The father of SCUBA, Jacques Cousteau, was born in Bordeaux, France in 1910, and he first tested his Aqua Lung in the Mediterranean Sea waters of France in 1942. In more than one way, France is the birthplace of scuba diving. The best scuba diving sites France has to offer are found along France's southern coastline known as the French Riviera. There are also notable wreck dives off Normandy on the English Channel and good diving off the island of Corsica near Italy. France is also famous for its extensive cave systems inland offering unforgettable scuba adventures that wind back into the earth.
The best visibility is along southern France's Cote D'Azur, with visibility commonly found between 30-40 meters. On good days, the visibility rivals many tropical destinations famous for high visibility. Water temperatures are also the highest along the southern coast, peaking in August around 26 degrees C and dropping to lows of 14 degrees C in January. The English Channel, in contrast, peaks in August to about 16.5 degrees C and drops to a frigid 9 degrees in March.
For cave divers in the Lot region of South Western France, the water temperatures are a steady 13 degrees C/55 degrees F year round. This requires a wet suit, or even dry suit depending on the dive. When diving along the English Channel, at least a wetsuit is recommended due to the cool waters year round. However, while diving off France's southern coast in the summer months, scuba divers do not require a suit for warmth.
Cousteau frequented the clear, warm waters of the Mediterranean Sea, where he first established the art and science of scuba. However, let us talk about scuba diving in a colder, more obscure location. As a die-hard scuba diver visiting France, consider beginning your trip on the beaches of Normandy, on the English Channel in the province of Brittany in North Eastern France.
In the cold and murky waters off Normandy, there are hundreds of historic wreck dives. The D-Day landing sites along the Brittany beaches are the final resting places of many vessels that sunk just offshore; there are literally hundreds of ships that sunk during that fateful time in 1944. Most of the wrecks are accessible to divers in waters 25 meters or less. The D-Day Wrecks Museum in Port en Bessin offers scuba explorers a great resource to check out prior to planning a wreck dive.
A remarkable place to visit and to scuba dive is in Arromanches, an area or township (known as a commune in French). Arromanches is also the name of the iconic beach of D-Day known as Gold Beach. Along the picturesque beach, there still are remains of the Mulberry Harbour, huge built up concrete that sit isolated not far out from the shoreline on the expansive sandy beach. Divers can touch and explore around the remains of the Milberry Harbour structures. These huge structures were necessary to offload the thousands of men and vehicles, and tons of supplies to sustain the Battle of Normandy for the allied forces.
Arromanches Les Baines, the town, is a tourist destination and also the destination for scuba divers to explore WWII wreck dive sites. Two of the famous wrecks to dive include parts of two UK cargo ships, the Empire Flamingo and the Lynghaug. The water does not offer ideal temperatures for diving nor is the visibility high but the experience of diving where D-Day occurred makes this trip memorable and perfect for the serious wreck diver.
Dive the wreck of the American troopship called the Susan B Anthony, which sunk on June 7, 1944 by a mine explosion just offshore. The ship lies at a depth of 30 meters off Omaha Beach with some of its structure at only 20 meters deep. Scuba divers can swim through the sections of the Susan B Anthony exploring the abundant marine life that have made the wreck their home.
Not all Brittany wreck dives sunk during WWII. The British WWI steamboat known as USSA was a cargo vessel sunk in 1917 after a mine exploded just off Cherbourg, France. The USSA is home to large lobsters and crabs, and the currents are notorious for being swift. The vessel is nearly intact, though broken into three parts, and it lies in the path of a busy shipping channel in strong waters at only 27 meters depth. Most who dive the USSA embark on a dive boat from nearby Cherbourg.
Cave Diving in France
Most of the cave diving in France takes place in the Dordogne/Lot region in South Western France. The region is a system of lime stone river valleys, where hundreds of caves and cave paintings have been found. Many of the limestone caves offer crystal clear visibility ideal for scuba diving. A classic cave dive is Emergence du Russel in the Dordogne Region near the riverbed of the river Cele. The depth of the water in the cave reaches 70 meters, and there are tunnels and passages fit for beginners and the most advanced cave divers in the world.
