A short break in Lanzarote

Marathon and Dive

During the spring my running club had decided to run a race abroad, originally we thought of Benidorm in Spain and looked into the details. It is usually held during November but as we found out they had changed the month to February. We wanted to go in November so we started looking elsewhere, one of members recalled the Lanzarote race was in November and that ended up the new destination. Set on Saturday 29th of November there was a choice of 1/4, 1/2 and full marathons and the club kept it open to whoever wanted to go, members or not.

A couple of the other members wanted to know if myself and my girlfriend, Ruth, were going to go, it didn’t take long for us to say ‘yes’. We both decided on the half marathon, as did most of the club members and began the training. I had been to Lanzarote many years ago but never took my diving equipment nor even tried to find a dive shop, I thought this was a good opportunity to see what it was like.

The training for the race was going well, for a change, and everyone was looking forward to the run. Air temperatures were expected to be between 18 and 21 degrees, which didn’t bother us, we were more interested in the water temperatures. Water temperatures for November were expected to be around 18-20 degrees, warmer than the UK ever gets. After very little discussion we decided to take drysuits, it wasn’t tropical after all.

We caught the plane from Exeter airport on the Thursday with some heavy bags, we were flying with First Choice who still advertise an extra 5kg for anyone with a diving cert. We were within that limit but weren’t asked about our cert cards as we were travelling in a group of 16 people and the total baggage was under the combined weight limit. The flight was uneventful apart from everyone singing along to Mamma Mia, which was rather annoying, luckily I had my mp3 player. Our transfers went well and we arrived at our hotel in Costa Teguise to check in. Checking in wasn’t as smooth as it should have been, we had acquired an extra runner who had booked into our hotel totally separate with their own booking reference. The problem was the hotel got the message they would be staying in one of our rooms, our rooms were all booked as doubles apart from one lone female who had paid the extra for a single room. Someone had made a mistake. The hotel manager didn’t want to give us the extra room, we weren’t asking for an extra room it was a separate booking! We ended up with enough rooms although the hotel said we had shouted and been very rude, which we hadn’t we just asked them to give us what we had paid for. We went straight to Arrecife, leaving most of the bags in one room, to collect our race numbers. We walked part of the course and then headed back to our hotel. That evening myself and Ruth went for a walk looking at the three local dive centres we had found on the internet. We found all three locations but obviously they were closed in the evening.

Dive Centres

The following morning we went to visit the dive centres. Calipso’s website had the most information, one just described the courses they taught, we never found the third centres website just some references to it. We went to the closest first, there was no English speaking people there and they had to call someone on the phone. They offered two dives a day for 50 euros which seemed a good price but there were no options of 1 dive a day etc. Next we visited Calipso, friendly English people who had the usual English sense of humour. Their price was 90 euros for 3 dives but returned to base after each dive, so you could do just one dive in a day which Ruth preferred to have as an option. So we booked in with Calipso. I booked two dives for Monday, one for Tuesday and one for Wednesday. We were running on Saturday and wanted a days rest afterwards, that and Calipso is shut on Sundays. Wednesday afternoon we had booked a kayaking trip for everyone. Ruth only booked the afternoon dive for Monday as it was shallower than the morning dive and she wanted to take the first dive easy.

Saturday, we ran. The race was up and down the sea front, once for the 1/4, twice for the half and four times for the full marathon. We started running with the breeze for the first part, then turned into it, it assisted us on the way out although it made it feel really warm. It was against us on the return but cooled us down. We all finished our races, collected our T-shirts and medals and hobbled back to the hotel. The hotels food was always plentiful and had a nice range and we certainly had our monies worth after the race.

Dive 1 – Cathedral Cave

Monday soon came. I was picked up from the hotel to help with all my dive kit and taken to the centre to sort out weights and a cylinder. The first dive site was the Cathedral Cave at Puerto del Carmen, a shore dive, most of the diving on the island is shore diving. Four divers and two guides set off to Puerto del Carmen. When we arrived there were already a couple of minibuses there with divers getting ready. We were given the dive brief and started kitting up. People were taking the P1$$ out of me for wearing a drysuit, I wasn’t bothered, I knew I’d stay warm. The entry was down the steps on the quayside, having a quick look the first thing I noticed was the visibility, even from the surface it looked good. We jumped in, I checked I had enough weight first, then we swam a little before descending. The visibility looked very good, maybe 15-20m.

The surface breeze that had been picking up hadn’t affected the visibility too much. We made our way out, Simon our guide, showed us a Morey Eel on the way and then the large Grouper started following us. There were numerous small fish around including flatfish and catfish but very little life on the rocks. We soon went over the edge and around to the Cathedral Cave, inside the cave there was some small soft corals in a small crevice but not much else. The cave itself doesn’t go back too far but it is a cave and it is at 30m, which is the maximum most of the centres on the island will take you too. We looked around for a few minutes before making our way out and up. We swam over the top of the cave through the bubbles that we made in the cave that were now working their way through the caves roof. We then swam along the top of the ledge and found the Grouper had re-joined us. As we started to get shallower we came across a Cuttlefish buried in the sand, more catfish, lizardfish and some wrasse. We were taken to some old mooring ropes that were coiled up on the bottom, it had a sea horse at home in them.

There were two different sea horses on two different piles of rope, it’s always very nice to see sea horses even if they are camera shy. After 46 minutes and a maximum depth of 31m we exited the 19 degree water.

