Diving in Cabo de Palos Marine Reserve

The best diving destination in Europe

Diving in the reserve "Islas Hormigas".

Explore the depths of the Marine Reserve “Islas Hormigas” and discover its biodiversity.

The Cabo de Palos Diving Reserve is the jewel of the Mediterranean, a submerged mountain range, end of the Betic System, with different diving areas each one more attractive.

Its seabed is composed of large meadows of Posidonia Oceanica, sandbanks and several shallows: the Testa, the Piles, the Bajo de Dentro, the Needles, etc … In them we can find the typical species of the Mediterranean with a great ecological value. It could be said that we can get to see a great diversity of marine life, barracudas, croakers, dentex, groupers (characteristic of the area for its large size), sunfish, pelagic animals, gorgonian fields and much more.

In 1995 it was declared a Marine Reserve, and since then every day gains in life and beauty, is bounded by buoys in the surroundings of Cabo de Palos and Hormigas islands and has an area of 18.98 km2, contains an integral reserve in the surroundings of Hormiga Island, the Bajo del Mosquito and the islets El Hormigón and La Losa.

The Cabo de Palos marine reserve is currently considered the best diving destination in Europe.

Dive Sites in the Marine Reserve

A unique location

The Cabo de Palos and Islas Hormigas Marine Reserve is one of the most attractive spots in the Mediterranean from Cabo de Palos to the Islas Hormigas archipelago, formed by Isla Hormiga, Bajo del Mosquito and the islets El Hormigón and La Losa. Its excellent state of conservation has favored a wide biological diversity, formed by extensive Posidonia oceanica meadows and coral formations of rocky nature along walls of more than 40 meters deep. Since its creation in 1995, the purpose of the Marine Reserve has been to favor the development and natural regeneration of the surrounding fishing resources in a way that allows the fishermen of the area to preserve their traditional way of life based on artisanal techniques such as trammel nets and longlines, which ensure the sustainability of human action on the ecosystems and contribute to their protection and conservation.

The Islas Hormigas area constitutes, in addition to an area of undoubted ecological and cultural value, an ideal destination internationally recognized for diving. It is considered, according to the Cousteau Foundation, as the best place in the Mediterranean for scuba diving. It is currently considered the best diving site in Europe.

The scenic quality of its shallows (rock formations at shallow depths), the rich biodiversity of its flora and fauna populations and the spectacular nature of the wrecks, such as those of the Sirio, Minerva and Nord America, make this area one of the most emblematic environments in the Mediterranean for any lover of the underwater world.

The Hormigas Islands form a small submerged mountain range extremely dangerous for navigation. La Hormiga and El Hormigón are the only ones of these underwater mountains that emerge outside. The rest of its shallows remain underwater, sometimes as little as three meters from the surface, such as the dreaded Bajo de Fuera, a death trap for numerous deep-draft vessels.

HISTORY: The Cabo de Palos-Islas Hormigas Marine Fisheries Protection Reserve was created in July 1995 with the aim of regenerating fishing species by regulating or limiting uses in its area.

It is a 1931 ha rectangular-shaped Mediterranean reserve that extends to Cabo de Palos on the coast of Murcia. The integral reserve is located around the islets of Las Hormigas, reaching depths of more than 50 meters.

Alternating rocky and sandy bottoms and Posidonia oceanica meadows. It is an area of passage for pelagic species such as the seriolas that come to the area in the summer months.

Several species of commercial interest are common in the marine reserve, including grouper (Epinephelus guaza), sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax), dentex (Dentex dentex), or sea bream (Sparus aurata), also abundant pelagic species such as the wrasse (Seriola dumerilii) and scombrids such as bonito (Sarda sarda) or frigate tuna (Auxis rochei).

MINIMUM DEPTH: -4m.

MAXIMUM DEPTH: -70m.

MINIMUM QUALIFICATION TO DIVE IN THE RESERVE: OPEN WATER DIVER / B1*.

REGULATIONS and RESOURCE EXPLORATION: Artisanal fishing and diving are allowed, both regulated activities. There is a surveillance and fishing inspection service. The scientific sector is in charge of monitoring and conserving biodiversity in the area.

Currently, the actors involved in the Cabo de Palos Marine Reserve are in constant dialogue for sustainable management and use, and the relationships between these sectors are very close, good and collaborative. The actors are: Professional fishing sector, represented by the Cartagena Fishing Association. Responsible Diving Sector, represented by the Association of Diving Centers of the Region of Murcia. Public Administration, represented by the General Secretariat of Fisheries and the Department of Fisheries. Scientific Sector, represented by the IEO and the University of Murcia.

