we headed north further up the east coast and on to new territory for us – Javea, or Xabia in Catalan, in the region of Valencia. Unusually this part of Spain has quite a few toll-roads, though these are easily avoided. It’s hot in Spain in June and July, driving for several hours with no air-conditioning is wearing and as the heat rises, so do tempers!
Javea town sprawls around two main beaches, one rock, one sand. We parked beside the quieter rocky beach metres from the sea and enjoyed a Mediterranean view.Watching splendid sunrises from the comfort of your bed, with tea, is the only way to start a day.
Cabo la Nao dive-centre looked to be straight from a PADI catalogue. It was decked wall-to-wall with new rental gear, and had a plush reception within a newly decorated modern building, inside and outside kit-drying areas and plenty of staff. Scores of Spanish weekend divers milled about loading RIBs with gear for the morning’s dives. We fell into the mix.
Our RIB headed south, with the dive briefing taken care of before the skipper hit full steam and we sped towards towering orange cliffs.
Only some of the coastal area here is designated marine reserve, so it can be hit and miss for marine life. The rock formations below were inviting, though diving with a group of mixed-ability divers meant that we couldn’t explore as much as we would have liked.
A couple of cave-like swim-throughs added interest and it was good to see an abundance of posidonia, the seagrass so important to Mediterranean ecology. Our guide felt that the fishing grounds closely surrounding the marine reserve gave the fish no chance to flourish.
The diving was pleasant enough, vis average and a quick turnround at the dive-centre saw us back in the water for a second dip just before lunch.
Denia was only a seven-mile drive further north. We weren’t taken with this major port town, which services ferries to the Balearic Islands, but were blown away by our camping spot in Les Rotes, 10 minutes’ drive away.
Where the road finishes a gorgeous bay begins, and we parked by the beach and prepared our camera equipment for a morning dive with Marday’s dive-centre in Denia’s marina.
Marday’s was the only dive-boat on our trip that provided snacks and sweets between dives, and the only one that asked if we wanted to conduct our own dive away from the group.
The skipper tied into a fixed buoy-line, and we made for the seabed at 17m. With the vis back on our side, I positioned myself to photograph Ana with a pair of grouper beside an overhang arching off from a house-sized boulder.
But all I could see was black in the viewfinder – I had left the lens-cap on the camera. It glared at me as I turned the dome-port towards me. I showed Ana, who laughed bubbles at me as we continued the dive.
Big boulders, rock formations and swim-throughs feature in this dive-spot surrounded by rippling sand, enhancing the light streaming down from above.
We finned through a labyrinth of cracks, caves and tunnels but, as at Javea and the grouper apart, we were hardly surrounded by fish.
We were entertained, however, and looked forward to the second, lens-cap-free, dive. This occurred in an area often replete with sunfish, and we caught sight of one from the boat just before it left the surface on our way back to the marina.
The topography in this area is spectacular with its cliffs, coves and caves and we also enjoyed snorkelling here each evening before a campervan dinner, or early in the morning before breakfast.
We spent an extra night in Les Rotes, unable to tear ourselves away from this gem of a swimming and camping spot.
Then it was back on the road towards Alcossebre to dive one of the Med’s best-kept secrets, the Columbretes Islands.
It took two attempts to reach the islands, a two-hour dive-boat-ride from the mainland. On attempt one, the wind picked up just before we reached the main island, forcing us to turn back.
Next day we again loaded Barracuda dive-centre’s boat with equipment and food supplies for the day, and sought a comfortable spot aboard. We completed a bit of paperwork on our way because the marine park, declared a wildlife reserve since 1988 above and below the water, is strictly protected.
The islands came into view after an hour: four variously sized islets with the largest home to a 19th century lighthouse, park rangers and biologists.
We were to dive twice with one “photographer-sympathetic” dive-guide and a group of 10 paying divers. Ten is probably five too many for any led group, but general diving ability good.