Trip report posted on the BSAC website by Dr Tamas Szakmany
Prologue and first days with not much diving. This, like my Florida trip, started last year: I went to the Scuba Santa’s event to NDAC for a dive, a laugh and to help raising money for the RNLI! It was a great day, Lloyd clearly put a lot of effort into it and it showed. I bought a fair amount of raffle tickets and was quietly hoping to get one of the T-shirts on offer. But all the prizes gone without any of my numbers coming up and everybody was getting a bit cold and bored, when out of the blue I have heard one of my numbers shouted out for the main prize: a week diving in Spain! I was over the moon, as I gave an impromptu interview all my buddies were visibly jealous…All I knew at that time that it would be with an outfit called Fleet dive in Northern Spain.
The next day I contacted Gary and Ian of Fleet dive and they could not have been more helpful. After a few email exchanges we settled on a date which covered the May half-term holiday as it was clear they are not only geared up for divers but for families as well. I quickly got in touch with our friends in North Wales, who were very happy to accompany us, together with our other friends in Cardiff. Booked the tickets when an email came over: Ian managed to double book us with another group of divers for two days…However they offered to refund the charges Ryanair would impose us for changing the date! And they stood to their promise.
Finally we were all set to go! After coming back from Florida it was a very nice prospect to go on holiday after another four weeks: it certainly helped with work being silly as always. In the meantime I have learnt that the setup is geared primarily towards single tank OC divers, Ian and Gary were not very familiar (to say the least) with all this techy stuff going on TDF. With this in mind I knocked up an Ali plate+OPH+wing combo for myself with a long hose on one of the second stages, while packed the standard PADI recreational setup for my wife and many bits for my friend. We had two checked bags: one was full of dive gear, the other contained all our clothes (2 adults, a 6 and a 2 year old) the hand luggages were a mixture of dive and personal gear and I carried about 15kg in a vest with many deep pockets.
On Tuesday morning we set off and got to Bristol in about an hour: just in time to drop the car (I always book valet parking if I travel with the kids) and the bags, get through security (they got me unpack one of the backpacks full of dive gear) and get a bite before we were off. The flight was an uneventful Ryanair flight, my little one a bit tearful before take-off, but daddy holding her hand was good enough and soon she was giggling as we took into the air. I got the entertaining seat next to them, so the two hours went in a flash, while wifey had a sleep. Girona is a small airport the bags appeared quickly and we got out of the terminal in no time. Ian was waiting for us in the big car (luckily for us it was his day-off) and we were transferred to the Fleetdive HQ in Santa Margarita, Roses, which was about 45 minutes’ drive mostly on the motorway. On the way mostly I chatted to him while the others had a snooze and we covered a wide range of topics from general living in Spain; weather, across being a pilot at Ryanair to human factors in aviation, medicine and diving…
We got to the apartment, unpacked and went to the nearest supermarket to stock up with some food. Unfortunately the clouds from the UK followed us and we got completely drenched on the way back, which wasn’t fun packed with carry-bags and with two kids! And the rain started really badly just after we got back to the apartment….Nice start!
Branch 5 from Liverpool were the previous visitors and they came to pick up their bags before they were taken to the airport. We had a quick chat and they offered some valuable advice on dive sites etc. We have mulled over the afternoon, read all the info leaflets on the diving and other activities around Roses put the kids in bed and waited for our friends to arrive: luckily they were on the flight which took the scousers back so arrived late but still this side of midnight. We had a quick glass of wine and went to bed. Next morning we woke up to a clearing sky and it was much more like it! We were not in a rush, had a nice leisurely breakfast and in the morning we picked up some kit for Walid from the local dive shop. Ian also showed us the boat and kindly offered to come out with us to show the sites (and probably to check on me that I can really drive it 😛 ) As only Walid and myself were diving the plan was to drop off the girls and kids on a beach while we went diving Trencat. By the time we got there the wind picked up a bit, so it wasn’t very nice on the beach and we decided to drop the non-divers back at the marina, where they will be picked up by Ian’s wife. We headed back to Trencat, tied the boat in the drizzling rain and got ready to kit up, when my first stage decided to piss air. That was the last straw and we decided to abandon the dive and glad that we did. On the way back we encountered high winds blowing sleet and hailstone, to the point I had to put my mask on to be able to see where we are going. No diving, but still great fun! Back at the HQ Ian’s kids and my kids made instant best buddies and from then on they were inseparable.
Next day the weather was even better and we went out again this time with my friend as boat cover and did a really nice reef dive at the site called Ferrara. The site is marked with a permanent buoy where you can tie the boat. We jumped in and were greeted with 15m viz but only 15C water. I was glad I was in the drysuit and Walid was glad that I lent him the thermalution heated vest under his wetsuit! Ferrara is a typical Mediterranean reef, with full of life, many different species, octopuses, a nice little cavern an abandoned fishing boat, so a dive for everyone. We circumnavigated the reef and to the greatest amazement of me and Walid got back to exactly where we have started. 22m 63min an enjoyable introduction to Roses diving!
Once back on land we had a wander around Roses: the sun came out the kiddies enjoyed the sandy beach and we started to warm up. We had some excellent cooks in the group, so food was in abundance and the highest quality; all I had to do is serve the beers/wine.
