La Manga offers some of the best diving in Spain. Although few northern European divers have heard of it, it is invaded on a regular basis – particularly at weekends – by divers from elsewhere in Spain. The Islas Hormigas marine reserve is the main attraction, but Spanish divers are also drawn to La Manga by the excellent shore dives, wreck dives, cavern dives and reef dives which lie close to, but outside, the reserve itself.
Popular Dive Sites in La Manga
Shore dives and the easier boat dives are ideal for novices, but also interesting and enjoyable for more experienced divers. And there are plenty of more challenging wreck, reef and cavern dives in the area.
Islas Hormigas Marine Reserve
Islas Hormigas Marine Reserve was established by the Spanish Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (and the Murcia regional equivalent) in 1995. A handful of local fishermen are still permitted to fish the reserve – to preserve their traditional way of life. All other fishing is banned and scuba divers must obtain a permit to dive the reserve.
The inner reserve has four dive sites – Bajo de Testa, Piles 1, Piles 2 and Bajo de Dentro. Of these, Piles 1, Piles 2 and Bajo de Dentro are the more challenging and interesting dives. All three are pinnacles or submerged mountains, with maximum depths of 28m+. All the sites are buoyed. You will almost always see barracuda, grouper, dentex, moray eels and a multitude of smaller fish on these sites. Bajo de Dentro has the added attraction of a large cavern at around 22m.
La Manga Wrecks, Reefs, Caverns
Cala Fria, Cala Correo and Cala Reona, all close to the small port of Cabo de Palos, are the most popular shore dive sites in the area. Cala Fria and Cala Reona are gravel and sand beaches respectively. Both have bottoms which slope steadily to maximum depths of 7 to 10 metres, which makes them ideal for beginners or experienced divers who haven’t dived for a while. Cala Correo has a small gravel beach and is a little more challenging. Maximum depth is 18 metres and access is via a staircase set into a low cliff. Cala Fria, Cala Correo and Cala Reona are very enjoyable and (once you get in the water) relaxing reef dives. Expect to see lots of smaller fish, lots of colourful sponges, sea urchins, sea grass, the occasional octopus and maybe even cuttlefish, moray eel or hermit crab.
La Laja, El Farallon and Isla Grosa are easily accessible by boat from Puerto Tomás Maestre (towards the North end of La Manga strip). Each of these dive sites has something unique. La Laja is a completely submerged reef with a canyon to the north and has been the subject of a marine archeological investigation for the last two summers (looking for remains of a Phoenician shipwreck). El Farallon used to be used for target practice by the Spanish armed forces and is surrounded underwater by large boulders and chips of rock blasted from the island. Isla Grosa has two caverns – both shallow and one of which is open to the air for most of its length. Divers on these three sites usually see lots of smaller fish, lots of colourful sponges, sea urchins, sea grass. Octopus and moray eels are frequently seen. Barracuda, grouper and dentex are occasional visitors. From time to time, smaller nudibranchs (flabellinidae) are seen.
El Naranjito, Turia and Ulla are three of the shallowest wrecks in La Manga, but all are deep enough to make PADI Advanced Open Water (or equivalent) and experience of deep diving essential. El Naranjito or Isla Gomera sank in a storm off Cabo de Palos in 1946. She gets her nickname from the cargo of oranges she was carrying – which reputedly caused her to sink when they shifted during the storm. A shot line is attached to the bow at about 27 metres and the deck at the stern lies at about 35m. Occasional strong currents make this a challenging dive. Turia and Ulla were both minesweepers until they were sunk as artificial reefs around 10 years ago. They are a few hundred metres apart off the La Manga coast in just under 35 metres of water. Turia is almost completely flat – her hull split along the keel sometime after sinking. Ulla is in much better condition, with the top of the wreck at a depth of around 28 metres. Ulla is in two large pieces – the bow and stern sections lie a small distance apart on the sea bed.