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The largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, Tenerife is one of the most popular diving destinations in Europe. It sits off the west coast of Africa in the crystal clear water of the North Atlantic Ocean. Compare flights to Tenerife South and you’ll find that it is easily accessible from Europe and the rest of the world.

Often called the “island of eternal spring”, Tenerife has a diverse landscape of pine forests, wildflower fields and rugged cliffs leading to golden beaches. Colourful coral, shipwrecks and exotic fish can all be seen beneath the beautiful blue water of Tenerife.

PADI and BSAC certified instructors and guides from Tenerife Dive, Aqua-Marina, Ocean Trek Diving Centre and Atlantic Divers offer diving excursions to many popular sites. From the novice to the most advanced and adventurous diver, Tenerife has a dive site and school to suit all.

The Condesito Shipwreck is a great dive site for beginner and advanced divers. The Condesito was a freightliner that wrecked near the shoreline of Punta Rasca more than 30 years ago. The hull, cabin and engine room are intact and have become home to a large array of colourful fish, coral and underwater plants. Rainbow wrasse, trumpet fish, tiny boxfish, stingrays and an octopus or two can often be seen swimming along with divers.

The Rays at Los Chuchos is a unique experience for all levels of diving devotee. Popular with photographers, videographers and nature nuts, this peaceful place is filled with schools of rays that glide across the golden sand floor and drift past a small wreck site. Dive and swim among all sizes of rays from small bat rays to large eagle and sting rays.

Located ten minutes from Los Cristianos and Las Galletas, Palm-Mar Cave, or Cuevo Del Palm Mar, is a thrill for advanced and deep divers. Crystal clear water gives incredible visibility to view large rocks, a cave, lobsters, Atlantic barracudas and several species of moray eels. Though gentle and inquisitive, some of these toothy eels are quite ferocious looking.

The deep, dark mysterious cave is best viewed from the outside. It has a series of mazes and no one knows how long it is or where it leads. A cross at the entrance commemorates the divers that have died while exploring this cave. Another interesting image is a statue of the Virgin Del Carmen, which was erected to give protection to the divers and fishermen on the island.

Beginner to advanced divers will find that Tenerife has just as much beauty and adventure beneath its sparkling surface as it does above.

This post was submitted by travel blogger Nicholas E cheapflights.co.uk. It’s his job to travel the world and give fellow travellers advice on a range of topics ranging from the getting the best deals on your flights to New York to the best diving spots in Tenerife.

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Just in case there was the slightest outside chance that we might find ourselves with spare time on our hands, we’re currently converting Real Tenerife Island Drives into Kindle format.

We’ve watched with interest over the past year as Kindle has taken off, and having just bought one as a present for someone and seen it in action, it’s clear why this little gizmo will soon replace paper-bound holiday reading. So, never one to miss an opportunity, I have embarked on making Real Tenerife Island Drives available on Kindle, which gives us an opportunity to ensure that all our directions and references are fully up to date.

As we’re constantly driving the length and breadth of Tenerife to get to meetings, the start of walking trails or to fiestas, it’s quite easy to check most of the routes in the book by simply slotting them into our itinerary. In this way, we’ve ensured that everything’s still hunky dory. But there’s one route that takes a little more effort – Here Be Dragos…[Read more]

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I’ve been conspicuous by my absence on here of late – that’s because I’ve moved. You can find my ramblings now self-contained within the all-singing, all-dancing The Real Tenerife website. Come on over, the kettle’s on 🙂

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Around 5pm on Sunday afternoon I decided to break free from the keyboard, take advantage of the warm sunshine and head out from home for a walk.

My circuit took me through the banana plantations, along the headland, across a ravine and back along a quiet, palm tree lined road until I reached the junction with the main road. Reluctant to end my idyllic rural walk with a hundred metres of busy tarmac, I opted instead to divert through the tiny hamlet of Los Rechazos which lies hidden behind the main road.

