PORT-CROS

Scuba Diver Australasia - - Feature: Marine Sanctuaries Around The World - By Claudia We­ber-Ge­bert

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.

MUST-SEE

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

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