A Tale of Two Seas

By Simply Diving Instructor Dan Nelmes

What’s happening divers…?

The first few months of 2010 proved to be a testing time for diving, due to some unnaturally very wet and stormy weather. But a continued break from the rain and wind has yielded some gorgeous dry and sunny days these past few weeks. So it was only natural that we should take the bull by the horns to venture back into an underwater world that we’re used to!

The view out across the Atlantic Ocean
The view out across the Atlantic Ocean

For one particular expedition last week, Team Simply took some certified AOWDs (PADI Advanced Open Water Divers) to one of our favourite diving spots located at the very southern end of not only Spain, but Europe!

The place was the port town of Tarifa: a picturesque former Moorish settlement with too much history to write about here and a home to many dive spots around a small island that is connected to the mainland via a strip of two parallel beaches.

It’s here where the two seas, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, converge. It’s just a five minute boat ride from the port where we kit up to the diving areas, two of which we visited for this daily excursion.

Our first dive took us to a spot known as the San Andrés, a local name for the 150-year-old paddle steamer that sunk and now rests between the depths of 25 and 30m. This dive site is for Advanced divers only and a must for keen photographers as the remains of the steamer create homes for many types of marine life, ranging from nudibranchs to eels and even our old friend the Mola Mola.

A familiar face on the wreck of the San Andrés
A familiar face on the wreck of the San Andrés: One of the resident Moray Eels

It’s almost a guarantee that you will see at least four Moray Eels just amongst the wreck itself, not to mention the large 6ft Conger Eel that has made its permanent residence within the hollows of the hull.

The rest of the area is a colourful mass of star coral-covered walls and large rocky reefs that disappear into the darkness of the open ocean. Eyes wide with amazement, we explored the entire area, stopping every four or so fin kicks to view another marvel of Tarifa.

Even at the end of the dive, on our safety stop, we were surrounded by large schooling fish of varying species. All that could be heard was the hum of the boat motor as it came to collect us and the constant sound of regulator-muffled ‘WOW’s coming from everyone… Even myself!

The second dive site was just 30 seconds away from the first but, despite the short distance, bared no similarity to it. La Piscina by name, La Piscina by nature. The second dive site – translated literally as ‘The Swimming Pool’ – resembles a basin of large rocky reefs at a maximum depth of 20m, stretching up to the beginning of the large star coral-covered walls of the San Andrés.

A diver at 30m on Tarifa's most popular dive site
A diver at 30m on Tarifa's 150-year-old San Andrés wreck

The entire area is littered with rocks, perfect for marine life to make homes, and brilliant white sand that’s often seen in stereotypical ‘beach paradises’. Except it’s only for us divers (sorry beach lovers). This particular site has been a favoured area for many different types of ray, particularly the shocking Torpedo Ray, as well as the elusive Eagle Ray which even here is not so elusive when they glide elegantly in front of us.

Exploring the ‘pool walls’ can reveal nooks and crannies for lobsters and crayfish to hide in and of course Moray Eels, which love to give you a grin every time you approach them.

Our day of diving ended with us looking back at the cameras and reviewing the sheer amount of marine life we’d witnessed. And that was just two sites on the Med side of the island! There’s still many more sites to explore on this side as well as crossing round to the Atlantic side, with its own wrecks and labyrinthine gulleys and canyons.

So as you can imagine I’m well chuffed we’re heading there next week…

Instructor Dan’s column now appears every month in the Costa’s number one News and Info Guide, THE SENTINELLA MALAGA. Pick up a copy all along the coast or check here: www.thesentinellamalaga.com.