Wel­come to the Medes Is­lands, one of the most lav­ish marine sanc­tu­ar­ies in Europe

Scuba Diver Australasia - - Oceans'11 - Text and Im­ages by

In the north­ern part of the Mediter­ranean, just off the coast of Spain, is a small ar­chi­pel­ago that hap­pens to be one of the most vis­ited dive des­ti­na­tions in Europe.

Just one nau­ti­cal mile from the port of the fish­ing vil­lage of L’Es­tar­tit, in the Span­ish prov­ince of Girona (in the Au­tonomous Re­gion of Cataluña), the Medes Is­lands are made up of seven islets. The two largest are Meda Grande and Meda Pe­queña. The to­pog­ra­phy of th­ese is­lands makes them havens for life in the vast Mediter­ranean.

ABUN­DANCE PRO­TECTED

Be­ing so close to L’Es­tar­tit, it is no won­der that, for gen­er­a­tions, this area was the main lo­cal fish­ing ground. Sci­en­tists soon started to study and un­der­stand the im­por­tance of the bi­o­log­i­cal rich­ness of th­ese is­lands. How­ever, it was not un­til 1990, fol­low­ing a pro­posal made by the Span­ish Fed­er­a­tion of Un­der­wa­ter Ac­tiv­i­ties, that the Medes Is­lands Pro­tected Area was cre­ated. It be­came one of the most im­por­tant marine pro­tected ar­eas (MPA) in the Mediter­ranean.

Twenty years later, in 2010, this pro­tected area was in­te­grated into the larger Nat­u­ral

Park of Mont­grí, Is­las Medas and Baixo Ter, sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand­ing the pro­tected area, and fa­cil­i­tat­ing more in­te­grated and sus­tained en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment and con­ser­va­tion.

SOME­THING FOR EV­ERY­ONE

De­pend­ing on your per­sonal pref­er­ences, and the level of com­fort you might de­sire, there is a dive cen­tre in L’Es­tar­tit that can ac­com­mo­date you. From large boats, up to 20 me­tres long, with lift plat­forms for ef­fort­less en­tries and ex­its, to tra­di­tional rigid-in­flat­able boats of seven or eight me­tres, which pro­vide more per­son­alised and re­laxed ex­pe­ri­ences for smaller groups.

There are dive sites for all tastes, from ver­ti­cal walls drop­ping into the depths, to shel­tered, shal­low bays, and the fa­mous caves of La Vaca and Dofi, where qual­i­fied and ex­pe­ri­enced divers can ex­plore tun­nels pa­trolled by large and friendly groupers. (It is worth

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