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ISSUE 14 ARCHIVE - CORSICA: PLENTY OF FISH IN THE SEA

Juliette Claro

Who said there are no more fish in the Mediterranean? I did, until I dived in the Natural Marine Conservation Park of Corsica and Sardinia. I was a bit sceptical at first, despite great dives in the North of the island around Calvi and Ile Rousse, but as soon as we descended on the little house reef out of Palombaggia I was stunned by the life in these waters.

Corsica lies South East of France, and despite being a French territorial collectivity in its own right since 1769, you will find the locals consider themselves Corsican rather than French. It is a lovely island, unspoilt and wild, which offers some of the best diving in the Mediterranean, and some of the best food in the world. How could you not resist?

Diving around the North of the island will offer plenty for reefers and wreckers: from the WWII B17 bomber out of Calvi, to amazing drop off walls and caves near Ile Rousse, the North has fantastic dive sites for beginners to more advanced divers. Hippocampe dive centre on the port of Calvi will take you on dives or training in the Harpic Blue waters near by.

Most of the South West of the island is part of a European Nature Reserve where fishing and harpooning is strictly regulated... well as much as you can regulate the French and the Italians not to abuse the holes in the system. The policy has been a success and the biomass and sea life from the Gulf of Porto Vecchio to the far West of Bonifacio has increased tremendously since the project started in 1995.

Le Parc International Marin des Bouches de Bonifacio has been protecting and regulating sea life in the area for nearly two decades covering a surface of around 80,000 square metres. Patrolling and strict control of the islands nearby has made the project possible. The result is striking. Groupers, barracudas by the hundreds!

I have never seen so many 35-40kg groupers in my life. Merouville (Grouper-land) is quite a peculiar dive site. It lays 20 minutes boat ride from Bonifacio and is somehow surreal with so many groupers around you poking your BCD (they probably think you are Italian and have plenty of Bolognese in your pockets!).

The Lavezzi Islands lie 25 minutes south east of Bonifacio and have the perfect Seychelles postcard features. Turquoise waters and plenty of fish in the sea. Numerous boat companies offer boat rides to the Lavezzi islands where many celebrities try to have a quiet rest amongst the boats full of tourists desperate to have the picture of Caroline de Monaco’s mansion. You’re better off booking a dive trip around La tete de Cheval, Les Grottes du Phare, or the striking Merouville if you want a better ride.

On the South West coast, the views from Palombaggia beach and Santa Giulia Bay will leave you speechless. The stunning shades of blue and fine sandy beaches would make some Indian Ocean Islands green with envy. Many dive centres offer diving packages and training at affordable prices but if you want to be more in touch with nature why not join Hippocampe Dive Centre in the Pointe de la Chiappa? The dive club is situated on a naturist camp site and offers all the facilities you could need, from hot showers, storage for your equipment and a great team of professionals ready to take you to the best local dive sites. The island of the Vacca and the local reefs around Iles Cerbicales are also part of the marine reserve and you will see a lot of moray eels, barracuda, groupers, scorpion fishes (sometimes dolphins) and many more. With so many predators you are bound to find a lot of sea life making each dive worth the trip. Currents can be unpredictable around the island, so be prepared for awesome drift dives and last minute changes of plans.

Direct flights from Gatwick go to Bastia (north), Ajaccio (south-west) and Figari (south-east for Bonifacio) during the summer months.

Remember to book car hire from the airport where you are flying to. Without a car you are… well kind of staying where you landed (car hire companies are everywhere and good value for money).

Corsica’s underwater wildlife is not threatened by intensive commercial fishing or pollution, making it one of the most enjoyable spots to dive around the globe.

Alors Bonnes vacances – Bona vacanza!

Some of the best diving in Corsica:

  • Lavezzi Islands (Bonifacio)
  • Cerbicales Islands (Porto Vecchio)
  • Scandola Nature Reserve (north-west coast)
  • Gulf of Ajaccio
  • B17 Bomber, Revellata (Calvi)
  • Propriano
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