We are delighted to invite you to get a glimpse of the marine life surrounding El Hierro through the lens of Carlos Minguell and his wife and partner Catalina Perales-Raya, an underwater photography team from El Hierro.
Since 1993 this dynamic duo has won over a 100 photo contests and their work has appeared in many publications. They also teach UW photo workshops on all levels.
Of all the islands in the Canary Archipelago, El Hierro is perhaps the least known. This “seventh island” has always remained on the sidelines of the comings and goings of tourists, to the great satisfaction of those who love it and wish it will always stay exactly as it is.
El Hierro is also the smallest of the Canaries and is located in the extreme southwest of the chain. Its 278 sq km offer a tremendous variety of scenery: from the arid slate-like landscape and the volcanic formations of the south and west to the fertile land in the valley of “El Golfo” with vineyards and plantations in the northwest.. El Hierro’s coasts are rocky and very steep, with inaccessible cliffs up to 1000 meters high and yet sheltering coves with natural swimming pools which beckon the visitor to take a refreshing swim in their cool waters.
On this island too, you can make the most of the well-known Eternal Spring’ climate of the Canaries, with sub-tropical vegetation in the fertile areas contrasting with the fascinating volcanic landscape in other parts of the island. As El Hierro is the westernmost island, it was and is the last speck of land before the coast of America. This was once the end of the known world, and even today it feels remote. There is little tourism here, and locals are stoic and hardworking.
But perhaps even more of a hidden secret is the underwater world surrounding El Hierro. The typically calm waters of the so appropriately called “Mar de Las Calmas” contain 25 known dive sites and the island is home to several dive centers. The waters of el Hierro were officially declared a marine sanctuary in 1996 and this fact is celebrated by a yearly photo competition. El Hierro was also declared a biosphere reservation by the UNESCO in the year 2000.
Best Dive Sites in El Hierro
There is a whole list of records for El Hierro: the poorest, the smallest, the most sparsely populated, the youngest and the most volcanoes in the whole of the archipelago. But it is also the island with the most challenging diving spots and reportedly the best diving in Spanish waters. Here are a few dive spots we heard of:
The spots off La Restigna belong to the most beautiful in Europe. This small place lies on the Southern point of the island near the “Mar de las Calmas” – the Calm Sea. Favored not only by the fishermen but also by divers. It is possible to dive in all weathers in this spot.
La Restigna, surrounded by hills with bizarre lava formations, is the driest corner of the island, there is no hotel and one must stay in a pension or apartment. The dive spots are grouped around the Southern point and all have one thing in common: the moment the currents come from the right direction, the divers can see for great distances. Also round the harbor area of La Restigna interesting dives can be undertaken.Visibility averages 15 metres and on exceptional days can be up to
40-50 metres”: The average visibility is more than 20m.
Outside the harbor the seabed becomes steep very quickly. While places off La Palma are steep, off El Hierro the “drop-offs” are vertical. Only a few hundred metres from the coast is the legendary “El Bajon”, lots of currents, exposed and deep. Theoretically you can see the complete Atlantic fauna swimming past, you just needs a bit of luck. You can certainly see fish in great numbers.
No less exciting is “Baja Ribera”, a steep exciting needle of rock with lots of currents. The crevasses offer a home to Dragonheads, Morays and Lobsters. You can relax in the coolness on the needles plateau hoping that in the currents rushing by the fish cinema will be on.
Don’t forget to also dive “Cueva de Don Justo” (Don Justo’s Cave), a volcanic tunnel that is 6 km. long, and Lajial Natural Park.
Getting to El Hierro
There are regular flights from all major European cities to the the airports in Tenerife; los Rodeos (better for connecting flights to other islands and Reina Sofia (the airport if you are planning to catch a ferry).There are three flights nearly every day connecting El Hierro to Los Rodeos on Tenerife; there are two a week to Gran Canaria.
While flying to the smaller island is convenient, it’s usually cheaper to catch one of the ferries, which sail between island ports. The connections between Tenerife and the western islands are good but you are advised to plan it well in order to not lose a day waiting for the ferry.
When to Visit El Hierro
The year-round sunshine ensures that the waters surrounding el Hierro remain warm and clear. The climate is mild so diving all year round is possible. The water temperatures are between 25°C in September and 18°C in February.
El Mar de las Calmas is protected from the dominant northeast wind. There is a good diving all year round, althoug the water temperature decreases in winter, but
never less than 18ºC.