The French Riviera may not be the first place that springs to mind when planning a dive holiday but think again. Diamond Diving, located on the glamorous Cote D’Azur, is attracting divers of all abilities with its clear, warm waters and abundance of sea life. Contrary to what many assume, this part of the Med is not ‘all fished out’ and has a thriving ecosystem, which can be enjoyed from late March through to November. Better still, holidaymakers can ditch the short haul flight, reduce their carbon footprint and travel down to the South of France on the Eurostar and TGV.
Protected by a number of government initiatives, the ecosystem in this part of the Med has seen a marked improvement over the past 15 years and certainly offers those with an ecological conscience a ‘greener’ option for diving. With Barracuda, Grouper and a whole array of spectacular sea life and wrecks, the South of France provides the best of both worlds; stunning diving, close to home.
Professor Patrice Francour, Director for Ecology of Marine and Ecosystems and Reponses to Stress, at Nice University explains:
‘In the 1980s the French authorities launched an ambitious program of waste water treatment and scientific studies highlight a steady improvement of water quality, which for divers means less muddy water areas and more clear waters. The banning of spear fishing of Grouper has seen that population of fish increase from 3 to 7 times in the last 15 years. ‘
The Port-Cros National Park, created in 1963 covers 1288 hectares of sea area, around the island of Port-Cros, one of three islands (Levant and Porquerolles are the other two) near the Giens peninsula, Hyeres and Toulon. They are equally positive about the ecosystem in this area and state:
‘A growing number of professional dive centres are bringing clients to dive and experience the magic offered by these protected areas. The dive sites are renowned as amongst the best in the Mediterranean. There are a number of measures that have been put in place to protect marine life including; conservation functions to retain or restore biodiversity through protection of species and habitats; management of human activity, particularly fishing, to enable populations of fish that are over exploited to reconstitute locally and education to encourage all users (including divers) to adopt responsible and respectful behaviour.’
They go on to explain that dive centres, clubs and independent divers wishing to dive in the Park must sign an agreement that outlines correct behaviours for dive boats and divers.
Diamond Diving is a UK, family run company with in-depth knowledge of the French diving system, French language and local points of interest. Dedicated to customer service and delivering bespoke itineraries, Diamond Diving can design a diving holiday to suit most requirements and budgets.
‘As a small, independent company, we ensure that each client is looked after from the beginning to the end of their holiday. From picking them up on arrival, taking them to handpicked accommodation, providing transfers to the dive centres and accompanying them aboard the dive boat, we aim to make each client’s holiday an enjoyable and memorable experience. ‘
Starting from as little as £199 for a three night, three dive weekend or £229 for a four night, five dive weekend (excluding air or train fares) Diamond Diving gives sound value for money. The company also offers a range of PADI courses, many of which can be included within a weekend, including developing skills such as photography and buoyancy which enhance environmental awareness and reduce diver impact.
For more information about destinations, dive options and prices contact: Diamond Diving on:
(00 44) 01908 234 030 or visit http://www.diamonddiving.net/
Alex Diamond (BSc (Econ)), Managing Director, is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer and Emergency First Response Instructor. He is also a CMAS Instructor ** and most importantly holds the French Brevet D’Etat – the government recognised scuba diving instructor qualification. Alex is one of only a handful of English nationals ever to have qualified fully in the French system. This gives him a unique understanding and insight into the French diving scene
A Unique Offering
Diamond Diving’s overall offering, combined with the charms of the French Riviera creates a uniquely enjoyable dive travel experience. The following are some of the main reasons for this, but please also consult the testimonials section for the views of some of our recent clients:
• Small and personal groups. A maximum of twelve clients per trip. You will feel well looked after.
• Transfers. We are a small company. You will not be left waiting around forever at the airport for reasons that never become clear. We will pick you up promptly and get you to your hotel in comfort. Daily transfers between dive centre and hotel are also part of the service, and included in the price.
• The language barrier. Particularly on the dive boat, this will not be an issue. Alex’s extensive experience of the language and French diving system will avoid misunderstandings, enabling safe and informative dive briefings. We know the centres we use well, and you will be looked after and made to feel very welcome.
• All of the dive centres and hotels we use have been chosen following site visits, with a view to offering the best in value, atmosphere and quality for our clients.
• Hotels, particularly the two star options have been chosen on the strength of their aesthetics, location and independent status
What will you see? A common misconception is that the French Med is “fished out” and that the locals have eaten most of the sea-life. This is a long way from the truth and from having dived along the coast regularly between 2004 and 2007 we can say definitively that fish populations are at a good level and on the rise. Depending on the time of year that you choose to dive with us, among the highlights you might see are:
• Barracuda (either solitary or schooling)
• Moray eels and cleaner shrimps
• Conger eels
• Dentex (pelagic snapper)
The coldest that French Mediterranean waters typically descend to is 12/13 degrees centigrade in the middle of winter. This means you can get away with a semi-dry in all but the foulest of “out of water” weather conditions.
The current trend is towards slightly milder temperatures particularly towards the end of the season. For example as late as mid November 2006 water temperatures were holding at 20 degrees.
Diamond Diving runs diving holidays in five destinations; Nice, Antibes, St Raphael, Ste Maxime and La Londe les Maures, all of which can be reached by TGV. Diamond Diving will arrange pick up from the relevant train station (Nice, Antibes, St Raphael or Toulon) or in the case of flying, the airports of Nice and Toulon.
In a protected area like Port-Cros national park, fish density increases noticeably:
• Quantity of large sea bream observed between10 and 12 metres has multiplied by 15
• The Brown Grouper, emblematic fish of the Mediterranean, nearly disappeared from the French coast. The population has rejuvenated and is growing again. At Port-Cros, from 93 censored in 1993, the figure grew to 410 in 2002 and then 473 in 2005, an increase of 400%. On top of this the coexistence of Grouper of all sizes, including the largest, at shallow depths is the most telling result of their protection. This is particularly due to the ban on spear fishing.
• A study recently published in 2007 has shown the increase in the number of species of fish in the rocky zones of the waters of Port-Cros. This is between 88/89 and 05/06. Notably the presence of Dentis and Common Sea Bream.