Next day, to the greatest sadness to my son, his best buddy had to go to school, so he offered his help to be boat minder with his mum and off we went to Trencat. It was a nice sunny day, not much waves, so Bence could have a go at driving the RIB. But when he hit a wave at a wrong angle and we did a bit of a jump, very sensibly he gave the wheel back to me: who did the same mistake again and again. When we arrived to the buoyed site we have seen that two other boats are already tied in, so we decided to get to the next protected bay and anchored the boat in about 5m of water. Kitted up we jumped in and swam along the wall on our right hand side. The wall and the sloping reef was covered in life and as we got further out from the bay it just got better. We have discovered a net which we carefully avoided and swam around the rock pinnacles. On a sandy spot we have seen a large ray soaking up the sunshine. We managed to get close, but eventually the bubbles bothered him enough that he took off and swam a huge circle around us. This was the point when I really missed the rEvo! It was a beautiful sight. We have seen nudibranches, snails and all sort of colorful fishes (sorry I can’t be more specific, marine biology was never my strength) and soon hit turning pressure. We started back towards the boat taking in the sights once again on the reef and on the white sand. The gentle slope up took care of our ascent and we have arrived back to the mooring line after 61 minutes with 20m max. The boat-minders had a lovely time too, sunbathing, playing with daddy’s iphone, taking nice pictures etc. On the way back we saw and felt that the wind is picking up, so again decided to go back home. We arrived in time for Nathan to come home from school for the siesta, so the boys went fishing (my daughter in tow who decided to be part of the group, despite the age gap of 4 years) and we had a leisurely lunch. On the afternoon we were just chilling out and the chefs again started to get into gear: we have invited Ian, Suzie and the kids for dinner, which was a mixture of Middle-eastern and Hungarian cuisine, generously flushed by red wine. Suzie made an excellent Irish coffee at the end and we had a very good time!
The forecast for Saturday was very strong wind, with sunshine and Ian told us that the local guys are going to do a shore dive at Elss Caials, about 40 minutes’ drive away. We were invited to either join them or just to go and do that dive. We have looked on the map and decided to go for it: whilst we are diving, the rest of the group can a enjoy sheltered beach. The next morning we indeed woke up to strong winds, but sunshine. Then we realized, that we are 9 of us and only 7 can fit in the car. Ian came to the rescue again, and kindly offered the services of is Z4, which I gladly accepted! So in two cars we went to the divesite, which was a sheltered bay from the northerly winds. There was a concrete pontoon as get-in get-out point, then if you swim East you sea a rope which takes you between two pinnacles to a wreck of a vessel in about 18m water. The wreck is completely flattened, but in the crevices of the side panels there are lots and lots of octopuses, nudibranches and soft corals. Then we took one of the pinnacles to our left and started to descend a bit further. The max depth you can sensibly reach is around 40m, but we stopped at 25m as we hit turning pressure and I knew we have got a fair bit of swimming to do to get back to the shore. So we backtracked our fin strokes, swam over the wreck and got around the pinnacles on their other side. In the kelp forest we have seen a few huge clams filtering the water and also a stonefish looking for its prey. We arrived back to our exit point after 45minutes 26m max.
We just got out when the others arrived back to pick us up, so after a quick change we went to the little picturesque fishing village Cadaques for lunch and a wander around. There was a market on the seafront, where we bought some excellent local sausages, they were that good that my little one was only ate these for two days. On the evening we went to a local fish restaurant recommended by the locals and had excellent paella and fresh fish. We were spoilt as the kids stayed at Ian’s house and we were told there were a few tears from the boys when they finally got separated at half past ten in the evening…and it didn’t matter that the huge distance from one house to the other was only 1m.
On Sunday Walid woke up with a nasty cold, he couldn’t clear his ear and felt that his sinuses were full. So he wisely decided to stay on land and he and his family went to do a bit of sightseeing on the touristy train. We loaded up the kiddies, including Nathan and went off to the very first beach we have visited. We run the RIB up to the sand and unloaded the passengers, and then I went back to the bay and anchored it about 60m from the shore. Then kitted up, took the bearings to the shore and did a nice dive with a max depth of 6m exploring one side of the bay. This was partly kelp forest with octopuses, fishes etc. and rock face with yellow and red sponges the odd sea cucumber and seastar. We had an awesome time on the beach and an hour before we wanted to leave I kitted up again and dived back to the boat, this time exploring the other side of the bay (which was pretty much the same) reaching the astonishing depth of 10m. Back on the boat I drove it again to the beach and we headed home.
On the evening we went to the local Mexican grill and had again an awesome dinner. The last day was pretty much the same as Sunday, but I elected not to dive, as we could moor the boat next to a pontoon on the beach. So just soaked up the sun and generally had fun!
Tuesday morning came very fast and as our flight was at 7:30 we had to be on the airport in time. The kids were really grumpy all day when they realised that we are leaving this very nice place!
All in all we had a great time; Ian, Suzi, Nathan and Sarah were exceptionally nice and welcoming. The setup is great for hardcore diving too, so if you would like to join us from the 26th October to the 4th November, please get in touch. Two rooms (one sleeps 3 the other 2) are still available and there is plenty to do even for the non-divers. I might be able to get some rebreather support up and running by that time.
If you fancy a week out there with friends, go for it. The prices are very reasonable and as Ryanair goes to Girona from all over the UK it’s very easy to get to.
Again a HUGE THANKS to Fleetdive for this awesome prize and I’m really glad that I had this opportunity