The breeze we had during the race on Saturday had been slowly increasing and now was quite strong. All those people in wetsuits ans semi-dries that were taking the P1$$ were now shivering and shaking and I was being very smug. We headed back to the shop in the minibus, two of the other divers had seen an octopus during the dive but were too far away from us to get our attention.

Puerto del Carmen House Reef

We were collected from our hotel again, this time to help with Ruth’s dive gear. We sorted out weights and cylinders and set off in the minibus again. This afternoons dive was the House Reef at Puerto del Carmen. Now there were two of us in drysuits watching the divers from this morning still shivering. We entered at the same place as before and swam along the reef by the coast. Simon showed Ruth an Arrow head crab which we don’t get in the UK then carried heading along the reef. Several mooring buoys with their ropes hanging down were visible, which seemed to attract fish and we passed several areas that were home to garden eels. As we got to what appeared to be the end of the shallow part of the reef Simon showed us a small cave, too small to go in far though. As we turned to swim out to sea a little we came across a transparent creature, I hadn’t seen one like it before. It had what look like a mouth, a clear skeleton and gulped water which it ejected out of its rear for propulsion. I thought it was a jelly fish but afterwards Simon told us he thought it was a Salp. Salps are Tunicates (Sea Squirts) and can be found all over the world, Simon said he thought this was a deep water one. I wish I had spent more time to get a good photo of it. We carried on swimming through a mass of old mooring ropes and came across a shopping trolley, they do get everywhere! It wasn’t long before we found ourselves back at the entry/exit point and finished the dive. 39 minutes at a maximum depth of 21m, Ruth enjoyed the dive but thought she was over weighted a bit so we would try and correct that for the next dive.

Dive 3 – Riches Reef

Tuesday morning dives are usually done from a boat, today was no exception. We had seen a boat at Puerto del Carmen yesterday and asked if that was the one, apparently it’s one of the few on the island. The boat leaves from the same steps on the quay as we had been diving from so we knew the routine, it was the same as shore diving there. To help Ruth I carried her weights and she carried my mask, fins and hood. I got on the boat, Ruth passed my mask, fins and hood to Simon who dropped it. Everyone got on the boat and Simon jumped in to retrieve them. We then made our way to Riches Reef, named after a well known diver on Lanzarote. They laid a plaque there for him on his favourite dive site after he died. We made our way along the bottom of the reef and up the far end.

Simon took us through a small tunnel cave then we headed along the top of the reef. Ruth was starting to get low on air so Simon took her back to the shotline while Sue and I swam around the top of the reef. Sue signalled that she saw something, I didn’t see anything, she told me afterwards it was a ray and couldn’t believe I didn’t see it. I told her about the time in Thailand when we missed a Manta that swam over our heads! Our maximum depth was a little deeper than expected but we still lasted the 50 minutes planned time.

Dive 4 – Puerto del Carmen Wall

The afternoons dive was planned at Mala but due to the increasing winds we had to return to Puerto del Carmen, Malas’ entry is down a ladder, the exit is not the easiest in the best conditions. Puerto Wall looked very familiar, very similar to the top of the Cathedral cave and Riches reef. We swam along the wall and various rocky outcrops when we came across a swimming Angel Shark, I started to follow it but didn’t want to lose the group so had to stop after a while. Apparently the grouper had turned up and followed me for a while, I didn’t see it. I could tell the site was popular with British divers as one of the mooring blocks had a Gnome on it! We had seen quite a few fish on this dive and was expecting it to end soon when Simon showed us a small cave. I had a torch so went in, it was a tunnel cave.

I started taking a few photos then everyone else followed me in and swam through the cave. There was some nice colours near the exit and it was very shallow helping the camera with it colours. We were now fairly close to the entry/exit and finished the dive shortly afterwards, we had 49 minutes and a maximum depth of 22m on this dive. There were plenty of shivering divers when we got out, it is nice to be smug when everyone teased us for taking drysuits.

Dive 5 – The Blue Hole

Usually another Mala day, the winds were now strong and cool, so Puerto del Carmen it was again. We were to dive the Blue Hole, apparently everyone else has a blue hole so why not Lanzarote? We swam out a little before dropping down. We had a bit of a swim ahead so I kept my eye out for anything interesting. A large anemone, lizard fish, more catfish and flatfish was it and we were at the wall. We dropped down and swam against a slight current towards the Blue Hole. Simon took us just past the Blue Hole to another small cave, we had a little look inside but couldn’t see the fish he mentioned. We then swam out and into the Blue Hole, it was Blue and it was a Hole, just a small tunnel cave really!

We made our way along the top of the reef and past the moorings and came back to the entry point. A shorter dive but it was a little deeper than most of the dives we had been on.

Summary

Overall we enjoyed our time and diving in Lanzarote. Average visibility was good at around 20m, water temperatures were 19 degrees for most of the time. It was a pity we couldn’t dive the Los Erizos wrecks, but apparently the harbour at Puerto del Carmen is being extended very close to the wrecks and diving has been banned while it is going on. It was also a pity we couldn’t dive at Mala but the winds put paid to that. I guess we’ll have to come back again to dive the other sites, I wouldn’t even mind diving the same sites again if the weather restricted us. Well worth taking a drysuit, not for the water temperature but for the air temperature if the wind is blowing. A good trip for those cold UK winter months, I’ll keep my eyes on the cheap last minute deals.