It is not a small yellow bird but Monk Seals also referred to as “sea dogs”, which gave the name to a Spanish Archipelago known as Islas Canarias. Now seals are rarely found on the Islands being endangered species. However, you can plunge into the world of Angel Sharks, Rays, Whales, incredible lava formations, and into the drowned world of the first underwater sculpture museum in Europe.
Islas Canarias is a Spanish volcanic archipelago located in the North Atlantic Ocean 100km (62mi) from the coast of Morocco. These are autonomous communities with the largest islands of Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Fuerteventura, La Palma, Lanzarote, El Hierro, and La Gomera. Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Las Palmas de Gran Canaria are the 2 capitals of the Archipelago.
International flights are accepted by the airports on Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura, Lanzarote, and La Palma. The remaining big islands have only domestic flights which are usually serviced by CanaryFly and Binter Canarias.
Traveling between the islands can be done via the ferry service. There are 3 main companies providing transportation around the Archipelago. For islands exploration, you can choose either public buses or rent a car.
The most important environmental factors which influence the Canaries are cold oceanic currents, Canary current, warm Gulf Stream, and the nearby Western Sahara. Active tectonics of the region creates dramatic rocky seascapes with swim-throughs, crevices, caves, lava tunnels, and underwater arches. Because of this mixture each Island can offer something spectacular and different in comparison with others.
There are several marine reserves around the Canary Islands. The most famous are La Reserva Marina de Cabrón at Gran Canaria where diving is usually performed from the shore; La Restinga Marine Reserve near El Hierro with emerged new volcano, Turtle sanctuary, Rays, Barracudas, and occasional Whale Sharks; Marine Reserve Island of La Graciosa next to Lanzarote which is the biggest marine reserve in Europe; and Marine Reserve of the southwestern coast of La Palma with Groupers, Eagles Rays, and Black Corals.
Gran Canaria features more than 50 shipwrecks. Most of the dive sites are located on the southern and eastern coasts. Here you can try both boat and shore diving depending on location.
Tenerife offers subtropical species, typical fauna of the Atlantic Ocean, big pelagic, and mammals. Mount Teide is the highest point of Spain and it influences the climate of Tenerife contributing to calmer sea conditions in this area in autumn and winter.
Dive spots of Fuerteventura are concentrated around towns of Corralejo and Jandia. El Hierro offers La Restina as the main diving location which can be found on the southern part of the Island. The diving area of Lanzarote is the southern coast. If you travel to La Palma, then it is better to stay in the southern or eastern areas of the Island. La Gomera is a less touristic destination in comparison with other islands and the best dive spots can be found near San Sebastian on the eastern side, Playa de Santiago on the southern side, and Valle Gran Rey on the western side.
The selection of dive shops is huge, there are more than 100 dive clubs located in different spots of the Archipelago. In the case of emergency, there are 3 hyperbaric chambers on Gran Canaria, Tenerife, and Fuerteventura. If you are visiting one of the peaks on the islands between the dives, you should pay attention to the surface interval and changes in altitude when planning the next dives.
Water around the Islands can be quite chilly and there are areas with thermoclines. In this connection 5-7mm wetsuit or a dry suit with the gloves and a hood are highly recommended.
There are no liveaboards around the Canary Islands. The best way to explore different islands is to spend some time in different areas and enjoy daily diving tours usually from Zodiacs.
Best Dive Sites Overview
Los Chuchos (Tenerife)
This dive site, which is also referred to as Stingray Village, is located in the area of Los Gigantes which features steep cliffs, underwater caverns, tunnels, and caves. Aside from fascinating landscapes and seascapes this dive spot is famous for a large number of Eagle Rays, Common Stingrays, and Round Stingrays. Due to the regular feedings, these close relatives of sharks gather at the depth of 20m (65ft.) near the small rocks to taste some old fish provided by the divers. Angel Shark, Barracuda, Jacks, and Tuna also reside in this area. If you proceed to sandy spots you can see dozens of Garden Eels as well as Flatfish.
Tunnel & the Cave of the Evil Beast (Tenerife)
If you wish to try diving in a lava tunnel, then this dive site near Puerto de la Cruz is for you. This is a horizontal tunnel in a reef with a spacious entrance and several exits. It is 4m (13ft.) high, 60m (196ft.) long, and 10m (32ft.) wide. Not far from the entrance you can find the hole in the ceiling which is 3m (9ft.) wide and it is possible to surface there. There is also a cave in the nearby reef at the depth of 20m (65ft.) with Anemones. Usually, divers encounter a whole bunch of empty shells in this cave. No one knows for sure who the devourer is. In this connection local dive clubs refer to this spot as the Cave of the Evil Beast. It might be a good idea to take a torch with you for this dive.
Bajada del Realejo (Tenerife)
For shark sightings, local dive shops recommend visiting Bajada del Realejo. Only experienced divers are allowed here as this a deep sea diving with the maximum depth of 40m (131ft.). It is common to see Hammerhead Sharks as well as other big pelagic and Morays around this area.
