The Mediterranean. It’s blue. It’s famous. It’s coooold. Think you might like to snorkel in these frigid waters off the eastern coast of Spain? You would if you knew about the beautiful Mediterranean underworld of the Medes Islands.
In the Baix Empordà, off the coast of Catalonia Spain, is a unique archipelago made up of seven tiny, craggy islands, or islets, which hold underwater secrets only known to those with adventurous spirits willing to brave the chilly eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Our group of explorers arrived at the marina at L’Estartit, a picturesque fishing village with old sailors’ taverns and strong seafaring traditions. After a foodie-lover’s delight in La Gaviota, my favorite restaurant in all of Costa Brava, we launched off into the gray fog, headed for the uninhabited Medes Islands, a mile away from the shore. Meda Gran is the largest island in the group with an area of 0.7 square miles and a 19th-century lighthouse. Due to their strategic location, during the Middle Ages the islands were constantly invaded by pirates, and during the war with Napoleon, the islands were the only place on the peninsular not occupied by his troops.
Nowadays, the islands provide a peaceful respite for tourists and locals to observe the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean. In 1983, the Catalan Autonomous Government declared the islands a protected area, and during the last twenty years, ecological efforts to protect and preserve the seabed and marine biodiversity have made the island reserve one of the best spots for subaquatic diving, snorkeling, and kayaking.
It was a bit of a struggle to put on the super-thick neoprene wetsuit, but I was glad to have it. Having previously been snorkeling and diving only in tropically warm oceans of 84 degrees Fahrenheit, I knew the chilly April 55-degree Mediterranean would classify it as an extreme sport, at least to this southern girl.
But hey, I’m no weenie! I’m always up for a new adventure! So I flipped the hood over my head, slipped on my fins, and without hesitation, I leaped off the side of the boat and into the sea.
Yikes! It was C.O.L.D. For a split second, my lower body hit the exhilarating water, but my head was still out, and I may or may not have screamed bloody murder. As expected, after a few minutes my body acclimated as the water slid between my wetsuit and body, modified and warmed from my body heat.
My colleagues followed right after me, and then the fun began as our guide began to point out things to look for in the natural aquarium. Yellow, red and purple sea fans blanketing the rugged underwater terrain, soft coral reefs, octopus, starfish, barracudas and rays are all part of what can be seen in this Mediterranean underworld. Sometimes bottlenose dolphins, sunfish, tuna make their way into the Medes waters.
Back on board, we had the good fortunate to view two of the elusive mola mola (sunfish), a mother and baby, as we made our way back to the marina. We chatted excitedly about what a great experience this had been, and how uniquely different from any other snorkeling any of us had done.
Disclosure: The author was honored to be the guest of Costa Brava Tourism during her stay in Spain, but as always, the opinions, reviews and experiences are her own. All photos are provided courtesy of the author, and of Rachel Heller of Rachel’s Ruminations (as indicated).