reefs and submarine walls.
Menorca's 220 kilometres of rugged coastline, beneath its warm, brightly
sunlit clear blue waters, there is another world, a world very much
less well known than the land above. It is the "secret"
Mediterranean, where there is an abundance of life and where perhaps,
some of the very best diving in Europe is now to be discovered.
Situated in one of the most windswept areas of the Mediterranean,
for millions of years the forces of nature, together with the sea
level changes of the ice ages, have shaped Menorca's coastline into
an outstanding array of rocky reefs, submarine walls, caverns and
magnificent caves, not to mention the large number of shipwrecks that
have occurred in more recent times.
This together with its geographical position close to the edge of
the insular shelf, and adjacent very deep waters, results in a unique
marine environment, where some of the most diverse Mediterranean marine
life may be observed at differing times of the year.
|The immense variety
of underwater habitats around Menorca, each provide different shelters,
feeding and breeding grounds for myriad species. Along much of the
shallower parts of the coastline are large expanses of Neptunegrass,
Posidonia oceanica, which, in addition to playing a vital role in
the health of the Mediterranean's waters, in that this provides huge
quantities of oxygen to the waters, these "meadows" play
an important role as a habitat for countless benthic groups.
Caves and caverns
many caves, caverns and overhangs along rocky "drop offs",
provide shaded or darkened areas which are so favoured by sponges,
bryozoans and ahermatypic corals, which are particularly abundant
in these waters, providing a spectacle of colour to the torchlight
or camera flash. With the deep waters also often so close, it
is not uncommon to encounter whales, dolphins, turtles and pelagic
sharks, the Blue shark Prionace glauca, still being relatively
common despite the desperate overfishing that has taken place
in offshore waters by the Italian driftnet fleet.
a fig tree takes the shape of the prevailing north wind.
the warming of the sea, in the late spring to early summer,
many species gather in great numbers, to begin the annual cycle
of reproduction. During the month of May, large numbers of Common
stingray Dasyatis pastinaca, congregate close to certain shallow
beaches, where in the relatively warm, protected waters, they
will give birth to live young. June and early July are notable
for the numerous Cuttlefish Sepia officinalis, and Common octopus
Octopus vulgaris, that lay their eggs in the nooks and crannies
of this rocky coastline. But the greatest numbers of all, are
represented by the Blue damselfish Chromis chromis, who gather
by their thousands, forming dense shoals, notably around the
masts of shipwrecks or above rocky reefs where currents bring
placton rich water for them to feed on.
mid August the waters are teeming with life, not only are there adults,
but now the rapidly growing juveniles are forming their own large
shoals, feeding voraciously on the now abundant zooplankton. With
this huge amount of food in the water, the Barracuda Sphyraena sphyraena,
together with Amberjack Seriola dumerili, both normally pelagic hunters,
now arrive from the open sea and become part of the divers every day
sightings. The Barracuda may form large shoals and often remain in
the same area for many weeks on end, feeding opportunistically on
the myriad species, whereas the Amberjacks form smaller more tightly
knit shoals, that tend to be continually moving swiftly from one area
to another in search of food. These are most common later in the season
between September and November, when also the largest specimens are
to be seen.
Posidonia oceanica, plays an important role as a habitat
for countless benthic groups