Which birds and animals live underwater in Gran Canaria?

The waters of Gran Canaria have more colour and bio-diversity than the land.

When you come to the Canaries to dive, you expect to see lots of marine life, but are there Birds or Animals that live under the sea? Sadly the Monk seals have been almost exterminated from the Canaries, and the marine mammals (whales and dolphins) are too far off-shore to dive with. If you are really lucky you may find a turtle, but encounters are rarely guaranteed.

Turtles are occasionally seen, but are these fish, mammals or reptiles ?

However, you can still look for tigers, zebras, leopards and several other birds and animals underwater – as there are many fish species that share their name with creatures we normally think of being above water! So yes we have tigers (Tiger morays – Enchelycore anatina), lizards (lizardfish – Synodus synodus), and squirrels (Black-bar squirrelfish – Myripristis jacobus). The birds are represented by parrots (Parrotfish – Sparisoma cretense) and eagles (eagle ray – Myliobatis aquila) while the insect kingdom has given us locusts, scorpions and bumblebees – the locust lobster (Scyllarus arctus) , scorpionfish ( Scorpaena maderensis) and spotted bumblebee shrimp (Gnathophyllum elegans).

So to help you see the ‘birds and animals’ that we find underwater, here are some photos and details, so that the next time you dive in the Arinaga marine reserve you will know where to look for the fish with animal names.

Tigers

Tiger Moray diving gran canaria
Tiger moray being cleaned by shrimps (Enchelycore anatina)

Was the Tiger moray named after the spotted colouring on its body, or after it’s ferocious set of teeth? Either way this is always a ‘good spot’ because of its menacing appearance and bright colours. During the day you have to look into cracks and crevices or under big rocks to find them. At night they come out to hunt and you can encounter them in all parts of the Arinaga marine reserve.

Leopards

Leopard Sea Slug in the Arinaga Marine Reserve
Diving Gran Canaria – Leopard Sea Slug (Peltodoris atromaculata)

There are actually two species named after leopards, and both are quite difficult to find as there are few individuals. First is the nudibranch ‘Leopard Sea Slug’ which can grow up to 10cm long. They feed on sponges so look on walls where there is abundant sponge growth. They are usually solitary but can sometimes be found in pairs.

Secondly we have the leopard spotted goby, about the same size. To find these you either need to look in the back of caves or search for them at night.

Leopard spotted goby, Arinaga, Gran canaria
Diving Gran Canaria – Leopard Sea Slug (Thorogobius ephippiatus)

Zebras and Horses

Zebra Bream, diving Gran Canaria
Zebra bream (Sargo breado)

You can see why this bream got it’s name! You will find them in most of the main diving areas, especially the Table Top, punta de los Sargos, and punta de la Monja. They can grow up to 55 cm in length making them one of the biggest bream in the Arinaga area.

Sea Horse Gran Canaria
Short-snouted Seahorse Gran Canaria – (Hippocampus hippocampus)

On the other hand, finding seahorses is much more difficult. Their small size and camouflage colours make them very difficult to spot. They usually live in the sea-grass, but may be found in a few special places with a bit of luck and a lot of searching!

Squirrels and Hogs

The black-bar squirrelfish ( Myripristis jacobus )

These are very rare in the Canaries as they are normally found either in the Carribean or on the West African coast. They tend to mix with Glass-eyes, as they are almost the same shape, and odd individuals can be seen in the Arinaga marine reserve. Look for them at the back of caves or under overhangs.

Photographers always look for the Barred Hogfish (Bodianus scrofa)

The female Barred Hogfish (above) is one of the most colourful fish in the Canary Islands. In the past it was also a prize target for spear fishing. Today spear fishing is not allowed in the marine reserve in Arinaga, and a small number of these shy individuals have returned. You need to watch carefully as they can easily be mistaken for a parrotfish.

Birds

male and female Parrotfish Arinaga Gran Canaria
Divers can see Parrotfish all around Gran Canaria (Sparisoma cretense)

The female parrotfish has probably the most striking colours in the Canaries and is a ‘signature’ fish for a Canary dive. However many divers do not realise that these females all change sex half way through their life, lose all their colour and become old grey males! We sometimes see the males fighting among each other to control the harem!

eagle ray gran canaria
You can see the Eagle ray (Myliobatis aquila) while diving Gran Canaria.

