THE CORAL GALLERIES

The Coral Galleries are an absolute 'must dive' for all who visit Menorca. This site is one of the very best that Menorca has to offer, not only the three layered cavern itself but also the surrounding rocky reefs to the north and south sides of the small islet which offer some exciting diving and great snorkeling.

The anchor point is located to the south of the cavern on a rocky reef of just 6m deep. Once in the water, there are a number of options available to reach the south entrance of the Gallery, one can either follow the shallower waters towards the small islet and then follow the shallow ledge until reaching the entrance or immediately drop down a steep wall to a sandy patch at 19m depth and swim northwards towards the cavern entrance keeping the drop off to one's right. In this sandy bay are a number of small overhangs and a very narrow swim through tunnel which are worth exploring.


The south side of the Coral Galleries and position of the anchorage point.
Drawing © Oceanic Research & Publishing Ltd.

 

Upon entering the Coral Galleries at a depth of 14m keep to the left and look for a small opening below, where one can descend to the lower and deepest part of this amazing tunnel system. Once inside, look around and observe that natural light is visible in all directions, and just a little further in one can look up all the way to the surface through a huge circular funnel. Continuing through the lower gallery towards the northern exit, take time to look around below the overhangs, since this is a good place to find grouper.


Profile view of the interior of the Coral Galleries
Drawing © Oceanic Research & Publishing Ltd.

 

Once outside the cavern to the north, make certain to keep to no more than 20 metres depth and swimming towards the right one can follow another small wall or overhang that leads to a small swim-through to ones right which contains a cannon ball. Beyond this now swimming towards the islet again there is a small sandy bay leading to yet another small cavern. Here in the sandy bottom at a depth of 17 metres, a number of artifacts have been recovered over the years, this being the site of the sinking of a small French warship the 'La Laurette' in 1883. The cavern itself is also very interesting for the myriad species of sponges, Bryozoans (false corals) and small anemones that encrust the walls and ceiling.
Returning now towards the Coral Galleries, swim at a depth of 12 metres around a rocky ridge to reach the upper of the two northern exit/entry points of the galleries. Once back inside one can either swim up through the funnel and return towards the anchor point following the shallower parts of the rocky reefs around the islet, or descend again into the Coral Galleries to no more than 15 metres depth and then swim south towards the large southern opening along the intermediate level of the cavern, before beginning the return to the anchor point.
Within the cavern it is well worth taking time to observe the incredible encrustations of life that form the ceiling of the Coral Galleries and which have given this cavern its name. Sponges, bryozoans or sea mosses which are also known as false corals, yellow encrusting anemones and a number of different species of ahermatypic corals all coexist together forming an incredible palette of colours.
It is also worth taking a close look at any cracks or holes in the rock formations, where it is not uncommon to find a Conger eel, Conger conger or Moray, Muraena Helena hiding away during the daylight hours, in fact there have been times when both species have been seen to share the same hideout.
Octopus are also quite frequently seen around the Coral Galleries. During the late spring and early summer many may be found in deeper water, hiding in small holes and crevices and which upon closer inspection reveals that the octopus is in fact protecting a nest full of eggs. Later, during the summer they are also frequently found in the shallower waters, along the rocky reefs surrounding the Coral Galleries.


North side of the Coral Galleries showing the entry/exit points
Drawing © Oceanic Research & Publishing Ltd.

Devonshire cup coral (Leptosamia pruvoti)

View of the Coral galleries funnel together with the upper. north entry/exit point (to the right)

False coral (Myriapora truncata). This magnificent Bryozoan resembles the Red coral in colour and it is however much more fragile and loses its colour if removed from the sea. It is colonial, the minute pores and corresponding tentacles represent the individuals that make up the coloney. Found in dimly lit ateas from 2 to 90 meters depth.

 

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