Arona (Gran Canaria)
There are many wrecks around Gran Canaria to choose from. However, Arona in Port of Las Palmas is one of the 2 biggest wrecks. She used to be a 100m (328ft.) long merchant vessel. While transporting the goods in 1972, there was a fire in the engine room which resulted in explosions. The vessel was supposed to be towed to the port. Nonetheless, Arona sank before she entered the harbor. Now she is a beautiful artificial reef with a wide range of marine fauna which is recommended for advanced divers. The depth ranges between 24-36m (78-118ft.). The second largest wreck is The Kalais. But currently, diving is restricted there due to the port expansion.
El Cabrón (Gran Canaria)
This is a Marine Reserve located on the south-eastern coast of Gran Canaria near Arinaga featuring more than 10 dive sites. All of them are usually accessed from the shore. You need to be careful when entering and exiting from the dive through the rocks especially with the high tide. This area is famous for its rich biodiversity which is distributed between the rock platform going down to 9m (29ft.) and a shelf at 23m (75ft.) with a sandy bottom. Great variety of critters, Angel Sharks, Rays, and various species of fish can be found here.
The Cathedral and the Blue Hole (Lanzarote)
These are the 2 most famous spots near Lanzarote recommended for advanced divers. You can enter the dive site from the beach of Playa Chica with a short surface swim to the edge of the bay. There you will find the Cathedral. It is a breathtaking cave covered with Sponges, soft corals, Tube Worms, and Anemones. You can also spot Groupers, Angel Sharks, Morays, Barracudas, and Garden Eels here.
Blue Hole, called Agujero Azul by the locals, starts at 22m (72ft.) with the deepest point at 28m (91ft.). You can swim through the hole into the blue. It is said that the hole was formed by a bubble while lava was flowing. There is also the area called “Bubble Garden” where the air is coming out from the sand. The maximum depth of the dive here is 33m (108ft.).
Museo Atlantico (Lanzarote)
When staying at Lanzarote do not miss a chance to admire fantastic underwater sculptures created by the world’s famous Jason deCaires Taylor. He is a diving instructor, an underwater conservationist, and an underwater photographer creating unique underwater museums all over the world. At Lanzarote, you can find 35 realistic sculptures at the depth of 15m (49ft.) with some more sculptures to come. Cold water in the Atlantic Ocean results in slow coral growth, so statues are expected to remain in good shape for a long time.
El Bajon del Rio (Fuerteventura)
There are many spots with basaltic rock formations around the Canary Islands. This dive site near Fuerteventura features one of such seascapes with 10m (32ft.) high volcanic rocks in the forms of mushrooms. Marine life is abundant here. You can expect to meet various species of Bream, Jacks, Barracuda, Angel Shark, Ornate Wrasse, Parrotfish, Triggerfish, Glass-eyes, Scorpionfish, and Stingrays. The maximum depth here is 18m (59ft.).
La Carrera (Fuerteventura)
This is a nice spot for all levels of divers to enjoy caves, crevices, and a trench in rocky formations with sandy spots. The bottom is located at the depth of 16m (52ft.). You can look around for Angel Sharks, Eagle Rays, Groupers, Lobsters, Barracuda, Jacks, and Morays around this area.
El Bajon (El Hierro)
This dive site is located not far from La Restinga harbor. There is a pinnacle starting at 9m (29ft.) and going into the abyss. There is usually strong current in this area which attracts pelagic. It is common to see huge schools of Jacks, Tuna, Parrotfish, and Trumpetfish at this spot. Occasionally, Manta and Turtles visit this area.
Best Dive Season
The calmest ocean conditions and the best visibility are usually seen between September and February in the Canary Islands. However, if you prefer warm water, it is recommended to visit the Islands during July and October.
During October-November, there is usually the largest number of encounters with Hammerhead Sharks while the period between December and April provides opportunities of seeing Angel Sharks.
The Canary Islands offer unforgettable diving all the year through. The water temperature varies between the lowest 18ºC (64ºF) in March and the highest 23-24ºC (73-75ºF) between September and October. The Islands are famous for their stable weather conditions. The period between June and August can be windy resulting in the swell.
Visibility stays between 10-40m (32-131ft.) depending on the dive site. Currents are witnesses in deeper areas and remote dive sites.
Stable water temperature hardly going higher than 24ºC (75ºF) does not stimulate the fast growth of corals around the Canaries. Most of the seascapes are formed on the basis of volcanic rocks. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of spots with beautiful soft corals like Anemones, Sponges, Clams, and rare Black Coral.
The Canary Islands have a unique mixture of tropical, Mediterranean, and Atlantic fauna. There are 1000 species of invertebrates and 700 species of fish found around the Islands. The most common are Wrasse, Damselfish, Parrotfish, Glass-eyes, Grouper, Barracuda, Jacks, Pufferfish, Goatfish, Lizardfish, Trumpetfish, and Triggerfish. Countless crevices, caves, and rock formations host various Nudibranchs, Octopuses, Morays, Crabs, Shrimps, Lobsters, and Cuttlefish.