Presumably before they built the ‘new’ road, this would have been the main thoroughfare. Barely wide enough for a single vehicle to drive down, tiny cottages with Hobbit-height front doors donate most of what little pavement lies outside to window boxes and planters filled with tumbling geranuims.

Rounding a bend in the lane, I spotted a gathering ahead. Four small, dilapidated tables teetered single file on the pavement with a chair either end, on which eight elderly people were sitting, marking off numbers on bingo cards. Some were using paper cut-outs to cover the numbers, others were using assorted old buttons, and the ‘cards’ were dirty old paper ones which looked as if they’d been handmade many years ago. On the other side of the street, about two yards away, two women were sitting. One held a cloth bag which she shook continuously while the other reached in, pulled out what looked like a child’s building brick, and shouted the number across the street.

I walked quietly past the intently concentrating faces and smiled to myself. So this is what passes for nightlife in Los Rechazos? Street bingo – I can see it catching on.

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Having just spent an idyllic long weekend on La Gomera, it strikes me that most visitors to Tenerife never see anything more of our neighbouring island  than the stunning canvas it lends to the nightly sunset, or glimpses of its shoreline from dolphin watching trips along the Los Gigantes and Los Cristianos coasts. For those who make the effort to take the ferry across the water, a forty minute sailing lands you on an island which is a far cry from the bustle of their Los Cristianos departure point.

La Gomera was once described by a friend who has lived on the island for some 14 years as being shaped like a circular tablecloth that someone has pinched in the centre and raised off the table. Steep barrancos (ravines) create deep folds in the landscape that run from the coast to the central rainforest of Garajonay National Park, making travel a time consuming and sinuous business, and farming a back-breaking toil.

The difficulty of easily traversing such a landscape, combined with rocky coastlines, strong currents and sheer cliffs which prevent the coastline from getting sucked into the Tenerife addiction of beach building, has meant that La Gomera remains mercifully devoid of large resort development. The down side to that equation is that many of La Gomera’s younger generation have abandoned their agricultural inheritance to make the weekly commute to Tenerife for an easier living and bright lights, leaving La Gomera low on economic development opportunities. But the island has seen an influx of (mainly German) immigrants who have invested in renovating traditional properties, opening restaurants and select rural guest houses and cultivating fincas. The end result is an island of rare beauty, unspoilt by tourism.

I’m not a fan of coach tours with their prescriptive itineraries and refreshment stops which often bypass local pockets, but if you want to tour La Gomera in a day, on this occasion it’s probably your best bet. Confident drivers can hire a car at the ferry terminal and explore independently but for anyone who doesn’t have experience of driving abroad and on mountainous roads, letting a coach take the stress has a lot to be said for it.

Those who prefer a more leisurely day can wander around the capital of San Sebastián where the ferry docks and from whence Christopher Columbus set sail on his globe-changing voyage of 6th September 1492. Buildings of note are the iconic Torre del Conde (above), the little church of La Asunción and Columbus’ House where the eponymous hero stayed prior to his epic voyage and which is now a museum. There are shady pavement cafés and restaurants serving very reasonably priced menus del día of typical Canarian cuisine and lots of places to stroll and enjoy the tranquil atmosphere.

Visitors in the north of Tenerife should consider taking a day return flight on BinterCanarias or IslasAirways who fly into the airport a short taxi ride from the resort of Playa Santiago. Best known as the location of the La Tecina Hotel, Playa Santiago has seen a small but steady growth over the past five years and now offers a picturesque marina; a small, black sand beach; nice restaurants with promenade views and a good selection of shops. It’s a laid back, one horse sort of resort where the default setting is sunny and life moves at a ripple pace – the perfect spot in which to enjoy a very different Canary Island for a day.

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It’s the highlight of Carnaval week in Puerto de la Cruz and last year it attracted more than 35,000 spectators.
It’s only 7.30pm. Registration of contestants isn’t scheduled to begin for another hour but already crowds are claiming their places along the route and against the barriers in Plaza Charco.

