This article was submitted by Evodiver
Medes Islands Marine Reserve, Mediterranean Sea
Despite its clarity, which creates the blue colour and good visibility that we divers enjoy, the Mediterranean sea has a very rich biodiversity, with a total of 10,000 to 12,000 recorded marine species, and new species still being discovered. The coastal zones supporting marine seagrasses like Posidonia oceanica are particularly productive as they are the breeding habitats for many important species.
Medes Islands Map
The Medes Islands Protected Zone, with its 65,000 annual dives, is a model of good management. All the underwater environments to be found in the Mediterranean are represented in the seabed around the Medes Islands, making this little archipelago an area of exceptional ecological value.
Medes Islands Marine Reserve
Did you know that Jacques Cousteau visited the Medes Islands in his marine research vessel Calypso back in 1955? He drew attention to the need to research, record and preserve the rich ecosystems that he found whilst diving there. Over 1,345 different marine species have been recorded there since that time and the Medes Islands ecosystem is deservedly classified as the best natural reserve in the western Mediterranean. There are 10 buoyed dive sites, providing diving all year around.
One of the most famous sites is Dolphin Cave, named after a statue at the southern entrance. The ?cave? is actually a tunnel, running 50 metres through a corner of the island at a depth of 8 to 12 metres, which is wide enough to drive a bus through. Inside is a resting place for some large groupers, brown meagres and shoals of silvery two banded bream. Along the reef outside divers glide through shoals of bream and clouds of anthias whilst looking into the blue for cruising eagle rays and visiting sunfish and dolphins. On the reef colourful wrasse fight over territory and construct algae nests, nudibranchs lay their eggs winding strands like wool amongst the algae, while large silver-blue dentex and groupers hunt out tasty octopus.
There is a second cave system nearby with its share of groupers, always ready to pose for photographs, and the most beautiful yellow, blue and red gorgonian corals illuminated by a vast funnel. Yellow cup corals cover the walls, scorpionfish perch camouflaged on ledges and moray and conger eels live in crevices. From here there is another, little known, tunnel that leads back through the island and out onto the reef again.
Protection of the islands began in 1983 with an Order of the Government of Catalonia, and in 1990 the protection was increased to the seabed flora and fauna, encouraging a spectacular recovery of the natural marine heritage and turning the area into a sanctuary for numerous species in danger of extinction. Some of the large Dusky groupers here are more than 25 years old. They are so used to divers that they have become very friendly and readily pose for photographs.
On 14 November 2008 a further decree was published approving a four year plan governing the use and management of the Medes Islands Protected Area. The Medes Islands Protected Zone covers an area of 93,2 hectares with another protected 418 hectare area stretching around the islands and up to the Montgri coast. A new Natural Park has just been declared by the Catalan Government to include the coast northward from the Montgri Massif all the way to Cala Montgo, L'Escala.
Scuba Diving at Medes Islands Marine Reserve
A range of depths provides dives for all levels from professional divers to absolute beginners and everyone can enjoy the colourful spectacle of underwater marine life of the Medes Islands. In the shallow areas we can explore a dense mantle of brightly lit seaweeds with over a hundred species hosting shoals of silvery bream, colourful wrasse, and exquisite nudibranchs. Below 10-15 meters we discover light-deprived algae and pretty pink fairy basslet, large predatory dentex, eagle rays, moray eels, octopus, lobster and big, friendly groupers. Below 20 meters we enter an area of beautiful gorgonian corals inhabited by over 600 species of fauna.
Caves at Medes Islands Marine Reserve
The numerous tunnels and caves indicate that this limestone archipelago was attached to the Montgri Massif over ten thousand years ago. Today caves around the Medes Islands and up the Montgri coast towards L'Escala provide outstanding opportunities for divers to experience (with a dive guide) the distinctive species that prefer to live in semi-darkness.
Wrecks at Medes Islands Marine Reserve
Along the coast from L?Escala lies the Reggio Messina, the largest ship that divers can visit on the Costa Brava, which was sunk deliberately in 1991. The Avenire, also known as the Marmoler due to the cargo of marble in its hold, sank in a storm off Cala Montgo near L'Escala in 1971. It is the only intact ship wreck in the area and sits upright on the seabed at 44 meters. The Constantine also lies near L?Escala. Due to its shallow position the wreck had to broken up and only the boilers remain intact.
A Painted Wrasse
Diving with autonomous breathing equipment
specific licence must be taken out for all diving to be undertaken at the Medes Islands . There is a charge of ?3.50 per dive. Vessels must be moored to the yellow buoys reserved for this activity.
For users who have their own boat:
The licence must be requested at the office of the Medes Islands Protected Area before diving, providing the following documentation:
? Diving qualification of 2nd class or higher, or international equivalent.
? Initiation-level qualified persons must be accompanied by a monitor with higher qualifications.
? Federation licence or private insurance.
? Vessel?s documentation (crew list).
Medes Island Marine Reserve Contact Details
Office of the Medes Islands Protected Area
Pg. del Port, s/n - Espigo de Llevant
Tel: 972 75 17 01
Fax: 972 75 20 04
Diving at Medes Islands Video