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<font color='#0000FF'>Cabo de Palos & Cabo de Gata

In keeping with tradition my wife Zsuzsi and I started last year as soon as she finished teaching we escape for a two week dive trip. Last year we went to Gozo and took the opportunity to take a the Rescue dive and A.O.W . This year we had to be careful with expenses so we decided to stay within the Iberian Peninsula, so we spent one week at Cabo de Palos (near Murcia) and another week at Cabo de Gatas (near Almeria). So on the 30th June we packed the car and headed drove 1,200km from northern Portugal to South East Spain.

Cabo de Palos
We originaly thought of diving the Medas islands (Estartit) but heard through the grapevine this was a better place. When we arrived on Monday evening my heart sank to see the strong winds knowing that such conditions would cancel any diving. As luck goes the following morning St Peter heard my wishes and the weather was calm and hot. Our first site was a pinacle called Bajo de Dentro starting 4m from the surface going to 35-40m. When I back rolled and look down I thought I had been dropped into an aquarium, I couldn’t believe the amount of life. This site seem to have everything, schools of Barracuda, damselfish, friendly large groupers and more Moray eels I could count for, dentex, saddle beams and more fish than I could remember. Being a pinnacle we could dive at whatever depth we felt, although there was a bit of a swell at times it was nice to lie ad just watch the barracuda swimming amongst us. In all we dived this site four times and there was hardly any change in the sea life we spotted. Bajo de Piles was another pinacle but there was less life, more like a table top starting at 12m going down to 30m. One of the highlights of Cabo de Palos was the Isla Gomera lying intact upright from 32-40m. I’ve never really did any wreck diving before and this for me was truly spectacular, she was beautiful. The cargo ship loeade with fruit sank in the 1950’s overturned by a large wave  Unfortunately at around 36m I was not feeling comfortable at all and began to feel really nervous with unusual pessimistic thoughts, not like me at all. I concentrated on my breathing and avoided rapid breaths but that didn’t help so I ascended to 30m, then everything was fine –no worries –was it Narcosis I wonder? Whatever it was it was a pity as I would have enjoyed the wreck a lot more if I were relaxed. We dived at Cala Fria that is off the lighthouse, this could easily be a shore dive. Here there wasn’t much life but enjoyed watching the grazing and dancing of the cow breams.
The diving at Cabo de Palos much better than we expected but were limited to a few sites. We dived with Planeta Azul who have a 9m RIB and are based at the port, Islas Hormigas are nearby but this dive center didn’t dive there. Although the center was good I felt they accommodated more for the divers who turn up and do a couple of dives at most. We were prepared to do at least ten but only ended up with 7. We stayed at a village nearby, this area is big in tourism and a true ‘costa’ personally not my type of environment nut great for diving. The exposed sea means that it doesn’t take too much to cancel a dive. Vizibiltiy varied from 15m  max to 8m at the worst. The water temperature varied from 23ºc to 18ºc. I used my oceanic shadow single 5mm suit which was fine for me.

Cabo de Gata
Cabo de Gata is 250km south of Cabo de Palos, it is a nature reserve where the land is even drier and bleaker than the Murcia area, We stayed at San José, a small town in the park. My first dive here was my 100th dive and was at a site called Cuevas del frances, the cavern of the franchman. In all I dived 3 times here and it’s was great. There are a few caverns, not that large (size of a car or two) but enough to enjoy especially for the inexperienced like me. Here we spotted lobsters, a larger forkbeard, scorpian fish, cardinal fish and even spotted a moray and conger eel sharing a crack being next to each other (cross species relationships?). Here we spotted a few hermit crabs which are always fun to watch. A relative shallow dive from 3m-17m and viz at 10-12m On one of the dives I was ascending when I came face to face with a jelly fish, a first for me, took a great picture before wanting to find out to see how friendly his sting would be! Another site Arcos de San Juan consisted of a shallow dive of around 15 with small inlets (like a finger) where there was a mixture of grass and sand. The rock form ations were interest giving a very 3 dimensional dive, the sea life being limited but you could always count on the cow breams, damselfish and cardinal fish. At this site the is a small overhang you can swim under and through. A similar site was Amatista with same sea life but without the overhang. A deeper dive was Piedra de Meros at 32 m wich is known for groupers and sun fish, unfortunately didn’t spot either, There lies a large anchor here but because of a current I didn’t venture too far so never found it.  Here I enjoyed a refreshing thermoclime from 23ºc to 16º. The other site we visited was a few rocks on the sea floor called Burros (20m) where we spotted many octopus. At one area of 1m2 there were over 5 of them and not so far under a ledge a massive number of octopus eggs. On our second dive of this site the current was so strong on the top we looked like flags on a pole, it was exhaustings.
The sea life at Cabo de Gata was not as much as Cabo de Palos but at least it didn’t feel we were served it all on a platter, I enjoy the searching and observing of marine life, we spotted some groupers and barracudas here but not to the extent of C. de Palos. Water temp was 23-21ºc and viz approx 12-15m. The area around San José is much nicer and more relaxing than the La Manga area.

After Gozo we came to these areas with high expectation, not of the diving as such but the dive centers. With Gozo Aqua Sport I couldn’t falter their service (only their classrooms!) whilst in Spain the two dive centers had much room for improvement. It felt that they only expect you to do a couple of dives, more like someone on holiday who will do a dive or two, not someone who is on a dive holiday. For me there is a big difference. At Cabo de Gata we dived with Alpha Buceo who have their own hiperbaric chamber but initially they were almost ‘too American’ –i.e they would carry your equipment to the boat and do everything. Well, with me NO ONE touches my equipment, and I had to make this very clear. After a few dives they relaxed and in the end we got along well, but you most stand your turf if you feel for equipment and safety like my wife and I do. These two sites are well worth diving, but possibly best to dive if you can rather than make a special dive trip like we did. Cabo de Palos had the most life and a great wreck but terrible costa resort environment whilst Cabo de Gata had good diving and good location, out of the two I would choose the latter. In all for the 2 weeks we spent € 600 for 16 dives each, and approx €1,400 for accommodation, food & petrol. Next year we go where the money takes us, maybe Gozo again which we really enjoyed but doubt we up doing these places again unless we happen to be in the area.
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