Tonight is double pleasure for us; not only are we here to watch the arrival and registration of the contestants in this surreal event, but its early start gives us the perfect excuse to eat at the Meson California guachinche in Plaza Charco.

The music strikes up and the beer barrels beside the stage are loaded, ready to oil the heels of contenders. Then it begins – a trickle at first but quickly gaining strength into a river of weird and fabulous costumes emerging from the crowds to be registered, have their heels measured for minimum height and be introduced to the audience.

It’s a process that takes in excess of two hours during which time the contestants imbibe copious amounts of alcohol, building nerve and diminishing co-ordination until heels morph into shifting mountains beneath their feet.

This year the costumes were a triumph with the Cinderella shoes and the chickens coming out top of my list.

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As soon as we heard that Ministry of Sound were going to be appearing in Santa Cruz on the first Saturday night of Carnaval 2011 it was a foregone conclusion. We would be there.

There was much debate over how we would get in and out of the city, tales of traffic mayhem being rife, but the prospect of long walks, a bus ride dressed as Hit Girl and Brother Jack, another long walk and no idea of how we would get home again settled it. We’d take our chances and drive into the city.

I drew the designated driver short straw and we set off around 10.40pm to give ourselves plenty of time to check out all the venues in the city before heading to Plaza Europa to share the Ministry of Sound experience. As it turned out, driving into the city couldn’t have been easier. We arrived at the bus station car park to find plenty of spaces (the Canarios don’t tend to like paying for parking when an empty pedestrian crossing costs nothing) and with the final touches applied to our costumes, headed off into the surreal pandemonium that is carnival.

Everywhere we went, the sights and smells of food assailed us, from candy floss and sugared almonds at the fairground, through baked potatoes and hot dogs along the paseo marítima to the amazing food stall in Plaza Candelaria with its Desperate Dan– sized montaditos and its rotating barbecue on which half suckling pigs sizzled.

Everyone who wasn’t eating, and most of those who were, were drinking, and the ground was littered with carrier bags bulging with bags of ice, bottles of Jack Daniels, Smirnoff, Arehucas, cans of Red Bull and bottles of coke from which groups were serving themselves generous refills in between salsas. Beer stalls lined every street, their counters propped up by escapees from a drug-induced nightmare, and a giant plastic lime with its top half sliced and opened served as a bar for a mojito mixing barman dressed as a bee.

We made our way first to Plaza Principe where a very traditional band was just warming up a crowd who were enjoying their salsa under the stars. Next it was on to the small stage below the Plaza where a rock band were belting out Spanish and US classic rock anthems to a select gathering. As the clock ticked towards Ministry of Sound time we headed to the main stage at Plaza Candelaria where thousands of fancy dress clad revellers were getting into their stride to the Maquinería boy band who were belting out a lively stream of carnival favourites accompanied by some very nifty dance moves.

By now, the Carnaval spirit had us by the throat and there was only one place that we needed to be. As the lasers scanned the night sky, and over a steady dance beat, a deep voice intoned a monologue that told us of a night when it was written that a new generation would come and dance until the ground shook.
As the volume pumped up and the Ministry of Sound roadshow took to the stage, the prophecy came true.

Unfortunately, my flip camera also shook and the microphone gave up the ghost on the volume. So with suitable apologies to Ministry of Sound for failing to capture the full force of your music, here’s a taster of Santa Cruz Carnaval 2011 . the food, the music and the people.

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Anyone visiting Tenerife over the next month is quite likely to find themselves witnessing events that are a little out of the ordinary as Carnaval 2011 hits the island like a tropical storm in costume.

Depending on which part of the island you’re based in, you’re quite likely to witness party goers dressed as smurfs, witches, angels and Marvel comic characters either fresh faced and bright eyed on their way to the street party, sleeping precariously on a harbour wall or still propping up a bar mid-morning with eyes as red as the sunrise.

