hire car, €45 for a day, roughly the same price as four transfers by coach. Hiring a car meant no waiting, and, no detour around every hotel in the resort. Plus, we had it for the next day. We were staying at Rubimar Aparthotel in Playa Blanca. Playa Blanca is at the south end of the island looking towards Fuertaventura, sheltered from the predominant northerly winds. We had stayed at the hotel before and found it adequate for our needs, which aren’t very great. We checked in and asked about upgrading from self catering to all inclusive, which worked out at €17.81 a day (about £15). That included three meals a day, an afternoon snack and all drinks. Even if we decided to eat out for just one meal a day, it was still cheap. The rooms are starting to look a little tired; but as we found out over our stay, the food had improved massively, so we rarely ate out. We spent the first day acclimatising; we even went to the beach for a snorkel. At the end of the day we went to the dive centre to book in for some diving.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to arrive at the dive centre at 08:30, ready to leave on the boat at 09:00. This was fine as the breakfast was ready at 08:00 and the dive centre was only a few minutes walk from our hotel. We loaded our gear onto the boat and were taken to the Twin Pipes site, also known as Emisario. The twin pipes are waste water discharge pipes that head out south on the sand, which at some point had come apart about three hundred metres from the reef. Most dives consist of heading out on the pipes a few metres looking for rays or sharks, then back to the reef. A pleasant enough dive, visibility was around 15m with a water temperature of 24C. Maximum depth was 20m. The morning dives were just an hour apart, but, with free nitrox for suitably qualified divers, it wouldn’t restrict our dive times. The second dive that day was Flamingo Wall, a man-made stone wall protecting a small bathing beach. An easy and relatively shallow dive, teeming with life. For some reason there are schools and schools of fish here, probably more than I have ever seen on any dive anywhere before. A great start.

The following day we hired mountain bikes and spent the day acquainting ourselves with non-cushioned  bike seats on off road trails – comfy. Everyone should try it.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAAnother dive day. Due to the tidal currents and dive abilities of today’s group, the best sites were Twin Pipes and Flamingo Wall. We decided we would still go. The centre’s owner was happy for us to do our own thing at the sites, as we had dived them before a couple of days beforehand. We wanted to go out to the break in the pipes, as there was loads of life there on our previous visit to Lanzarote. It wasn’t one of the centre’s normal sites though, so they didn’t have any coordinates. We told them to drop us about 150m south of the normal site and we would find our way. We jumped in and looked down as we descended. We could see the seabed from the surface some 20m below us, but we couldn’t see the pipes. There was a slow current running, so we decided it must have moved us across a little. When the pipes eventually came into view, we headed further south. After a ten minute swim, spotting five Angel Sharks and two Eagle Rays on the way, we were at the break in the pipes. Huge schools of barracuda circled the fish below, which were swirling around in a feeding frenzy. It’s an impressive sight; just stay out of the yellowish discharging water. We stayed watching SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAfor a while but we knew we had a long swim in front of us if we were going to try and find the anchored boat. We did have a delayed surface marker buoy, should we need it. The return swim was assisted by a small current, which sent us back along the pipes, past the same (or maybe different) Angel Sharks. We reached the reef in just under ten minutes; that current was stronger than we thought. If the boat was anchored in the same place as the previous dive there, we should be able find it, and luckily it was.

The next day, for a change, my other half decided to book us on a mountain trek around one of the volcanic peaks. It was quite interesting with some amazing views. It was followed by a long sea swim (I think she is trying to wear me out).

