It’s no great secret that for UK based divers and underwater photographers who want truly out of this world wildlife diving, you usually have to dig deep in your pocket and be prepared for a long journey with great expectations. But what about photographing exotic wildlife in warm seas, a flight no more than 5 hours away and a trip that’s kind to your bank balance?
Well at this point you’d normally expect me to say head down to The Red Sea. But not this time, this time I’m going to point you in the direction of a small volcanic Island in the Atlantic Ocean that is part of Spain.
Tenerife is a holiday destination popular with UK families and groups looking for a relatively inexpensive holiday with guaranteed beautiful, sunny weather. One of the main reasons I found myself travelling here with my family in the Summer of 2017.
I’ve recently welcomed my first child towards the end of 2016 and it was time to organise a family holiday but with a little diving fun for daddy! Tenerife was the destination of choice and early August was the time. The lure of maybe being able to get close shots of turtles being a deciding factor. Also, if I could introduce family members to the world I love and get them snorkelling with some exotic marine animals such as turtles, it would be another bonus.
I’d heard stories and saw photos of Green Sea Turtles in Tenerife but I wasn’t sure how much of a guarantee it was that I would actually get the same opportunities. I did some research and got in touch with a Tenerife-based photographer by the name of Montse Grillo. She has some truly stunning shots of turtles around Tenerife and I knew she would be able to help. Although Montse doesn’t speak much English, I am grateful for the time she took to Google Translate my message and point me in the direction of the dive shop: Club de Buceo Rincon de Arona.
Javier was the owner/dive guide and promised me turtles, as well as some big rays. He is a keen underwater photographer himself, so knows exactly what I am looking for when it comes to getting eye-catching photos. I started the day with a macro dive seeking out the abundance of eels that call the volcanic rocks home. Then in the afternoon it was time to find some turtles. The dive site was a short boat ride of no more than five minutes from the marina at Los Cristianos and set under the backdrop of dramatic volcanic cliffs along the Southwest side of the Island. The first turtle was spotted at the surface before anchor was even dropped, always a good sign that this is going to be a good dive.
It was only a shallow dive site of around 13 metres but this gave us ample water time to get plenty of photos. I don’t know the full story of the turtles in the area but I had read they are rescue turtles that are used to human interaction and stick around for small handouts of leftover squid from the fishermen at the harbour.
The turtles were certainly bold and curious, which as any underwater photographer knows is great! “When you think you’re close, then get closer” is the general rule of thumb. There was no such worry here as I found myself backing up on numerous occasions just to get the turtles in the frame.
I did two dives with the turtles and rays during my holiday and both dives were equally as fun and manic as each other. There was an abundance of fish making way as the Bull Rays worked their way through. Stingrays of different sizes would also make an appearance but the turtles were the real stars.
The second dive saw the introduction of a third, smaller turtle. There are normally only two turtles regularly at the dive site but my guide said out of all the photographers that he has dived with, I was probably the only one to get three turtles in the frame. I only managed the one decent shot of all three as I found myself struggling to back up enough to get them all in. It certainly made the dive extra exciting.
In conclusion: I wasn’t expecting much from my time underwater in Tenerife and wondered whether I’d get any decent photos. It certainly excelled my expectations and is a worthwhile dive trip to book for a cost friendly and relatively close holiday from the UK. Although I only managed four dives I was able to get many photos that were well worth keeping due to the abundance of photo opportunities. I was also able to introduce five members of my family to the joys of the ocean and get them snorkelling with turtles for the very first time. It means the world to me to share my passion with those closest to me and see how much they enjoyed the experience.
Find out more about Sean at www.greatwhitesean.com or follow him on Instagram @greatwhitesean
Why Skopelos should be your next summer dive destination!
Earlier this year we were given a fantastic opportunity to visit Skopelos in the Sporades Islands in the northern Aegean Sea. This green, mountainous island sits at the edge of the largest marine park in Europe, the National Marine Park of Alonissos and Northern Sporades. We were to focus primarily on scuba diving, but during our short stay we were especially impressed with the equally diverting topside options in Skopelos.
Our short stay meant we just got a glimpse of the great diving on offer, however our hosts at Skopelos Dive Center in Panormos treated us to some brilliant sites just a few minutes from shore. From nudibranchs, shoals of damselfish, large groupers and shy octopus to caverns and swimthroughs featuring rainbows of light. The variety of marine life and topography we encountered was outstanding.
