Diving in Ibiza

By Mark Mumford

I first went to Ibiza in 1979 with a friend whose family had been going there every year since about 1970. This was before Spain joined the EEC, and when English tourists were tolerated rather than welcomed. My second trip was in 1984 and the difference was enormous. All the touristy sites had been considerably developed, and the tourist industry was there to stay, along with hoards of Germans!

Ibiza has developed a reputation among many of being the cheaper and seedier Costa del Sol, full of discos and 'Fish con Chips'. Think of Club 18-30 holidays, and Ibiza will spring into the minds of many people.Having been there, and knowing people who still live there, I knew that by avoiding either San Antonio, or the long beach to the south of Ibiza town. that all the 18-30's and fish and chips would be avoided.

Ibiza was chosen for a number of reasons. I was familiar and comfortable with the island, Ibiza really is a cheap holiday location to go for (180 each for a week's self-catering apartment), and the Sirena Diving Centre had featured in Diver magazine in March 1991 (page 35). My companion, Barbara, who is a Dive Leader, and has been diving for 5 years now, had already had diving holidays in the Med, in Malta, Gozo, Menorca, and Turkey, and wanted to try somewhere new. Ibiza it was.

A few corrections to the Diver article are possibly needed. Peter Jenkins moved on last year, and sold his share of the business to Jeff Richardson, a BSAC Advanced Instructor, who is a broad scot with an very dry sense of humour, and (during the winter months) a ski instructor to boot. During the course of a week I watched him run one-day intro courses in English, Swedish, and German, as well as organising the other school staff in Spanish and French! The quoted price of 16 in fact is per full cylinder. What you do with it is your affair. If you can make it last 3 dives, then you won't be charged any more! That the most interesting scenery and life exists around the 6 metre mark obviously makes life easier, and provides a snorkelling alternative if you don't want to pay for another bottle. Discounts are available for quantity, with the price dropping to around 12 for a six-pack, or 10 for a ten-pack. They are quite happy to let you accumulate dives, then pay at the end of the week at the appropriate rate according to the number of dives that you have done.

The diving is easy from the spacious hard boat. Most dive locations are close to shore, yet with such volcanic islands, we dived on many sites where 40m depths within 50 yards of shore were available if wanted. The added bonus was that large shelves, full of life were also available with depths of between 10 and 4 metres. Deeper dives invariably ended by a long period of 'decompression' at 6 metres swimming around under the boat examining the wildlife, or watching the novices, until the air eventually got too low.

I'm afraid that I'm still not very good at identifying fish. I can make a reasonable guess at a Wrasse in English waters, but abroad I saw nothing that I could recognise, but an enormous variety of nothing! What was worth a stop and long look were the octopi, which were not common, but we managed to dive and find four of them in our week. Initially shy, once we settled down to watch them, they would watch back for a while, then come out of their holes and go about their business. Jeff demonstrated enormous faith on one dive by finding one just under the boat, and surfacing with it sat on top of his head. Talking to him about it afterwards, it seems (reasonably) that an octopus has more arms to take off your mask, and take out your D.V. than you have hands to put them back again! I'll leave it to people who know what they are doing!

The diving days were relaxed, with a start time of 11:00 am, with the boat eventually leaving at about 12:00. First stop was always something of interest for the experienced divers, frequently with options to go deep if people wanted, then moving on to sites where the intro's could take place safely, and we could have a second dive in shallower waters. The visibility was variable during the week, but seemed always to be in excess of 15m even at depth, and much more in the shallower, sunlight waters.

We had a wonderful, varied week's diving, getting in 9 dives over six days, slowly working up the depths to 40m on the last day. Surprisingly the sea seemed barren at depths in excess of 20m - no plant life or corals, and really no fish to be seen. Sea temperature was a comfortable 19 degrees, warm enough for me to dive with half a wetsuit plus hood. Others varied from full wetsuits, to thin 'shorties' with no complaints. I gather that the sea temperature reaches 26 in the middle of the summer. The only real danger present were large quantities of black spiny sea urchins which have long brittle spines. Wearing my gloves offered no protection, and on one dive I got the end of a spine in my thumb, which luckily came out cleanly, and straight- away. One of the novices on the last day put his full weight on one, and Barbara and I spent the best part of 45 minutes digging some 30 spines out of his hand with a needle and tweezers. These unaggressive but hazardous creatures live in shallow waters on rocky shores, so even if you are just swimming off rocky beaches, take a mask with you!

Diving finished when all the intros were complete, with the boat getting home sometime between 16:00 and 17:00. Facilities were available at the centre for rinsing kit, and room provided for suits and stabs to hang and dry overnight. As we had a car for the week (to get from the apartment to the dive centre on the other side of the island), we took the opportunity to explore a new beach or cove every day, some of which had spectacular snorkelling as good as the dive sites.

On the positive side, at the end of the week, Jeff took the time, and was kind enough to comment on our ordered and 'business-like' approach to our diving, which I attribute to our Club's training and Barbara's leadership - I put in an appropriate plug for Crawley branch which I hope will be remembered. An excellent week, with challenging and interesting diving. Not a shoe-string holiday, but probably as cheap a full week's diving as you are likely to find in the Med. Well worth while - I'll do it again any week!

This page was last updated on : 06 Sep 2011