There are undoubtedly many more caves in France to explore using scuba. Consider visiting France's largest spring and also the name of the surrounding town: Fontaine-de-Vaucluse. The magnificently clear spring comes out of the mountain, and starts the River Sorgue in the Privince-Alpes-Cote d'Azur region in South Eastern France. This famous cave was the dive site where Jacque Cousteau almost died back in 1946, due to exhaust fumes in his tank, while exploring the origin and depth of the famous spring. He returned safely from a depth of about 100 meters within the spring. In 1997, a notable cave diver named Pascal Bernabe set a record 240-meter depth beneath Fontaine-de-Vaucluse's surface.
Diving the French Riviera
The crystal clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea along the French Riviera are where the majority of the established scuba diving sites in France are found. Jacques Cousteau himself first went free diving there as a young man, and later invented, developed and tested scuba diving equipment. The world's first scuba experiments took place in the warm Mediterranean waters of France.
The scuba dive sites of the Cote d'Azur stretch from Spain to Italy, all along the French coastline. Many of France's dive sites on the Mediterranean Sea are in Nice's warm, clear waters. Off Nice, there is an abundance of morays, conger eels, crayfish and schools of fish to enjoy. The most notorious and even dangerous dive site near Nice is called Le tombant des Americains. This technical deep dive starts at 50 meters and is only intended for expert divers. Many dive shops will not visit this dive site without special arrangements.
For wreck dives along the French Riviera, check out the island of Poquerolles not far off the coast of the city of Toulon. Dive Le Donator, a wrecked cargo ship, or Le Grec, another cargo vessel, both which scuba divers frequent. There are many shipwrecks for scuba divers to explore in the area and wrecks scattered up and down most of the French Riviera coastline.
When most people think of traveling to France they think of Paris, which is where most planes, trains and automobiles venture to and from in the country. Flying into the Parisian airport of Charles de Gaulle is, in most cases, the cheapest and most logical place to start and end your trip. If you plan on visiting the French Riviera, to visit France's most prominent scuba diving sites, you can either take a train or drive from Paris down to the Mediterranean coast. The best way, however, would be to take one of the dozens of daily flights into France's second biggest airport, Nice Cote d'Azur International Airport. There are flights with Air France around the clock and that you can board last minute. While a train ride from Paris to Nice takes about 5 ½ hours, a flight from Paris to Nice takes just over one hour.
Diamond Diving is a reputable dive shop, catering to scuba divers’ requests along the Cote d’Azur. Diamond Diving is located in Golfe Juan, between Antibes and Cannes. Beginners and advanced scuba divers seeking certification will enjoy diving with this reputable shop. Near Golfe Juan, there are surprisingly clear waters, where divers regularly explore the numerous caverns, swim throughs, pinnacles and canyons off the Mediterranean coastline. The topography is diverse and the marine life is abundant. There is a common misconception that the marine life in the Mediterranean Sea has been overfished and the diversity and abundance of fish and crustaceans is scarce, but that is not true according to the Diamond Diving shop. In fact, they reported an increase in marine life in the last decade. Another bonus about diving with this shop is that Diamond Diving's website and staff are English-language friendly.
Ecole Francaise de Plongee is a great family owned scuba shop midway along the Cote d'Azur, in the coastal marina town of Agde not far south of Montpellier. The dive shop embarks from Agde, exploring the clear waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Agde is a great place to settle while you plan your dives and also to explore on land. Agde is one of the oldest villages in France; it was a 5th century BCE Greek colony.
If you plan to visit the area around Nice, along the French Riviera towards the Italian border, consider diving with the dive shop called Nice Diving. There are many established dive sites especially just west of central Nice, off the many peninsulas and inlets. Nice Diving is a fully certified scuba dive center perfect for beginners and advanced divers. The shop organizes adventures to suit most needs and levels of experience.
Nice is a gorgeous town; it’s the 5th most populous in France, even though it does not seem that large when you are strolling along the Mediterranean. The countless pebble beaches, charming beautiful waters, and local food and culture make this a spectacular place to plan your scuba adventure.
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Good, reliable and safe material (bottles, boats, octopus, stabs) Base is nice, clean, secured and easy to access. Instructoors are qualified, serious, and friendly. Dive sites are interresting and choosen in function of the wheather. Prices are OK
Wulfy Diving is a wonderful dive center blending professionalism and focus on your needs with passion for diving and for the subaquatic life. Regardless if you are just looking for a recreational dive or you wish to improve your diving skills through one of many offered courses (both PADI and CMAS certificates) you will not be disappointed. Stefaan will gladly let you take part of his vast experience as a diving instructor giving you priceless tips. He will however always find enough time to all...