As we head south on the island we pass across the plateau in an area called Nisdafe with its lush green vegetation and a wonderful show of wild flowers. Next we drop down through the forest of Canarian Pine trees into the village of El Pinar.
After leaving El Pinar you weave your way down towards the coast. As you travel the landscape is forever changing and gradually becomes more barren. And you find yourself driving through multi coloured volcanic lava fields.
As you near La Restinga and watch the sea, you can normally see the line which is the start of the marine nature reserve of Mar de Las Calmas. One side the sea can be quite rough and then to the right of the line the sea looks calm.
The area became a nature reserve in 1996, and since then the locals and the Canary Island Government have done whatever it can to preserve the area in a pristine condition.
La Restinga is the most south westerly town in the whole of the Canary Island Archipelago.
It is the nearest El Hierro can boast of as a holiday resort. A lot quieter than the majority of the other islands, but it has a blue flag beach which it is very proud of. It has all the amenities you could wish for.
One thing which draws the people to La Restinga is the diving. It is world famous for its spectacular underwater scenery and wildlife. They regularly hold an underwater photographic competition called Open Fotosub El Hierro. Sometimes it is an online competition and other times they have a weekend event.
This time I will mention little about the diving as it is something I have yet to experience. They are trying to tempt me to take part in what they call a baptism, which takes place on the beach were novices can experience what it is like to be submerged under the water with all the equipment in a fully controlled environment, with experienced scuba divers an instructors.
The harbour now has numerous pontoons for the local fishermen’s boats, the diving school boats and mooring for visiting yachts. There is always something going on for the people watchers. On many occasions you can see local fishermen unloading their catch of Tuna fish or Peto, a white tuna fish only ever sold on this island.
In October 2011an event occurred which has helped to improve the diving in Mar de Las Calmas!
El Hierro for a very short while had its own underwater volcano just off the coast of La Restinga. The big clue being that the sea had a beautiful turquoise stain running hundreds of miles into the ocean.
NASA was able to photograph the phenomenon and this photograph later received the most votes and became NASA’s photo of the year in the Tournament earth contest. You can see the NASA image on the below link:
All this helped to put El Hierro and in particular La Restinga on the radar of keen scuba divers looking for new places to explore.
It was an exciting time to be here on the island.
There is now a dedicated visitor centre you can visit, the Museo de La Restingolita in La Restinga.
On a very recent survey of the area new plants and corals were found to be growing, along with other new species making the area even richer for diving.
Did it have an adverse effect on the area? At first yes, but now everyone agrees that the area has recovered and now has far more species visiting. New plants and corals are growing, making the area and even bigger draw for the diving fraternity.
Entry into the marine reserve is restricted as one would hope. You can only enter with permission. Diving is strictly controlled and all who enter respect the environment.
I was lucky enough to be invited out for an evening excursion into the area. As we left La Restinga, there was a little swell until after a short distance we entered the marine reserve. From the sea you can quite clearly see the white pillars marking the area.
Our English speaking guides were full of information about the area and the many restrictions placed upon it. Shore fishing is banned, unless you obtain a special licence, but these are very difficult to obtain. Sea fishing is alsobanned.
The shoreline was for ever changing and the colours were superb.
We followed the shore line along to the Cuevo de diablo or devils cave which can be accessed by the divers and from land. The path has suffered a landslide, but the adventurous still visit.
Next we pass the swimming area of Tacorón. The carpark was full and there was smoke rising from one of the many BBQ stands there. The area is made up of paved coves with steps down into the sea. It is a great place for swimming, and snorkelling all year round.
Swimming further of the shore is restricted and only officially allowed once a year in September for the swimming event of Travesía Mar de Las Calmas. The event sees the swimmers covering three distances: 18K, 6.5K and 2.5 kilometres.
All the time our guides are on the lookout for a pod of dolphins which can be regularly seen in the area, but we were unlucky and saw nothing. They did spot though what we first thought was an empty bottle.
It turned out to be a discarded aerosol can that had already been colonized by a number of sea creatures.
There are numerous caves of various sizes all along the coast, some have large archways to tempt you in and I’m told that if the divers venture in they can see the sky through an opening in the roof.
They are always accompanied by numerous species of fish of varying colours and sizes. In the past there was a Mero which was so friendly the locals named it Pancho. (You can now find a newly constructed statue in his memory).
Our trip revealed very few fish. Maybe they sensed the change in the weather conditions has the wind changed direction and it was decided it would be better to return to port, before the passage back into port became too rough.
As we ventured back to port the sunlight was making the vivid colours on the cliffs stand out giving a great show.
Another stop to pick up drift wood. One had a huge nail sticking out of it.
As we got nearer to La Restinga you could quite clearly see were the sea had a lot more swell on it showing you Mar de Las Calmas meets the mighty Atlantic ocean.
The landscape changes from high cliffs to numerous volcanic cones of various heights and sizes which are part of the allegedly 1000 dormant volcanic cones covering the whole Island.
As you meet the rougher sea we all had free showers with the waves crashing over the prow of the boat.
My trip was with Centro de Buceo El Bajón. They offer the full holiday package from accommodation to diving, boat trips and full PADI courses.