TIPO DE FONDO Y CONDICIONES: Al llegar a Cabo de Palos, la corriente Principal del Mediterráneo que penetra por el Mar de Alborán se encuentra con el Talud de Mazarrón y se desvía para discurrir relativamente más alejada de la costa. Ramales de esta corriente, cargados de nutrientes, son los que llegan hasta Cabo de Palos. La plataforma continental amplia en este punto propicia que, acorde con el patrón estacional de la producción fitoplanctónica del Mediterráneo Oriental, se produzcan picos de productividad coincidentes con el inicio de la primavera y con el otoño. La abundancia de alimento marca un enclave importante en las rutas migratorias de cetáceos, como el rorcual común (Balaenoptera physalus), de tortugas marinas (Caretta caretta), además de especies de interés pesquero como atún rojo (Thunnus thynnus), melvas, bonitos y otros escómbridos, así como aves marinas que se guían por las rutas de estos animales para llegar a sus lugares de nidificación, como la pardela balear (Puffinus mauretanicus).

Debido a la alta carga de nutrientes en el zooplancton que transportan las corrientes de Cabo de Palos, se desarrollan con éxito animales sésiles filtradores, como la gorgonia roja (Paramuricea clavata). Loa jardines de gorgonias son una de las comunidades más emblemáticas de los paisajes submarinos del Mar Mediterráneo y tienen un interés patrimonial muy elevado. Asociada con paredes rocosas verticales y extraplomos característicos de Cabo de Palos y las islas e islotes Hormigas, en condiciones de escasa luminosidad, moderado hidrodinamismo y baja tasa de sedimentación, aparece un hábitat que, junto con las praderas de posidonia, alberga la mayor biodiversidad de los fondos Mediterráneos.

De indiscutible valor paisajístico para los buceadores, los “jardines de gorgonias” son hábitat de fauna de pequeño tamaño que aprovecha los recovecos y grietas entre algas y esponjas, así como refugio de las corrientes y predadores en las ramas de las gorgonias. Las gorgonias son longevas y de crecimiento, hasta los 10 años de edad no comienzan a reproducirse.

Planificar tu inmersión en la Reserva con Balkysub te garantiza que los guìas de buceo tenemos un gran conocimiento sobre estos fondos y todas las características que implican grandes buceos. Mas de 10 años de experiencia en la zona y el estudio diario hace que podamos ofrecerte esta diversidad tan grande de recorridos que nos apasionan.

Eso es lo más importante, nos apasiona seguir descubriendo cada día más, una reserva magnífica por su enclave.

BOTTOM TYPE AND CONDITIONS: Upon reaching Cabo de Palos, the main current of the Mediterranean that penetrates the Alboran Sea meets the Mazarrón slope and deviates to flow relatively farther from the coast. Branches of this current, loaded with nutrients, reach Cabo de Palos. The wide continental shelf at this point, in accordance with the seasonal pattern of phytoplankton production in the Eastern Mediterranean, produces peaks of productivity coinciding with the beginning of spring and autumn. The abundance of food marks an important enclave in the migratory routes of cetaceans, such as the fin whale (Balaenoptera physalus), sea turtles (Caretta caretta), as well as species of fishing interest such as bluefin tuna (Thunnus thynnus), frigate tuna, frigate tuna, bonito and other scombrids, as well as seabirds that are guided by the routes of these animals to reach their nesting sites, such as the Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus).

Due to the high load of nutrients in the zooplankton transported by the currents of Cabo de Palos, sessile filter feeders, such as the red gorgonian (Paramuricea clavata), develop successfully. The gorgonian gardens are one of the most emblematic communities of the underwater landscapes of the Mediterranean Sea and have a very high patrimonial interest. Associated with vertical rocky walls and overhangs characteristic of Cabo de Palos and the islands and islets Hormigas, in conditions of low light, moderate hydrodynamism and low sedimentation rate, appears a habitat that, along with the posidonia meadows, is home to the greatest biodiversity of the Mediterranean seabed.

Of indisputable scenic value for divers, the “gorgonian gardens” are a habitat for small fauna that take advantage of the nooks and crannies between algae and sponges, as well as shelter from currents and predators in the branches of the gorgonians. Gorgonians are long-lived and growing, they do not begin to reproduce until they are 10 years old.

Planning your dive in the Reserve with Balkysub guarantees you that the dive guides have a great knowledge about these seabeds and all the characteristics that imply great dives. More than 10 years of experience in the area and the daily study makes us able to offer you this great diversity of routes that we are passionate about.

That is the most important thing, we are passionate about discovering every day more, a magnificent reserve for its enclave.

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