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAOn our third dive day, we arrived at the shop to be met by Sergio. He had been our dive guide on previous visits to Lanzarote and had heard we were back. He no longer worked at the centre as he was chasing a new career, something that could earn money (I can understand that!). He decided he would join us for a dive. He ended up leading the dive around the reef near the lighthouse, il faro de Pechiguera. The area is not known for an abundance of life, but they do get some big fish visit there on occasion. Down we went. Schools of hunting tuna swam overhead, whilst smaller reef fish darted in and out of safety. Barracuda hung mid water, watching. There wasn’t as much life as at the other sites we had visited, especially if you only looked forward and down (you had to look up too). We then came across an area which looked like a field of pink balls; these were balls of Maerl, a calcified seaweed, commonly called Rhodoliths. We also saw a very large scorpion fish, camouflaged in pink. It was nice to dive somewhere different.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAThe second dive of the day was going to start at the wreck and cave, then drifting around Punta Berrugo. Sergio was coming for another dive. We were dropped onto the wreck, a very flattened wooden boat, from there we then swam to the cave. The cave is small and not too exciting, but we were escorted by a lot of fish and a small Eagle Ray. We continued with the slow drift eventually finding less and less fish. We then came across a large fishing cage. Like a crab pot but designed to catch anything, its rope had broken and it was full of fish; this was ‘Ghost Fishing’ in the extreme. It wasn’t long before a few of us tried to open the 1.5m diameter wire cage. Between us, we managed to make a couple of holes and by the time we left it, most fish had escaped. The timing wasn’t perfect, as most of us were getting low on air and close to the end of our no stop time; we had done enough though. At least that area will have some more fish for the next group.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAA group of friends had told us about the Temple Hall wreck, the Telamon, a shore dive near Arrecife. We asked the dive centre if we could go there; Sergio said would take us even though he had never dived it himself. Just the two of us met Sergio at the shop at 9:00 and loaded the van. Thirty minutes later we were on a tiny beach, near the remains of the beached ship. The entry was very easy, a gentle stony slope with sandy patches. We did a surface swim to the wreck, which lies stern to shore, and descended next to it, in about 1.5m of water. We headed towards mid ships, where the visible part of the ship ended. The engine room area was open at the break in the ship. We swam around the engine room in a maximum depth of around 3.5m. It was very interesting; it was also dark. Light came through holes around the wreck, creating some interesting light for photographers. From the shore you could just see a piece of wreck sticking out of the water thirty to forty metres in front of the break; we had heard there was more wreckage out there, so swam in that direction. We soon came across the bow, lying on its port side, pointing towards the midships/stern section. The bow itself was quite intact but it was quite broken away behind that. One of the ship’s masts nearly broke the surface from the seabed at around 6m. This section had quite an abundance of life; several schools of fish swam around the wreck’s remains. Almost at the bow there was an opened hatch which went down through three decks, with some great ambient light around the inside. Altogether this was a very nice dive, lots of light because of the maximum depth of 8.4m and a lot of life. I would say a must for photographers that are after well lit wreck shots, with some nice light breaking through.

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Another cycling day, mountain biking around a volcano, then across to the other side of the island. This was nearly the end of me; I had to have some rest, otherwise I wouldn’t make our last diving day.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAFor our last day of diving, we decided we wanted to dive the old harbour wrecks at Puerto del Carmen. These had been deliberately sunk years ago, nice and close so that divers could visit. When someone had decided to extend the harbour, the newly built harbour wall ended up partially covering one of the wrecks. We met at the dive centre at the normal time of 08:30. We put our kit together and loaded the van, which then took us to Puerto del Carmen. The centre operates two dive RIBs, one from Playa Blanca and one from Puerto del Carmen, which made life easy for diving two separate locations. The one minute boat ride went really quickly. We jumped in on the biggest wreck, the one part buried under the harbour wall. Altogether there are about five wrecks there, however some are well broken and don’t look very ship-shape anymore. After visiting all the wrecks, reaching a maximum depth of 37m, we visited a small cave, then returned back to the shallowest wreck. We looked around and checked everyone’s air before going back the the boat, which was now tied to the harbour wall. We went back to the harbour, changed our cylinders and had a little break. Then off to our next site, the orange coral. One of the things about the Canary Islands is there is very little in the way of corals or seaweed, so a whole dive is centred around one piece of coral. It’s not quite that bad, it is just a name for the route you take. SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAPuerto del Carmen has lots of sites and routes – the orange coral would include a small wreck, the orange coral, a seahorse and a cave. That is exactly what we saw, although we did hope for two seahorses. Another very nice dive, even if it did get a bit busy with divers towards the end. That was our last dive of our holiday. Once our kit was hung out to dry, we returned to our hotel.

The last day of our holiday was a rest day, and I needed it. The diving hadn’t been tiring; it was what we did between the diving that tired me out. The weather was almost perfect; we did have a short rain shower on one day and a few night time ones too. The sun had shone and the visibility had, on the whole, been good.

SANYO DIGITAL CAMERASo, had anything changed over the last three years? In reality, no. The diving has always been good; I’d compare it with places like Malta or Mediterranean Spain, but with more life. There is only about three degrees of latitude – less than two hundred miles – between the likes of Egypt and Lanzarote. That makes hardly any difference in temperature during the winter months, with the summer temperatures being a little cooler and more bearable. I spoke to various people around the island, who all seemed to think the increase in tourism was due to perceived troubles elsewhere in the world. That, combined with the great value for money Lanzarote seems to offer, makes the Canary Islands a great option for divers.

 

 

Mark Milburn is the owner of Atlantic Scuba in Falmouth, Cornwall, England, and is an SDI/TDI/NAS/RYA Instructor and a Commercial Boat Skipper. Although often referred to as a maritime archaeologist, he prefers to call himself a wreck hunter. Find out more about Mark and Atlantic Scuba by visiting www.atlanticscuba.co.uk.

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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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