Look for the Eagle ray over the sandy areas, where it digs in the sand to find small molluscs, crustaceans and worms. When seen from below they look like a big white owl coming towards you. This species is very similar to the Bull ray, which has a much larger head, stripes across the back and longer tail.

Reptiles, Spiders and Insects

Other species in the Canaries who have re-used terrestrial names include the Frogfish, Sea Hares, Arrowhead Spider Crab, the Crocodile sand eel, Great Spider Crab, Snakelocks anemone and Jaguar round crab. To complete our selection today we have a reptile, and four insects.

Lizardfish eating scorpionfish, Gran Canaria
The Lizardfish (Synodus synodus)

Often well concealed or hidden in the sand, lizardfish are common throughout the Canary Islands. They have the ability to open their jaws 180º, and can sometimes be found with prey half-in and half-out of their mouths.

Butterfly ray in Arinaga, Gran Canaria (Gymnura altvela)
Butterfly ray in Arinaga, Gran Canaria (Gymnura altvela)

The spiny butterfly ray is one of the biggest rays in the Canary Islands by wing span. look for them in sandy areas where they sleep during the day, usually close to rocks. Just like butterflies it has a big wingspan, but the body area appears to be small, and the tail is very short.

Scorpionfish diving Arinaga Gran Canaria
Scorpionfish Gran Canaria (Scopeana madrerensis)

This is the smallest of three Scorpionfish, and has a series of poison spines, but is still pursued by trumpetfish, lizardfish (see above) and bigger bream such as sama. Look for them on rocky areas, in cracks and close to rocks. Once you start to find them you will see they have a wide distribution.

Small European locust lobster in Gran Canaria
Look for the Small European locust lobster (Scyllarus arctus) on night dives

These look at first as if they are immature cape lobsters, but are a completely different species and only grow to about 15cm max. They are called ‘locust’ because they jump several metres if discovered by a predator such as octopus. They are normally nocturnal but in one or two places have been seen during the day as well.

The spotted bumblebee shrimp (Gnathophyllum elegans)

This tiny little shrimp is another nocturnal species, just slightly bigger than a bumblebee. Look for them on walls and in cracks during night dives.

Did you enjoy the selection of ‘animals’ that you can see in the waters surrounding the Canary Islands? It will be our pleasure to show you some of them the next time you visit Gran Canaria.

Author – Brian Goldthorpe is a BSAC Advanced Instructor and a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer with ‘Elite’ status. He has been diving in the Canary Islands since 2002 where he runs a scuba diving centre in Gran Canaria – Davy Jones Diving , where he shows guests around the El Cabrón Marine Reserve, just outside the town of Arinaga.

Night Diving Gran Canaria – Five Tips for Stellar Dives.

Are you thinking about trying the dark side on your next diving holiday? .. and going night diving! For some it seems a risk too far.. an extra complication to deal with, while for the converts it can produce magical dives, meetings with strange nocturnal creatures, and a feeling of having witnessed something privileged or secret. Night brings out secretive and sometimes strongly coloured creatures like the White-spotted octopus (Octopus macropus) and many species behave differently between night and day.

I have been leading night dives for our guests for the last sixteen years and some of my favourite underwater discoveries and encounters have been on these dives in Gran Canaria, so here are my tips to help you enjoy your night dives even more.

divers for night diving canary islands

Five tips to get the most out of your holiday night dive

It is very easy to have a great night dive on your holiday, by following some simple steps and discover the changes from day to night underwater. We find that first timers, photo-journalists and professional photographers always love the unique variety of marine life and colours they find when they dive at night in Gran Canaria with us. We have even put together a night dive simulator so that you can see how with a narrow beam of light you see clearly the many strange and amazing creatures who come out at night.

This article assumes that you are diving on holiday with a professional diving centre, live-aboard team or professional dive instructor, who will show you their special place where they do night dives. It also assumes that you have had some basic night drive training or experience already and want to improve your enjoyment and fun on further night dives.

Angel Shark night diving canary islands
Meet an angel shark on your night dive

Tip 1 – Follow your best practices and don’t change much

In your preparation and during the dive just do it by the book! All the simple things we learn, and then sometimes relax about, should be done tonight!