86 species of sharks and rays have been identified in the area around the Islands which makes the Canary Islands the most diversified underwater ecosystem in the European Union. Angel Shark is the most commonly seen species as well as Hammerhead Shark in several spots. The most common rays are Round Stingray, Marbled Electric Ray, Eagle Ray, Common Stingray, and Butterfly Ray. There is a chance to see occasional Manta Ray and Bull Ray. Rarely seen but still present in the waters around the Canaries are Mako Shark, Bull Shark, Guitarfish, Silky Shark, and Nurse Shark.
Loggerhead Turtle is widely spread around the Islands. Dolphins and Whales can be seen all the year round. The most common species are Pilot Whale, Sperm Whale, Beaked Whales, False Killer Whale, Orca, and Short-finned Pilot Whale.
The choice of hotels, resorts, and apartments on the Canary Islands is very big especially on Gran Canaria and Tenerife, which are the main touristic areas. Dive centers are rarely integrated with any of the resorts. So you can book your diving with one of the shops in advance and they will organize a daily pick-up from your accommodation. It should be noted that all beaches in Spain are public and resorts rarely have private access to the beach.
Radisson Blu Resort Gran Canaria
The Resort is located in the southern part of Gran Canaria. There are various types of Rooms and Suites offered to the guests. Some of them can accommodate up to 8 adults. All Rooms are equipped with a balcony, A/C, a private bathroom, and a sitting area. There are 2 children pools, 1 freshwater, 1 seawater pool, a gym, Spa, Hammam, sauna, and a tennis court on site. There are 2 bars and a rooftop terrace offering beautiful views of the Atlantic Ocean.
Grancanariarent Playa de Arinaga
This is an apartment for 6 persons located in the village of Arinaga in the south-eastern part Gran Canaria in front of El Cabrón Marine Park. The apartment features 3 bedrooms, a fully-equipped kitchen, a balcony, and a washing machine. There are bars, restaurants, and a supermarket nearby.
Sandos San Blas Nature Resort & Golf
This luxury Resort offers accommodation in Rooms or Suites on an all-inclusive basis. Each Room has a private balcony and a bathroom with a hydromassage. Guests can use various facilities like 8 pools, 4 bars including a pool bar, 2 buffet restaurants, tennis courts, volleyball courts, a fitness center, and a mini-spa. There are a night club and evening entertainment programs on site. The Resort provides free shuttle buses to and from Playa de las Americas.
Villa Oasis del Duque
If you prefer to stay in a private Villa, then it is recommended to choose Oasis del Duque in the south-western part of Tenerife. This is a spacious modernly designed 4-level Villa. Up to 8 guests can be accommodated in 4 bedrooms. There is an elevator for the comfort of guests as well as a large salon, fully-equipped kitchen, a gym, and a swimming pool of 84 m² (904ft²).
Aparthotel Esquinzo Y Monte Del Mar
This aparthotel is located in the southern part of Fuerteventura. There are Studios, One-Bedroom Apartments, and Duplex Apartments. Each Room has a private bathroom, a kitchenette, and a balcony. There are 2 pools, a buffet restaurant, and a bar on site.
Villas Oasis Papagayo Sport & Family
These spacious Villas are located on the northern coast of Fuerteventura. Each Villa has a private 6x3m (19x9ft.) swimming pool, 2 bathrooms, kitchen, a washing machine, a private garden, a sun deck, BBQ facilities, and a roof terrace with the views of the Ocean. Guests can also use the facilities of the nearby Hotel belonging to the same group where a big pool, restaurants, and a bar are located.
If you prefer a rustic-style accommodation that it might be a good idea to choose Salazar on the eastern coast of La Palma. This private property can accommodate 8 persons. There are 4 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, fully equipped kitchen, outdoor dining area, and BBQ area in this holiday home.
Other Activities For Non-Divers
If you are interested in snorkeling, it is best to stay on Gran Canaria. The best snorkeling spot can be found in the southern part of the Island within El Cabrón Marine Park; near Sardina del Norte where it is possible to spot Angel Sharks and rays near the jetty; or at the rocks of Amadores beach where you can spot Octopuses, Damselfish, Anemones, Gobies, and Bream.
Tours and Activities
There are so many land activities on the Canary Islands that you might think of reserving some additional days for that. For those who like animals and birds, it is recommended to visit Loro Park on the northern coast of Tenerife famous for its Orca and Parrots shows. There is also Jungle Park and Monkey Park on Tenerife. Palmitas Park located on Gran Canaria offers fantastic daily open air Birds of Prey shows. The Island of Lanzarote features one of the best Aquariums on the Canary Islands where it is possible to swim with the sharks.
If you are staying on Tenerife, do not miss a chance to visit El Teide, the highest mountain in Spain. When traveling from the coast to the mountain you will notice how the landscape changes from rocks and cactuses to tropical forest followed by Mars-style landscapes. Such movies as “The Fast and the Furious”, “Clash of the Titans”, and many others were filmed in the area around el Teide.
Dolphin and Whales watching tours are very popular in the Canary Islands all the year round. This is usually half-day trips. Different operators offer fishing boats, speedboats, and even catamarans with underwater viewing stations.