One of the most incredible experiences was the chance to dive the wreck of the Christophoros, an 83m long cargo ship sitting upright on the seabed, with the deck at 32-35m. The large, well preserved and stunning wreck is a joy to dive. It is also located just a 2 minute boat ride from shore in a sheltered and current free location with great visibility, creating the conditions for a great dive. We had a few days of truly wonderful diving and we could certainly spend much longer in this fabulous holiday destination!
What makes Skopelos special?
This island is one of the less visited Greek islands with a very relaxed and friendly feel, even though it is really easy to get there – many airports in the UK offer flight connections directly to Skiathos (the hub of the Sporades) May through October. The diving is excellent and there are many dive sites to enjoy. Lastly, the variety of non-diving activities makes for a full vacation experience. Boat trips into the National Marine Park take you to visit secluded beaches and give you a chance to see some amazing wildlife, the Mamma Mia! tours are excellent fun, and numerous small, beautiful seaside villages with great tavernas and beaches are a delight to visit.
As a destination, Skopelos really has everything you could ask for both for a diving holiday and a fun summer vacation. Look for our full print article in an upcoming issue of Scubaverse’s own Dive Travel Adventures magazine!
Municipality of Skopelos (https://skopelos.com/)
Skopelos Dive Center (https://sporadesdiving.gr/)
Ionia Hotel (https://www.ioniahotel.gr/en)
Dolphin of Skopelos (https://dolphinofskopelos.com/)
Ta Kymata restaurant (@takymata)
The Muses restaurant (https://www.facebook.com/TheMussesMousses/)
Aktaiov resturant (https://skopelos.com/listings/aktaion-taverna/)
Amazing Alonissos – The all round dive vacation destination
In early summer we were given a wonderful opportunity to visit Alonissos in the Sporades Islands in the northern Aegean Sea. This green and forested island sits at the edge of the Alonissos National Marine Park, the largest marine protected area in Europe. Our main focus was to be scuba diving, but during our short stay we were especially impressed with all of the other activities and experiences available on Alonissos for the discerning vacationer.
The scuba diving was really outstanding. In contrast to some areas of the Mediterranean, the marine biodiversity here was impressively diverse and abundant. Our short stay meant we just had a small taste of the diving available, however our hosts at Alonissos Triton Dive Center treated us to some exceptional sites from their impressively long list. The variety of marine life we encountered was a delight: large Gorgonian sea fans, many species of nudibranchs, small pipefish to large groupers, octopus, and much more.
One of the most incredible experiences was the chance to dive the oldest accessible shipwreck in the world, the Ancient Shipwreck of Peristera underwater archeological site from 500 BC … an amazing dive site with a very unique automated underwater museum monitoring system in place to protect its archaeological heritage. It was a busy but hugely satisfying few days of diving and we could certainly spend much longer on this idyllic isle!
Greece has a huge number of beautiful islands to visit, so why choose Alonissos?
This island is one of the quieter Greek islands and as such has a very relaxed and welcoming feel, where you can find an authentic slice of the Aegean region. And, it is really easy to get there — so many airports in the UK offer flight connections directly to Skiathos (the hub of the Sporades) that you should not have to drive more than 100km in the UK to an airport.
Finally, the variety of non-diving activities is hard to beat. There are boating day trips into the National Marine Park, taking you to visit secluded beaches and giving you a chance to see some amazing wildlife (such as monk seals, Eleonora’s Falcon, and several species of dolphin to name a few). Both the main port town of Patitiri and the old village of Chora are full of interesting shops, charming alleyways, and restaurants with delicious meals. As an added bonus, the Alonissos cheese pie is a particularly moreish local specialty!
As a holiday destination, Alonissos really had everything one could ask for. Look for our full print article in an upcoming issue of Scubaverse’s own Dive Travel Adventures magazine!
The Municipality of Alonissos (https://alonissos.gr/en/)
Alonissos Triton Dive Center (https://bestdivingingreece.com)
Alonissos National Marine Park (https://alonissos.gr/en/marine-park/overview.html)
Paradise Hotel (https://paradise-hotel.gr/)
Albedo Travel (https://alonissosholidays.com/)