Start with a careful preparation of your kit, new or charged batteries in both your torches and any cameras, and listen carefully to the briefing, good buddy check before the dive, stay close to your buddy, be aware of where the leader, other divers are, and monitor your air regularly. No surprises there… and don’t introduce too many changes to your normal kit. A night dive is not the place to check out a new BCD and suit, or to experiment with your weight, buoyancy or trim.

Tip 2 – Follow the local procedures

Different training agencies and dive centres all have variations on a theme for minor standards, so always follow the local protocols carefully. To avoid confusion for night dives most dive centres use simple local rules and common standards as it can be slower to work out who is who underwater.

For example we have several simple protocols/guidelines – you should always store your spare torch in the left-hand BCD pocket so everyone knows how to help you find your spare. We have our standard procedure for diver separation, and as you cannot do air signals easily with one hand, some simple local procedures when checking air. Finally we have a couple of simple ‘standards’ at the end of the dive – don’t put anything down on the ground (put it in our vehicle) and we have one special place (a big yellow box) for any small items such as cameras, computers, masks, gloves and hoods – so nothing gets lost or left behind in the dark.

Tip 3 – Slow down .. and relax into the dive!

If you take your time moving along a reef, or a wall, or even across a patch of sand, you will see all the strange creatures that come out at night with names like Atlantic dancing shrimp, European locust lobster, or my favourite, the spotted bumblebee shrimp! Your heart rate will slow and you will use less air, and you will have a fantastic long slow dive!

White spotted octopus night diving canary islands
The White spotted octopus is only seen when night diving in the canary islands

Tip 4 -Set your camera up carefully to get great photos

If you take your camera, make a few changes before you get in the water. As most pictures are close-ups at night I take off my dome port (which is for wide-angle) and set the camera to macro mode, as well as increasing the ASA to capture more light. If you have a flash experiment with new settings to get the best combination of sharpness and depth of field.

When you are underwater take care not to ‘blind’ the fish (they loose their night-vision) by shining your torch directly in their eyes, and limit the number of flashes per subject for the same reason.

Before you get in the water work out an important factor for your camera … where the light comes from for the autofocus! Most small compact/action cameras usually get around the problem of focus in low light by using a focusing lamp.. but this is often obscured by the camera housing or too weak to be able to focus on anything more than 30cm away.

If you have a strobe with a modelling light then that can give light on your subject, or you can use a weak video lamp which provides a flat even light and gets overpowered when you fire the strobe.

night diving gran canaria - Canarian Lobsterette
Canarian Lobsterette is found at night or in deep caves

Tip 5 – Get that buoyancy control spot on!

If there is one key skill to master for your night dive it is relaxed buoyancy control. During the day it is usually very easy to see if you are moving up and down by reference to the sea-floor or walls or other visible objects. However at night these visual clues are less visible, and you don’t want to be floating up and away from your group as it can lead to separation.

Just make small changes to your buoyancy, and stick close to the bottom or any wall you are following, and of course keep close to your buddy and use him or her as a reference for where you should be in the water.

night diving gran canaria
Sand smelt reflect the diver’s torch

Brian Goldthorpe is a BSAC Advanced Instructor and a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer with ‘Elite’ status. He has been diving in the Canary Islands since 2002 where he runs a diving centre in Gran Canaria – Davy Jones Diving

Can you keep SCUBA diving in the Canaries during a no-deal BREXIT?

Yes of course you can dive in the Canaries!  There is no reason to be worried about planning a diving holiday during the BREXIT uncertainty. 

Since the original exit date at the end March evaporated, the most likely outcome as we write(!) is a ‘dis-orderly departure’ of the United Kingdom from the EU, which will have almost no impact on the millions of holidaymakers who visit Spain from the UK every year.

For visitors to the Canary Islands from other parts of the EU we do not foresee any disruption, so these hints and tips are mainly for travellers from the United Kingdom .


Firstly, there seems to be a raft of ‘misinformation’ and scare stories, so I have tackled here some questions we have heard from guests who want to go diving in Gran Canaria. There are still many divers who want to come out from the UK to get a break, in the sun, especially in Autumn and Winter when most of the Mediterranean Resorts are closed.


