In this post about charming Cádiz hidden places I want to show you another place which does not appear (usually) in tourist guides: the Tarifa island seafloor.
Tarifa is a very touristic town placed in the very south of Spain. Indeed, it is the southernmost point of continental Europe. Further, from its beaches you can see the north of our neighbor, Africa, only 14km away, and you can arrive Tangier (Morocco) from there in about 1h30min.
In Tarifa, there is a little island known as Isla de Tarifa o Isla de las Palomas, where there is a fort since the XVII century. It has been used since the VI century BC, where the fenicians built hypogeums in the island, one port and more infrastructure. It is usual to find ancient stuff from them down in the water.
You can also visit the Bolonia beach, to the west of Tarifa. It is nice because you have ancient roman ruins near to the beach. Culture and joy all in one.
This island is used as reference point for the distinction of the Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean sea, so, if you dive in the west side of the island, you are diving in atlantic waters or, if you dive in the east side, you are diving in mediterranean waters.
Introduced Tarifa, we are going to analyze several aspects of this dive spot, including usual weather conditions, recommended gear, some flora and fauna which you can find there and different dive spots
Should you want to see my other posts, here you have a complete and indexed list of them.
Weather conditions and gear
The mean outside temperature along the year is of 17.2ºC, being in summer close to 22ºC. If you are not costume to high temperatures and high sunny days (with high UV levels) I would recommend to you to use sunscreen before and after the dive. Even the locals we get burnt in summer.
The wind in the province of Cádiz is very common and, in Tarifa, it is more. In fact, kite-surfers love this place and there are tons of kite competitions here because of the good weather and constant wind.
Technically, if you jump the bridge of the Tarifa island while making kite-surf, you are jumping from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. For your lifelong checklist.
However, you don’t have to worry about the wind because you can dive in the mediterranean side or the atlantic side depending on the direction of the wind, with the protection of the island.
The water temperature is steady all the year around 16ºC with a visibility of 10–15m or more. You don’t need to use a dry suit. I have always dived with 7mm neoprene without gloves and with 5mm dive slippers, from January to January, and no cooling problem.
One important thing. There are relatively frequent underwater currents in the island surroundings, so, depending on your experience level I would recommend you to check the tidal coefficient to be low (at least, under 0.70) or to have some formation on diving with currents.
Another option is to dive with the current pushing you to the shore, so you have it later in your backward when you are coming back to the surface.
Note. If there is some current there and you are not experienced, keep calm. You can go slowly to the shore resting when you need it, held on to the rocks.
Flora and fauna
This place is full of life. The particular situation of this underwater spot makes it easy for life to grow in here, thus the variety of species is big even it they are not tropical waters.
I’m not a biologist but, based on my experience (around ten dives there) and some googling to know the names, I can say that:
- It is very usual to spot fish shoals of sardines, damsel-fish and others. You will also find greater weever, red porgies, red mullets and sargos.
- Relatively usual it is to see cuttlefishes, moray eels, soles, small octopus, nudibranchs and manta rays.
- It is not so usual, but possible, to see seahorses, spider crabs and conger eels. Ocean sunfishes also go there sometimes.
Also, there are orange corals of cold waters, the astroides which you can find in some big rocks (on the sides), both in the mediterranean and the atlantic area of the Tarifa seafloor.
Note. There is a huge variety of nudibranch species here. Some of them only seen in Tarifa surroundings. In  you have a complete guide of them, free. Although, in Spanish.
Alright, I am not an expert in algae neither and I don’t know the names of the seaweeds I have seen diving, so I will remark only a couple of things:
- Around the island, all the rocks are full of life. The seaweeds are beautiful, green, red and brown in a very special combination. They are very fragile, so avoid touching them if possible.
- There is a field of laminarias, near to the island, whose extension varies a lot in time, depending on climatic conditions, but it is one of the biggest laminaria woods in Andalucía.
For further information, although in Spanish, you have the links in the references section.
There are, at least, six typical dive spots there, all around the island. The two first paths I talk about are the usual options for less experienced divers as me (for the moment). So, depending on where does the wind come from or the state of the sea/ocean, you can dive in one or the other option.
Essentially, you can dive from the shore for the two first spots. For the rest, you need a boat to bring you near to them.
The following are, to my knowledge, the main dive spots:
- Fenician port, in the atlantic side. Near to the shore, on the west side, from where you get into the ocean, you will dive from 1m to maybe 12m.
- La Garita — las piscinas (the pools). Near to the shore, on the east side. Pools of sand surrounded of rocks. For me, it feels like walking in an underwater woods. From 1m to 18m it is perfect for all levels, even the one of mine. It is placed in the mediterranean side of the island.
- Los pasillos (the corridors). Corridors of sand between big rocks. This is another place I have to visit, but for the moment, I haven’t had the pleasure. I don’t know where it is either, but you have a link to a video in . Between 5m and 25m.
- Laminaria fields. Based on , these laminarias are only for experienced divers, as they grow in a place very exposed to currents. Reaching 4 knots in the bad days, it is necessary to start the dive when the tide starts rising. You can find them at a depth around 25m.
- Calderas (steam boilers). These are the rests of a ship or several (it is not known whether it was one or more) which sank there. Only the boilers and some old pieces are still recognizable. From 5m to 20m.
- Wreck of San Andrés. Steam ship with the structure made of iron, sank in 1856. The steam boilers, wheels and parts of the prow and the bridge still remains in the seafloor. From 24m to 30m.
There is another wreck which was unknown by me until I started gathering dive sites data for this post. This is the Puerto Pajares . Only for advance divers, this wreck starts at 30m and goes deeper.
For this wreck, the dive must start in the rest moment before low tide starts growing into high tide (don’t know how you say this in English, but suggestions are welcome!), so that, if there is any current, it takes you to the shore. Also a couple of boats are used for the maximum security.
So this is a presentation of the best place to visit the abyss here in Cádiz. I know that, for sure, this is not the best moment to speak about traveling, but I do believe that seeing the wonders of this beautiful province can provide you of will of live.
When this pandemic stuff ends, you can come here and this people will welcome you with open arms.
Ah, if you want to see some videos of the Tarifa seafloor, I started uploading some of them to Instagram. You can see my link on the bio!
Un abrazo y hasta la próxima — Juan.
 Laminaria fields in Tarifa. In Spanish too, but, you can check the pictures.
 Link to a free book about nudibranchs in Tarifa. In Spanish.
 Los pasillos video.
 Puerto Pajares