You’ll also probably stumble over exhibitions, vintage car rallies, dancing competitions and even, as in the case of the unsuspecting holidaymakers in Puerto de la Cruz a few days ago, a mini carnival parade.

As visitors and locals strolled the cobbled streets of the town centre on an average Sunday morning, the peace was shattered by the persistent sounding on a tinny horn which heralded the arrival of the candidates for the town’s Carnaval Queen 2011 elections in vintage cars accompanied by a mini parade of dancers and musicians.

You don’t have to attend the main events to know that party time has arrived; unlike the mountain to Mohammed, Carnaval will come to you 🙂

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As a Canary Islands resident, using the local airline to island hop between Tenerife and its neighbours is an easy, convenient, time saving and economical way to travel.

With flights lasting 30 to 45 minutes, there’s barely time in between take off and landing for the flight attendants to make one swift traverse of the aisle, so by way of an in-flight service passengers are treated to a plastic cup of water and a Binter Canarias chocolate wafer biscuit. I don’t claim to be a biscuit aficionado, but these are something special.

A few weeks ago we had arranged a flying (literal and metaphorical) trip to La Palma with good friends Linda and Robert and we arrived at the Tenerife North Airport for the 6.30pm flight to be met with the knowledge that flights were being delayed and cancelled due to a storm which was in full flow across the Canary Islands.
The two flights before ours were cancelled but amazingly, we were called to gate, boarded and took off just a half hour behind schedule.

The airline operates with a fleet of ATR-72 airlines which can take off and land from short runways but which are not very good at smoothing out air pockets. That Wednesday night as we headed off over the Atlantic Ocean, the plane was buffeting and rocking us around like the crew of early Star Trek episodes on the bridge during a battle scene.
As the contents of my stomach began to feel as if they may make a break for freedom at any moment and the rain lashed the windows from the storm, an announcement came over the public address system that, due to turbulence, the in-flight service would not be available on our flight.

Twenty minutes later we could feel the aircraft descending and the buffeting increased significantly. I looked around at my fellow passengers. Some were chatting to their neighbours as if this was the most normal flight they had ever been on, others had their heads in their hands, and the lady directly across the aisle from me had her eyes closed, Rosary Beads threaded through her fingers and was silently mouthing a prayer.
I felt surprisingly calm and accepting of what was increasingly looking like my final few minutes of life and I smiled an apologetic smile at Linda for being inadvertently instrumental in her and Robert’s demise. No words passed between any of us.

Then we began to climb again and the pilot informed us that we were returning to Tenerife as conditions for landing on La Palma were too difficult.
It’s hard to say whether my disappointment was more for the fact that our planned break was being swallowed by the storm or that we now faced a further 30 minute flight back to Tenerife at the mercy of the gods.
And just to add insult to injury, I hadn’t even had my biscuit.

When the wheels finally touched down back at Tenerife we re-arranged our flight for the following morning in the hopes that the storm would have abated by then. It did not.
We started to board at 7.10 am the following morning while the rain bounced off the runway and when we finally took off, it was to a near repeat of the previous night’s flight. We rocked and buffeted our way across the Atlantic while the fasten seat belts sign remained resolutely illuminated and the Binter biscuit was nowhere to be seen.

Thirty minutes later we landed at La Palma airport where the rain had stopped and a clear sunrise was taxiing behind us on the runway. The relief at once more being on terra firma where the sun was shining was as palpable as a cream cake onto which the flight attendant placed a cherry, or should I say a chocolate biscuit, as we left the aircraft.
Fitting reward for still being alive I felt.

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We’d already had one false start for the fiesta of San Abad in La Matanza when we’d got our calendar dates crossed and had nearly set off a week early. The weather that day had been atrocious and we consoled ourselves with the fact that it would be better next Sunday…it wasn’t. The day dawned as wet and miserable as every day had for the past 8 days. The rain I had so desperately wanted was now outstaying its welcome – big time.