Much of this advice is based on authoritative reports, but also on the experiences of customers during the ‘Ash Cloud’ crisis in 2010, when planes stopped flying.


I hope this will cut through the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt), so you can travel happy and enjoy your diving in Gran Canaria and the other Canary Islands this year.

What happened during the Ash Cloud?

In April 2010, the eruption of a volcano in Iceland created the highest level of air traffic disruption since the second world war.  Many fears have been published that a ‘no-deal’ BREXIT could also leave pilots and planes without permission to fly, stranding British holidaymakers throughout Europe.

Relax and enjoy the sunshine if your flight is delayed


But when that happened in 2010, all the Tour Operators, such as TUI, Thomas Cook stepped up to the plate and arranged continued stays in hotels, and looked after their customers, taking some back home in chartered  cruise ships or by land.


So our first tip, is if you are worried about ‘being stranded’ by a sudden no-deal Brexit, book a package holiday with a major tour operator, in one of the bigger hotels.  They will then be there to help you and to make sure that any travel disruption is minimised, and at no extra cost.


And the ‘official position’ is that in March 2019 the EU and the UK agreed a reciprocal 12-month airspace access period in the event of no-deal, when “ for the 12-month period the UK intended to grant EU air carriers a level of access to the UK at least equivalent to the rights that would be granted to UK airlines under the EU’s regulation.“This includes traffic rights, ownership and control, leasing of aircraft, cooperative marketing arrangements and fair competition,” the transport department said.“. 


So even with a worst case of a no-deal BREXIT, UK flights will still come to the Canaries, and European carriers can still fly in and out of the UK.  

Do I need an International Diving Licence to dive after BREXIT?

Yes, this is in fact true … but you need one today, and you already have one!


The majority of recreational diving qualifications are NOT controlled by either the EU, or by national governments.  Your PADI, CMAS, NAUI or BSAC qualification has been issued by an independent body, and all have been approved as meeting the International Standard ISO 24801-2. 


We will accept any diver with a valid ISO qualification here to dive, in all cases (No-Brexit, No-Deal, transition period  or Smooth exit).  I am sure that other dive centres in Spain will be the same.
So our second tip is that if you are  worried that your PADI card does not specify this standard (or you have lost the card), then you can get a replacement card for about €45.00, or why not do that PADI Advanced or Speciality course you were thinking of, and get a new card which shows the ISO compatibility.

Can I still use my EHIC card for medical treatment during any transition period?

The answer here is more of a ‘yes and no’.  The European Health Insurance Card does cover basic medical costs when in Europe, but importantly, in Spain and some other countries it DOES NOT COVER HYPERBARIC TREATMENT.  In Spain the law requires all divers to have both diving medical insurance and ‘Responsibilidad Civil’, neither of which are covered by the EHIC card. 


Over the last few years I have seen more and more visitors travelling without any form of travel Insurance, and I have also heard about visitors who have had a (non-diving) accident, been treated free, but then had extra costs to pay for new flights or changes to hotels, all of which are normally covered by a good travel insurance policy.


Remember also that the EHIC card only covers treatment in the Spanish National Health service, where they do not always speak English, while if you have a travel insurance, you will be treated in a private clinic where there are more language experts.


So tip 3 is that both before and after any BREXIT, you should have a good travel Insurance policy, which covers diving, and in the event of any unfortunate accident such as a broken leg, you not only get good medical treatment, but great support from your insurer to get home without any extra problems.


Yes, I know insurance is boring and sensible, but there are plenty of good annual multi-trip policies available, including from diving specialists such as DAN and Divemaster Insurance, which will give you a comprehensive cover for a whole year at a good price.   If you just want to ‘top-up’ your cover for diving here we have daily, weekly ,monthly and annual policies available which cover any diving issues in Spain.

Summary

So to summarise my three tips, book a package of flight and hotel to somewhere familiar, where you have been before, and where the family will all feel comfortable. 
Check that you have your PADI card or equivalent before travelling, and double check that your travel insurance covers all the activities you want to enjoy on holiday, including Scuba Diving.
If you book your package to Gran Canaria (tip no 4?) then send me a message, let me know you are coming and I can arrange some dives in the El Cabrón Marine Reserve for you.