Port-Cros National Park covers 17 square kilometres of land and 29 square kilometres of water, the first national park in Europe to include both land and water. The park is home to 600 species of flora and 500 species of marine algae. Life abounds, with 144 species of birds, including 40 endangered species, 180 species of fish and some endemic land creatures such as geckos and frogs.
The park is also home to 30 permanent human residents, who must adhere to regulations put in place by the park administration. These restrictions also apply to the inhabitants of the protected area on Porquerolles as well as visiting tourists. The geographical location of the islands of Hyères has given the park immunity to the rising temperatures that the rest of the Mediterranean faces – the cause of a veritable algae plague on the French and Italian Mediterranean coast. The cold mistral wind, which blows south to the coast through the Rhône Valley, pushes the upper warm water layer off to the open sea. Not far from the coast, the seabed drops to over 2,000 metres, and the cold, clear water that flows from the depths regulates the waters of the region and preserves impressive biodiversity: Large shoals of fish such as barracuda, bream, goldfish and are abundant in the waters of Port-Cros.
THE GOLDEN ISLES – There are about 50 dive sites between the three islands of the Golden Isles. On land, hiking trails of various difficulties will excite the adventurer in you, while the bat cave in the Giens peninsula will delight the thrill-seekers.
Divers can enjoy the seven stunning wrecks found around the islands, with difficulty levels that range from beginner to the advanced deep-wreck diving at Le Donator and Le Grec.
Particularly popular is the area between PortCros and La Gebinière, which features dive sites that are among the most beautiful in the world. Large groupers, moray eels, octopuses and shoaling fish are always to be seen, and huge barracudas often swim by in the light current.
ABOVE An octopus hunts in the seagrass meadows of Port-Cros