A British Overseas Territory off the southern coast of Spain, Gibraltar represents the entrance to the Mediterranean. It covers an area of just under 3 square miles (6.8 square km), with a shoreline only 7.5 miles (12 km) long. The territory is most famous for the Rock of Gibraltar, rising up 1,398 feet (426 m), and riddled with tunnels and military facilities, which date back to the Moorish period. Truthfully, history is everywhere on this small, densely populated outcropping, sitting as it does at the entrance to one of the world’s natural crossroads. Legend even has it as the northern Pillar of Hercules.
At the meeting point of the denser, saltier Mediterranean waters and the Atlantic Ocean currents, Gibraltar is home to a huge diversity of marine life and unique combination of flora and fauna. Boasting more life than much of the Mediterranean, there are schools of boxfish, damselfish and anthias, as well as pipefish, Atlantic torpedo rays, octopus and cuttlefish. For the history buff, just getting to the dive sites can be a fascinating trip in itself. With modern developments sitting side-by-side with ancient structures, you often see an old naval gun battery cozying up to ultra-new apartments or office blocks.
There are many dive sites to choose from; I know of at least 20 catering to every level of diver. Given the area’s history there’s also plenty for the wreck enthusiast, with military and merchant shipwrecks, remains of a Italian midget submarine, a Bristol Bombay monoplane bomber and a pile of Spanish cannons, to name but a few.
My favorite is Camp Bay Conservation Site, which offers easy beach access to diving for novices up to experts. The site was created over the past 30 years by purposefully sinking a number of smaller vessels to create an artificial reef and encourage marine diversity. The result is 11 wrecks in one area, including the 482M, a 100 foot- (30 m) long Royal Navy mooring vessel, which sits upright in 56 feet (17 m) of water.
Proximity to the much-visited holiday destinations of the Costa del Sol means Gibraltar is well served by many excellent dive centers along the tourist coast. It even boasts its own airport, where the runway crosses the main road onto the outcrop — meaning sometimes you have to wait on the road for a plane to taxi.