Unsure if the event would go ahead, Jack took to the internet to see if there was any notice of a deferral but there was nothing, which meant either it was going ahead or, more likely, no-one had bothered to update the website.
So we donned fleeces, jeans, hiking boots and hooded jackets, collected our friend Bob and headed up to La Matanza.

We arrived at the steep climb to the village of San Antonio in persistent drizzle. Last year the roads here were jam packed with parked cars but this year cars were conspicuous by their absence.
For a moment we wondered if it had been a wasted trip, but there were two clues that the event was going ahead: firstly the road was cordoned off and secondly a trail of scattered goats’ droppings carpeted the tarmac.
Picking our way through the rain sodden manure, we joined a thin band of spectators stretching their calf muscles up 1in1 streets along which smoking barbecues lay ready to turn private garages into guachinches for the day.

The horse paddocks which in previous years have seen hundreds of magnificent steeds and a motley assortment of asses, donkeys and mules held only a couple of dozen wet horses tethered in the rain and a couple of Shetland ponies which were posing for photographs.

Making our way past the pens filled with wet goats and sheep, we arrived at the main square where several hundred head of cattle were tethered.
Strolling past them, we noticed that one or two of the bulls seemed to be eyeing Bob suspiciously. It was only then that we realised Bob had chosen to wear a bright scarlet fleece…to a show of bulls. We feared for his safety, and ours.

Stopping to admire the sheer size and power of the biggest and meanest of the bulls in their isolated pen above the main cattle, Jack was going in for a close up when he was gently but firmly moved back by the herdsman who told us that the bull would head butt anyone who got within range. We didn’t need telling twice and we kept Bob behind as we passed the pen.

The rain was still driving across the horizon and there was nothing else for it but to head to the guachinche and order some wine to take the nip out of the air.
A quarter litre of red vino del país arrived rather ignominiously in a used Pepsi bottle for the princely sum of €1.50 and the barman placed three glasses alongside. Bob remarked that it tasted better than the wine he’d paid €6 for in the supermarket the day before and we made short work of it. The second bottle tasted just as good.

By this time I was beginning to feel the effects of an early start on the alcohol and suggested some food might not go amiss. Jack spotted some farmers next to us tucking into a plate of bit-sized, gofio-coated something or other and asked the barman what it was.
Chicharrón” replied the barman.
“Ahhh” said Jack, none the wiser and promptly ordered a plate.
It turned out to be pork crackling coated in gofio. Some pieces were soft and chewy, others were the rock hard variety sold in pubs in the UK. Bob and I weren’t keen. Jack, being Scottish and loving all things deep fried and preferably fatty, enjoyed them – or at least, he said he did.

Another bottle of pseudo-Pepsi arrived and I ordered some proper food – carne y papas, or spicy pork with chips.
Leaning on a plastic bar top in the rain, in San Antonio, surrounded by cattle, bulls, sheep, goats and horses with the air perfumed by wet goat, that carne y papas tasted marvellous.
While we ate, another bottle of wine mysteriously appeared on the bar and Jack said the barman had slipped it there behind my back with a conspiratorial finger to his lips.

By this time San Abad in the rain was turning into one of the best fiestas we’d been to and the bar area was turning into one big party. When the barman slipped another bottle beside our almost empty glasses we began to wonder if he was just being efficient and would ask for the bill shortly. But no, the wine was complimentary and as we got close to finishing what was in our glasses we decided we had better move away from the bar in the interests of still being able to walk.

This isn’t a fiesta put on for tourists. Other than ourselves, I didn’t hear another foreign voice all day. It’s a real, traditional agricultural fair with no frills or pretensions, just muck and animals. But it’s indicative of the good humour and friendliness of the Tinerfeños away from the main tourist resorts of the south who welcomed us into their community for the day with open arms and copious amounts of wine.
Roll on San Abad 2012.

