Diving in the Middle East
Diving in the Canary Islands
The Canaries are an excellent place to dive ... not as vivid in colour as tropical destinations, but more prolific that the Mediterranean, with sharks, rays, turtles and wrecks and plenty of brightly coloured fish, and we will also explain, sea conditions, weather, family and health factors.
Diving in the Canary Islands
The first surprise is that the Canaries and Red Sea Resorts are both as far South!. Two popular diving destinations, Sharm-el-Sheik in Egypt and Arinaga in Gran Canaria both sit at Latitude 27.85º.
Yet because of the geography surrounding both, the Canaries have a slightly cooler sub-tropical climate, while the Red-Sea has a warmer Tropical climate. In summer the difference in water temperature is significant with temperatures over 30ºC in the water in some Middle East dive sites, while the Canaries reach a peak of about 24ºC; however in winter the difference is much less, with the Red Sea cooling to low 20's while the Canaries, warmed by the Gulf stream in the Atlantic, only drop to around 18ºC.
Secondly, many people think that as the Canaries are 'in the Atlantic' that they suffer from the same sort of stormy weather, icebergs and cold water that could be used as a backdrop for a remake of 'Titanic'.
The reality is that weather conditions are very stable in the Canaries, with high pressure from the 'Azores High' for much of the year and steady trade winds in summer. Just like the Red Sea, the Canaries can have odd stormy days, but if you look at our history of diving conditions in Arinaga you will see that we dive nearly every day of the year.
The Canaries have always been renown for their sunshine, and even in winter there will be
the chance to top up the tan on the non-diving days. Surface temperatures in Egypt can sizzle
at over 45ºC in summer, while in the Canaries a temperature of around 35ºC is more common,
with the trade winds cooling the air. Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria is rated as
having one of the world's best 'City' climates - not too hot in summer yet comfortably
warm in winter.
This difference is enough to restrict coral growth in the Canaries yet the diving conditions can be very similar, with good water clarity for most of the year in both areas. The Canary Islands have a range of colourful fish including Parrotfish, wrasse, damselfish, glass-eyes and more, and if the Canary Islands lack the variety of the Middle East, there are many species common to both areas, including lizardfish, goatfish, pufferfish, barracudas and moray eels which can be found in abundance here in the Canaries.
More of interest to divers, is that the volcanic seabed has many dramatic rock formations that can be a major attraction to diving in the Canaries. The volcanic rock has been eroded in many of our dive sites to create caves, swim-throughs and spectacular underwater arches. And if you like the dark it is easier to organise a night dive in the Canaries, as they are not hindered by 'Security Restrictions'.
If you are bringing your camera to take underwater photos then there are plenty of colourful subjects, such as cleaner shrimps, tiger morays, glasseyes, parrotfish, damselfish and wrasse. Watch the video below of just one dive in Gran Canaria and you will get a good idea of the variety and colours of the marine life here.
The Canaries are also a great place to see bigger species, such as angel sharks and rays.
There are five common species of rays (common, round, marbled electric, eagle and butterfly
ray) and occasional visits from rough-tailed, and bull rays, manta rays (in autumn) and
Another misconception is that diving in the Canaries is a bit like the Mediterranean. Fortunately this is not the case, as the Canaries have not suffered from the over-fishing of the Mediterranean, and are much warmer all year round than the Med. Diving in one of the high-energy dive sites of the Canaries such as the El Cabrón Marine Reserve in Arinaga is a very different experience to some of the relatively lifeless areas in the Mediterranean.
Finally, if you are into wreck diving rather than reef, then Las Palmas in Gran Canaria has one of the best collections of diveable wrecks in the Atlantic. "The wrecks here are bigger and better than most Red Sea wrecks" is what one photo-journalist said when he did his first dive on the Arona outside Las Palmas.
So where are the best places to dive in the Canaries?
- El Hierro is one of the top locations, but it is also one of the most difficult to get to especially from Northern Europe. You have to fly to Tenerife then get a ferry to the Island.
- Gran Canaria is the most Southerly Island, and the El Cabrón Marine Reserve in Arinaga, is one hot-spot that is easy to get to, where you can regularly and safely see angel sharks in winter. It was highlighted by PADI as one of 'Three Incredible Marine Reserves' in a recent Blog post
- Los Gigantes in Tenerife is famous for the stingrays, which some of the dive centres feed by hand
- Las Palmas on Gran Canaria has the biggest wrecks, including the Arona and Frigorifica, and the 'Catedral' is a dive into huge underwater caverns that should not be missed.
- Puerto del Carmen in Lanzarote has several wrecks close to the harbour.
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PADI Training Courses in the Canary Islands
When it comes to Scuba diver training, there is little to choose in terms of facilities and structure between the Canary Islands and the Middle East. Both have long established, professional training Schools, which are regulated by their governments to achieve high standards of safe training. There are schools which cover PADI, BSAC, CMAS, ACUC and several other training brands throughout the Canaries. Particularly for those looking to fit in a course quickly, the ability to vary flight days can mean that you do not need to spend a full week away to get a qualification that is done in two or three days. Diving hot-spots such as the El Cabrón Marine Reserve make an excellent place to take courses such as the PADI Open Water Course because you get to see lots of interesting marine life such as cuttlefish, arrowhead crabs, octopus, trumpetfish, parrotfish, damselfish, wrasse and much more on all the training dives. We run courses all year round in the El Cabrón Marine Reserve so there are no restrictions on when you can do your course.
Canary Islands for Families?
With current safety concerns, regional volatility and terrorism threats across the Middle East, if you have a family with you they will feel safer and secure in the Canary Islands. The Canaries have a much better developed infrastructure for tourists, and are a modern, western country with a stable economy, good communications and government, and they have created an open and accessible tourist economy with a wide range of family and adventure options.
There is a huge range of accommodation in the Canaries from simple apartments to five star luxury. Packages are easy to organise and there are plenty of flights from all over Europe. In contrast, many families feel constrained by the security, religious and cultural differences in the Middle East. For families in particular, with a mix of diving and non-diving members, the Spanish Canary Islands offers options such as theme parks, carnivals, concerts, unrestricted travel, car hire and diversity which are more and more difficult to find in some parts of the Middle East.
If you want a good dive destination without a seven hour flight then you should come and
try diving in the Canaries. The Canaries have much more variety of diving than the Mediterranean, as
well as warmer seas and are open all year round. If you are worried by the political uncertainties or heavy security in
the Middle East, or looking for a short 'winter sun' break with a couple of days diving, or perhaps a
family holiday where diving is just part of the mix, then the Canary Islands have many
When you take into account the ease and frequency of flights to the Canaries; low-cost flights from Ryanair and others; Euro pricing and currency and good technology support and infrastructure; then the Canaries can make a great place for a 'long diving weekend' or mixed activity trip.
Still got questions about diving in the Canaries? Please do not hesitate to contact us and we will be happy to help!.