Written by Jenny Fowler
Lanzarote is part of Spain, but lies off the coast of Africa and has a year-round warm climate. Even in winter, sea water temperatures do not fall much below 20 C. It's a good destination for both beginners and experienced scuba divers.
Clear water, sheltered bays and plenty of marine life to see even just going a few metres off the beach make this a great choice for training. Experienced divers can find greater depths relatively close to shore and there are wrecks ranging from shallow to technical diving depths.
The north coast is spectacular, shaped by volcanic eruptions. The north-northeasterly Trade winds beat waves against black basalt cliffs. At the extreme northerly tip of the island is a marine reserve, the Archipielago Chinijo Marine Reserve. It was created in 1995 to protect biodiversity. Divers here explore a landscape of volcanic rock formations and caves and encounter many species of marine life due to the legal protection. Dive centres visit here by boat when weather conditions are calm. There are strong currents so it's a rewarding area for experienced divers comfortable with drift diving.
The south coast is completely different, sheltered, with sandy beaches and rocky coves. Diving is easy to access, either from a beach or a short boat ride. There are many dive centres along the south coast. They are mostly situated in the main towns, Puerto del Carmen, Playa Blanca and the capital Arrecife.
With a water temperature around 20 C most divers find a 5mm wet suit is enough for dives of half an hour or so, though the extra warmth of a 7mm suit is useful for longer dives. Adding a lightweight shortie over a 5mm suit is good too.
Visibility is very good, often reaching 30 or 40m. Reassuring if you are a beginner, not to lose your buddy in murk as soon as you get a few metres apart, and great for photography especially scenic and wreck pictures.
What can you see? Divers regularly see quite large creatures including angel sharks, rays, grouper and barracuda close to shore. Smaller creatures living around the rocks and algae include sea stars, holuthurians, cuttlefish, sea horses and a multitude of small fishes. Watch the small brightly coloured wrasse that have a particular rock as home. Larger fish visit to have their skin and gills cleaned. Also watch out for long-spined black sea urchins - those spines go right through neoprene.
I dived from Puerto del Carmen. The dive centres here mostly use the small cove of Playa Chica where sheltered conditions and easy entry make for an ideal training ground. Divers on their first dive can see shoals of fish which swim just off the beach. Building experience, depths of 30m or so are available close to shore.
My dive centre, Safari Diving, was conveniently situated on the beach. Other centres bring their divers down by minibus to a parking area nearby.
Puerto del Carmen has a Wreck Park which is a short boat ride from the jetty next to Playa Chica. The "Old Wrecks" are partly covered by a new harbour wall, but still diveable. The "New Wrecks" were recently sunk and are in good condition, very photogenic. There are also "natural" wrecks in Lanzarote, notably the Rabat and the Temple Hall near Arrecife harbour.
Some will be happy relaxing under a beach umbrella - the south coast has lovely clean white sand beaches.
The volcanic scenery in Lanzarote is dramatic. Visit Timafeya National Park, maybe stop at the visitor centre for chicken barbecued over hot lava.
Visit artist Cesar Manrique's Cactus Garden - it's landscape art as well a a botanical showcase
Go to the extreme North of the island for a view over the small island of La Graciosa. The official viewpoint is closed out of working hours, but the view from the road below is worth seeing anyway.
Walk along the seafront in the capital Arrecife with views over the harbour.
Try the local wines at a bodega in La Geria region, where vines grow in black volcanic sand.
Try the meals or tapas at inland towns like Yaiza - food can be more typically Spanish than in the coastal resorts.
Lanzarote's popularity as a beach destination means there is plenty of reasonably priced accommodation, and also flights from the UK, including regional airports.
Regular divers who like to use their own kit will know the necessity of buying any baggage allowance when booking, and then keeping rigidly within the weight limits. I used a Thomas Cook flight where you can book up to 20kg baggage and an extra 10kg of scuba kit if needed.
The dive centre I used had good modern kit for hire and this is probably true of all the registered centres, so kit hire is an option.
It is worth checking that the centre you dive with is legally registered, so safety standards are high and your insurance will be valid. The tourist office has a list of registered centres.
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