by Nicola Faulks
Where to go on holiday? The PFO was closed in August, the consultant has given me the ok to dive, so looking for somewhere where we have lots of options, so we can dive alternate days – to ease me back in to the way of things. I know: Tenerife – Cheap, accessible, walking, mountain biking, diving and all sorts of other things to do. Thank you Mr Thomas Cook, with your good deals and best of all the cheap and cheerful Hotel Miramar, even if it was 400 steps up from the harbour!
We dived with Centro De Buceo El Cardumen (www.elcardumen.com), located in Puerto De La Cruz, the northern coast town where we were staying. Rafa was the head guy and spoke good English. He proved to be a very adaptable and informative dive guide, realising early on that I love fish and flowers, and so adapted our dives to look for critters rather than covering miles and miles without stopping. We left our kit in the dive centre after every dive day and the staff kindly washed and re packed it for us! Every dive was on nitrox at no additional cost (ten dives worked out at €23 per dive).
The first diving we did was on the west coast at Garrachico the old capital of Tenerife (‘till a volcanic eruption smothered it!). The entry into the harbour was an interesting 2 metre stride! The underworld on both dives was formed from volcanic lava, gullies, small cliffs and concrete cubes forming the breakwater. As with all of the dives in Tenerife the energy of the waves on each site, leaves only short algal and animal turf – no coral reefs or kelp/red algal beds. Lots of fish were present: common bream, angel shark, parrot fish, moray eels and red lipped blennies.
Most of the diving that we did was on the east coast: sheltered from the prevailing westerly winds. All the dive sites were within about one hour drive from Puerto De La Cruz. Of the sites that we visited, our favourite was Punta Prieta: a tiny little beach at the bottom of some immense cliffs down which a little road winds. As you swim out over volcanic sand and rock a series of rock reefs appear, some with overhangs and large shoals of bastard grunts. Under the overhangs at 35m loads of yellow fang tooth morays can be seen – not pretty! On one of the dives here we saw octopus, eagle ray, a beautiful gurnard with its blue wings and legs and a stingray in a cave! Definitely my favourite dive site.
We also celebrated Christmas by putting up a Christmas tree at Las Eras about 10 metres under the water, and learning to drink Champagne under water. This involves inverting the bottlebefore opening it, sticking your finger over the end and shaking it. Then take out reg, put bottle in mouth and gulp!! We dived this site twice during our visit, the rocky man-made (with natural volcanic rock) breakwater proved to be full of critters: trumpet fish, file fish, cuttle fish and the biggest of all a sleeping angel fish. Simon tugged its tail and it woke up and swam off. There are also lots of little caves and tunnels to swim through here, and the visibility was excellent.
On one day, when the westerly winds subsided we dived in the harbour and breakwater around our town, Puerto De La Cruz. The sea bed revealed loads of fabulous rock formations from the lava flows, valleys, cliffs and weird and wonderful columns pointing towards the surface. In amongst these formations were lots of huge anchors, all snagged and left behind from docking ships way back into the 18th century and possibly before! Again there were lots of fish, shrimps, sponges and huge (apparently fish eating) anemones – like large dahlia anemones. My favourites, but never still long enough to take a photo, were the red crabs with the blue knees!
Other sites we dived included the wreck at Tabaiba, fully penetrable and surrounded by fish but very little other life. Radazul was another dive site with both sandy bottom and rock, giving the chance to see sunbathing rays and rock dwelling critters too.
We had hoped to dive in the south of Tenerife at stingray reef, but sadly the weather thwarted our plans (it was winter!). However, the life we saw on the 11 dives that we did more than made up for it! We dived every other day to minimise risk of nitrogen build-up and thoroughly enjoyed our experience (diving with no bends and seeing so much life). When not diving we found some lovely trails to hike up on Mt Teide. With regards the diving: I will never forget having parrot fish nibble my mask and the grin on Simon’s face as he tugged the tail of an angel shark!!