Diving in Spain may seem to some as predictable as Barcelona winning this season’s La Liga, sipping sangria on a restaurant terrace in Ibiza or being handed a bull-fighting flyer on the streets of Pamplona – mild water temperature, “regular” visibility and lots of groupers. Photographer and avid diver, Ivan Nouvilas, aims to deflate this perception by bringing us seven of the best dive sites to visit in Spain:
Spanish waters are filled with history, hiding sunken shipwrecks and fallen aeroplanes. Get the chance to know it, and you’ll realise that these waters are exciting and vibrant, offering incredible cave dives, infinite colours in giant gorgonian gardens and floors filled with bright green Posidonia seagrass.
Depending on the time of year, different animal visitors will stop over. In the summer you’ll find colourful jellyfish, with monkfish and John Dory appearing in the winter. You may even come across orcas and dolphins in the Gibraltar Strait.
Spain also hosts many natural marine reserves along its coastline, where one can appreciate how wild and gorgeous the waters are without human interference. But diving in Spain is not only tied to the sea; it also offers fantastic lake diving. In many areas, diving in the mountain lakes is a popular attraction – offering frozen waters in winter for ice diving, and crystal-clear visibility for diving in spring.
Canary Islands: Pure Atlantic Sea
The Canary Islands archipelago consists of seven volcanic islands. Their waters are electric blue and harbour a large diversity of life, from tiny nudibranchs and seahorses to large dolphins and finback whales.
Some of the most loved marine animals in the waters of the Canary Islands are the frequently visiting turtles: They are the headline act and around these islands alone you can find six of the seven different extant species.
Cabo de Gata: Land of cliffs
Cabo de Gata is a natural marine reserve located just south of Spain. The protection of this area has turned it into one of the wildest and most untouched places in the Mediterranean Sea. Its depths are sandy and rocky – perfect for critter spotting – and certain areas are covered in Posidonia seagrass. You’ll also find big schools of giant grouper and barracuda swimming alongside historical wrecks.
Columbretes Islands: Refuge for birds and marine fauna
Columbretes is a volcanic archipelago just under 50 kilometres from the coast. As one of the major natural marine reserves, it is protected against fishing. These far-flung islands offer giant lobsters and beautiful red coral, as well as huge schools of fish.
These islands also act as a natural refuge for the marine birds migrating between Africa and Europe, offering divers and sightseers great wildlife photo opportunities both above and below the waves.
Costa Brava and Pyrenees: Sea and mountain
The Costa Brava is one of the most interesting areas on the Spanish coast (in the northeast of the country, close to Barcelona). It has a range of dive sites directly accessible from the shore or by boat. Some of the most famous areas of this coast are the Medes Islands (also a nature marine reserve), seven little islands where you can find underwater caves and tunnels, gorgonian coral, and marine life aplenty – including 30-kilogram groupers. If you’re lucky, you’ll even encounter sunfish and rays.
Up to the north, there’s the Catalan Pyrenees, a mountain range with peaks over 3,000 metres. In this area there are numerous lakes that in winter offer the opportunity to ice dive.
Balearic Islands: Crystal-clear waters
The Balearic Islands are an archipelago of five islands that contain seven marine reserves. Here, you can find pure Mediterranean marine life: barracuda schools, groupers and an abundance of macro life, from nudibranchs to seahorses.
These islands harbour the longest underwater cave in Europe, Sa Gleda cave, which is ideal for tek divers. Topside, it’s also beautiful, with grand beaches and coves lapped by crystal-clear waters.
North of Spain: The Cantabrian Sea
While the Cantabrian Sea is often rough and the temperature is cooler than the Mediterranean, it has excellent dive sites that will sometimes conjure the unexpected, such as the blue shark or the moonfish. It is recommended to go with a dive centre that knows the best spots to explore.
Cabo de Palos: Diving among wrecks
A natural marine reserve, Cabo de Palos plays host to a large variety of aquatic life, including groupers, gorgonian coral, and moonfish.
At different depths you can discover a number of wrecks. The famous Syrian ocean liner, “El Carbonero” (SS Thordisa) or the “Naranjito” wreck are extremely popular and will offer a new perspective on the underwater world of Spain.
For more of Ivan’s incredible photography, check him out on Instagram