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We’ve been lucky enough through a mixture of work and pleasure to have visited two of our neighbouring islands in the past two weeks and the contrast in the landscapes and our  locations couldn’t have been more marked.

Our first island hop of 2011 was to Lanzarote where we discovered a very different world from the one we had left here in Tenerife. Gone was the mountainous horizon with its dominant volcano and the tropical jungle of north Tenerife where everything grows as if it’s been swigging on Alice’s drink me bottle. Instead we found an island with a different beauty; a stark, flat terrain of volcanic earth where clusters of low rise white buildings were strung together along roads delineated by miniature palm trees in a dot to dot landscape of predominantly black and white.

Our home for two days was the delightful Sands Beach Resort in Costa Teguise where we had an apartment on the beach front of the resort’s salt water lagoon.
Bleached rafters, white walls, pine furnishings and bright, modern artwork dominated the apex-roofed apartment with its fully equipped kitchen, double bedroom, large, comfy living room and oodles of wardrobe and storage space.
In the mornings the sun rose directly in front of the apartment, so that breakfast on the patio would be a warm and golden one as we watched the rose coloured rays spread across the lagoon.
Despite being almost occupied to capacity, the overwhelming impression at Sands Beach and indeed at Costa Teguise was one of unhurried tranquillity.

Less than a week later we found ourselves flying in to La Palma on the 7.30 am Binter Airlines flight. It was our second attempt at making the hop to La Palma, storms the night before diverting our plane back to Tenerife when we must have been within sight of the La Palma runway – had we been able to see it through the pitch dark and driving rain.

As the aircraft banked towards the airport at Santa Cruz de La Palma, we could see the sheer cliffs and rocky coastline of the eastern flank of the island which make the Tenerife obsession with beach building all but impossible on La Palma. It’s a blessing in my opinion as it means that hopefully, La Palma will never appeal to the hordes of suntan seekers whom the developers are so keen to court.

From our aerial vantage point we could clearly see a landscape given over almost entirely to agriculture where, behind the compact cluster of the capital city, small hamlets nestled amongst the banana plantations and the neat rows of tropical fruits and almond blossom of the Isla Verde (green island).

We arrived in Santa Cruz de La Palma in time for breakfast and we ordered strong coffee, fresh juice and tostada with mermelada (jam and toast) in the Havana Cafe and watched as the city came to life.
In the narrow, cobbled streets lined with tall, Colonial buildings with their carved wooden  balconies, the morning sunlight was forbidden from entering as commerce got under way. I felt as though I’d taken a 30 minute flight and arrived in down town Havana.

Shop keepers were raising their blinds, opening their doors and sweeping their steps.
Stylishly vogue shop and office workers threaded their way past delivery vans to their favourite morning haunts for pre-work coffee and pastries. One street back, on the promenade, cafeterias raised umbrellas over their tables as the sun spilled onto the wide pavement and crept up the walls of the iconic casas de balconies the flowering cascades of their abundant window boxes.

Our accommodation was in Apartamentos La Fuente, right in the heart of the city. We’d stayed here before and had tried to request the beautiful rooms with their mudejar ceilings and window seats that overlooked the street. Alas those room were occupied and so we had an apartment in the rear of the building instead.
The room was perfectly adequate for our needs but it was in dire need of a little TLC. The curtains were cheap and shabby and didn’t match the décor or each other; the shower head was old and plastic, the bath was chipped and stained and the sheets, towels and quilts had all seen far better days in their youth.
But the shower was powerful, the water was piping hot, there was a fast WiFi connection in the apartment and we stepped straight out onto the main street to shops, cafes and restaurants.

Tenerife, Lanzarote and La Palma may share the same geographical location and language, but differences in climate and rainfall have created markedly different landscapes and each island has its own history, culture and identity.
For me, the joy of living on the Canary Islands is that there are seven different worlds on our doorstep.

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