France is generally recognized as one of the most romantic and refined European countries. It’s hardly wanting for endorsement or promotion, when you consider its immense popularity among tourists. People come here from all over the globe to see the nation’s rich cultural heritage, to taste haute cuisine and to enjoy the incomparable color of French life. France is big country, so the range of activities available knows no bounds. Diving in France has its own specific character which we hope to tell you all about in this text. By the way, the first dive center in France was opened in 1930.
If you are going to dive in France, you need to know that:
-You should have a medical certificate no older than two years, otherwise it’s necessary to undergo a survey at one of the local clinics.
- In France, only children of 14 years or older are allowed to dive.
Divers can choose from the Atlantic Ocean and English Channel - in the north and the west of the country, or give preference to the Mediterranean Sea and go outh. Also, some divers prefer the island of Corsica for their underwater adventures. Accordingly, climatic conditions will vary enormously.
Diving in the Atlantic Ocean is possible only from April to November. Even in summer months, water only warms up to about 20-22 degrees Celsius, with visibility in places reaching 20-30 meters.
In the Mediterranean Sea you can dive all year round. Water temperatures vary between 28 degrees Celsius in summer, and 17 degrees Celsius in winter. In some places, you can encounter intense currents. The sea bottom is mostly stones.
So, what’s the better choice? The sea or the ocean? And just what interesting things can be seen in each? We’ve found everything that’ll help you decide.
The North of the country consists mostly of flat landscapes. The coastline is wide and covered with fine yellow sand. The energy of the ocean, the noise of the waves and the wind which accompanies them are all the permanent fixtures of the Atlantic. We’ll be direct here; rich sea life, good coral variety and bright colors are not what France is about. But for those who are ready to learn about another kind of beauty the underwater world offers, this country will make for an interesting introduction. A huge number of underwater caves, the laminarias forests, World War II wrecks and depths reaching 60 meters down - all this and many other things can be found at the dive sites France’s Atlantic Coast.
The Gulf Sen-Malo is rich with the military history and tens of wrecks lying on its bottom. The conditions here are perfect for wreck divers, and those who are only just learning how to dive within sunken hulks.
One of the oldest wrecks is the 70 meter-long steamship Hilda. In 1905 she collided with rocks and sank, claiming 125 souls. She rests about 25 meters, where and visibility is only 10-12 meters. Engines, copper and her cardan shaft are well preserved and available for careful inspection by divers. During your dive it's possible to come upon eels and lobsters.
Of similar interest are the ships of World War II. Among them, the 60-meter ships Walter Darre and Hinrich Hey are both located close to each other. Both of them were destroyed by torpedoes in 1944 and since then they have lain on their sides, at depths of 36 and 38 meters respectively.
The perfect place for beginners! The dive site is located near a pier and is situated only 4-8 meters down. Here it’s possible to see dense thickets of laminaria and interesting rock formations. The variety of sea life is small, but seahorses, crabs and shrimp can be met at any time.
When diving to a depth of 40 meters, you’ll come upon two anchors at the bottom which are more than 100 years old. The descent is made down along a rock, which is covered with numerous seaweeds of brown, green and deep-red colors. Among the underwater dwellers it's possible to find little and big cuttlefish and tunas.
The complete antithesis of the Atlantic coast. This is a warm and quiet sea, largely consisting of narrow pebble beaches and a captivating mountainous landscape. Of course, the main attraction of the Mediterranean coast is The French Riviera — perhaps the most famous and prestigious coastline in the world. From Toulon to Italy stretch 300 km of luxury beaches where the most successful and richest people opt to spend their time. Does the underwater world match the gloss up on the beach? Let's find out!
100 meters from the coast of Nice, a most unusual sight can be seen - a sunken statue of the Virgin Mary. At a depth of 16 meters, this statue has sat here for several hundred years and exerts an indelible effect on everyone who fall in her kingdom. We don’t know exactly how she turned up on the bottom. But, surrounded with schools of fish and covered by seaweed, the statue looks ethereally harmonious against her backdrophat of crystal blue water.
If you like to explore wrecks, it'd be a good idea to pay attention to the cities of San Tropez or Bormes-les-Mimosas. Many sunken wrecks of ships, boats and even small airplanes can be found in the waters nearby. For example, two airplanes are located close to one another off Borme's coast: one being a Grumman F4F Wildcat and the other a F6F Hellcat. The reasons for Wildcat’s winding up on the bottom aren't entirely understood, while Hellcat rests 56 meters down because of a piloting error. Both airplanes are perfectly preserved and a lot of their inner details can be observed. Diving at this dive site is only available to experienced divers. Still, beginners can also find something interesting; many wrecks are in excellent condition though sometimes sunken objects here look more like piles of iron. The staff of local diving centers will tell you about the features of every dive site and will be happy to help you choose the most suitable option that corresponds to your experience and interests.
There are places for quiet exploration of underwater flora and fauna in the French Riviera. With many dive sites along the coasts of Cannes and Antib. There is warm water, no currents and depths range from 5 to 50 meters. It's possible to reach most dive sites by boat within only 5-10 minutes. The color palette of this underwater world is much wider, than on the Atlantic coast. Here you'll find a lot of red corals, white gorgonians and green seaweed. The sea life is quite rich too and, if you look attentively, you'll surprised by just how many organisms can be spotted. Sea hedgehogs lie at the bottom, colored nudibranchs crawl on stones and rocks, octopuses and moray eels hide in cracks, and groupers are not afraid people at all, even if they are under threat of disappearance (sea hunting targeting this fish is behind this danger) and at depths below 20 meters, large scorpion-fish and wrasses dwell.
France is the homeland of the great oceanographer, and one of creators of the first aqualung, Jacques-Yves Cousteau. This is where diving began and grew into that activity which has touched upon the lives of many people. As you’ve seen, diving in France can be something else, though you still need to choose just what fits you exactly. You shouldn't restrict your perception of nature only to that which you can see in tropical seas; once you expand your horizons, you'll become acquainted with another beauty of the underwater world.