Diving the South of France
Updated: Dec 30, 2021
Known as the “French Riviera” the South Coast of France, has always been on my bucket list of places to dive at, but I have always left it to a side, and visited other countries instead.
With COVID restrictions hitting traveling hard, although last year I was able to get some flights, this year new measures such as vaccinations and negative tests to travel have been put in place. Although I am fully vaccinated and get regularly tested, I wanted to have a hassle free dive trip, so I opted for diving in the South of France.
I say hassle free trip as this would be a road trip with minimal COVID restrictions and no flights! As a Gibraltarian, we have no COVID restrictions crossing into our neighbours in Spain.
My trip started with a long 12 hour drive from Gibraltar to Barcelona, doing around 1100km. I stayed overnight in Barcelona, before heading off early the next morning towards the French/Spanish border. After a 2.5 hour drive, I crossed into France without any problems. I then drove for a further 4.5 hour to get to the town of Fréjus, where I was based for the rest of my stay in France. It took me a combined total of 1700km and around 17 hours of driving, split between 2 days, to reach my final destination.
It’s an early morning start to reach the dive centre which is just under an hour’s drive away. Although I could have stayed at accommodation closer to the dive centre, I preferred to be staying in a less busy location overnight!
The wind was quite strong and waves large, so I was concerned if any diving could take place, as although diving at home was more than possible in these conditions, I have been to other locations abroad before which have cancelled diving due to less severe conditions than this! This is a risk one always takes when going on a dive trip abroad, no one can predict the weather! Sometimes one books a dive trip to a very remote and hard to reach place, for a specific dive site, and for a limited amount of days, to then be unable to dive it!
Luckily the dive centre told me they were going out for a dive, I was relieved! I didn’t really care where we were diving as long as I got to go under the water somewhere in France! We headed out to a reef at a location about 10 to 15 minutes boat ride away.
As I jumped into the beautiful clear blue waters, I noticed the water was cold! This was unusual for me to experience at a Mediterranean Sea location in the middle of summer. Apparently the strong wind and waves were bringing in colder waters from further away… so I was told! As I descended to the bottom, I was met by beautiful coloured rocks, full of purple and yellow gorgonians and orange cup corals everywhere. It was an absolutely amazing scenery to take in! The dive site also included a small swim through which the locals called a “Tunnel”. It was a nice photographic dive for me, using my Macro lens to capture the common Mediterranean Marine Life, this time in France.
The second dive of the day was much less interesting. The dive centre had a few try dives so I was taken by boat to a small sheltered cove. The underwater scenery here was really just meadows of Neptune Grass and a few large boulders scattered around with not much marine life.
The next day would have been a day trip to some French Islands a short distance away, but again because of the bad weather, the trip was cancelled and I was told to come in for a local area boat dive instead. Because of the sea conditions, the dive site was the same spot as my first dive the day before, but I was happy with this as I loved the beautiful underwater scenery there and this time I had my wide angle lens and GoPro Camera for videos. The second dive of the second day diving in the Gulf of Saint Tropez was at a Reef Called “Canon Rock” to the locals. I wasn’t told much about the site, but maybe because they did the briefing in French, which I did not understand. I quickly realised that the name of the reef was taken from an old heavily encrusted canon found in between some large boulders on the seabed. The seabed here was also covered in meadows of Neptune Grass and to the other side of this pinnacle, which protruded the surface, was a fairly broken up wreck, hardly distinguishable, and looked more like a scattering of scrap metal lying around. This was the wreck of “Le Tell”. I had my wide angle lens from the previous dive, so I managed to take a few photos of the wreckage together with some photos of barracudas nearby and the meadows of Neptune Grass.
For my third and final day of diving in the South of France, I was told the afternoon before, that we would be going to a WWI wreck early the next morning. Unfortunately I was called that same evening, to be told that I was the only customer the next day for the early morning dive, and the dive would be cancelled!
“Le Rubis”, a famous WWII Submarine and one of the most successful during the war, was sunk by the French Navy in the 1950s just a 5 minutes boat trip away from where the dive centre was. And really the whole purpose of the trip was to dive on that wreck! I had found out on arrival a few days ago, that the dive is only done on Tuesdays, and that I had missed the weekly trip to it as I had arrived on a Wednesday! So I didn’t really bother asking about it due to bad weather conditions, and also knowing I had missed the trip the day before arriving. Because I was told I was the only client for my last day of diving, I asked if I could instead be taken to “Le Rubis” and that I would pay for the cost of another diver, to cover the cost the dive centre would require for the dive to take place. This to my surprise, was quickly agreed by the dive centre manager!
That morning we headed out very early to “Le Rubis”. We quickly noticed there was a strong surface current, but nothing stronger than what I am used to diving in my local area at home! I was told the current would probably be very weak at the bottom, but when we reached the wreck, the current was still there! After a quick tour of the wreck due to its depth, we headed back up to complete any deco stops needed. This ended up been my last dive of the trip, and I couldn’t be any happier, having been able to dive a long bucket list wreck from many years ago.
One day I hope to go back, to do some deep technical diving, on some nice WWI & II Plane Wrecks in the area!
Below is a link to a small video I put together: