Family trip to Playa Blanca – with diving thrown in
For the first time in a number of years just the one family wanted a foreign diving trip at the beginning of the 2013 season so a slight change to a family trip with diving rather than diving with the family was arranged.
For the last 6 years or so Emma at Holsworthy Travel has arranged our trips for us and this year was no exception Holsworthy Travel. The team are happy to look at a range of options using a wide selection of operators or build a stand alone trip using planes, trains and hotels – we've also used them for Round the World style trips with various stops, carriers and locations.
This year, as we were family based, we were directed to a First Choice Splash Resort on the island of Lanzarote, namely the Lanazur Splash Resort. We’d been to the island before and wanted to see what a different resort could offer. Playa Blanca was decided on as it’s an older area than our previous stay, has a great harbor and isn’t a pure tourist spot.
We flew from Exeter which was a great plus point as the airport is less than an hour from home. An early check in (0630) made for a very early start for the four of us but a good breakfast, at not too bad a cost, upon arrivial at the airport helped smooth away the tiredness. Car parking was arranged via the BSAC travel partner – Travellers Advantage. A great service where the car was picked up from us at the airport drop off, and returned a week later after having been cleaned. So much better than the hassle of the larger version we tried to use last year at Gatwick.
An easy 3 hour flight with the four and eight year old entertained by Angry Birds and hangman. With a smaller plane and only three seats in a row one of us had to sit the other side of the aisle. The booking team had put as a block of four, but the aisle made life so much more pleasant – for me anyhow.
The transfer was around 40 minutes in an air conditioned coach and was fairly painless. The hotel reception was airy and large with a glass of bubbly, juice, water on arrival. The hotel is set up with a central pool with 10 lines of villas coming off them. Everything is single level, with slopes or steps to change heights. The splash pool is at the Northern end of the site and around a 5 minute walk from our shed, on the Southern end! The rooms were simple, clean and roomy. We had a 1 bedroom shed with 2 singles in the lounge for the kids – which pulled out at night. Maid service for 5 days kept the place tidy and no sign of any bugs or nasties whilst we were there – the wind keeps the little fliers down!
My pair made good use of the hotel kids club, the First Choice one doesn’t start until May, and they ran a range of activities that kept them amused. Games, water park, treasurer hunts, tee shirt printing were just a few of the fun things that kept them out of the wife’s hair. Shame the mini disco only had 1 CD as we had the same songs for all 6 nights, but at least we all knew the actions by mid week.
First choice’s all inclusive policy made for a simple system of eating, drinking and snacks. There was a great range of food on offer in the main restaurant with each evening having a different theme, the splash resort had a snack bar that was open the operating hours of the park (10 -5) serving burgers, hot dogs, chicken, salad, drinks etc.
The pool bar served ice cream in the afternoon along with sandwiches and cakes most of the day. The only down side was the main bar. A good choice of drinks but with only 1 person serving it did get a tad boring standing in line during the evening entertainment. The shows weren’t too bad and kept the kids entertained. We never stayed too late but enjoyed what we watched.
Pool towels were hired at 2 Euros for the week with a 10E deposit, the safe’s were in a safe room and again were hired at a few Euros a day along with a deposit. This all had to be paid in cash and was refunded in cash at the end of the week.
Before we left I contacted the on site dive centre to try and establish their diving program. The dive shop didn’t bother responding so they came off the list, good job to really as when they were running the in pool try dives no one was in the water and they were just strapping the cylinder onto the back of anyone over the age of eight and letting them go. It was only 1.5m but still not my idea of safety.
We also tried the Cala Blanca diving centre, again no joy. The Diving college responded with a great email with all the information we needed. The only thing is they dive once in the morning, come back for lunch then dive again in the afternoon. This was great if you just wanted to do the mornings but I was after three days diving of two dives before returning to the family. They did their best to keep me up to date with plans and they like the idea of returning you to the family for lunch, but we just didn’t fancy this model.
Rubicon on the other had responded once emailed with exactly what we were after, an early ish pick up (0830), a dive followed by cake and coffee, a second dive and back to the hotel reay for lunch at 1330 ish. They weren’t the cheapest on the island but as they had what we wanted a 6 dive pack, with an option to extend, was booked.
Emails were answered quickly and on the first day the mini bus arrived as planned to pick me and my gear up. A short ride and we were at the centre. First impressions were of a clean and tidy centre. The shop had a range of diving kit from Halcoyn, Suunto and Aqualung amongst others. There was also a number or rebreather bits and pieces and they were able to supply the little things, like a spare computer battery, should it have been needed!
All diving is carried out on Nitrox for those qualified, as most of the week was spend shallow this made life easy, especially as I stayed on air tables. 200 bar seems to be the normal fill and they seemed put out when I asked for a 12l rather than a 15 on the first day. We were only due to be sub 20m and I didn’t see the need. They have a number of dumpy cylinders which fit their kit well but my wing struggles so a tall 12 it was – this changed to a 15 on day two and three as I moved over to Nitrox along with the rest – think they may have regretted this size change!!
The centre runs a mix of shore dives at Porto Del Carmen, along with every one else, and boat dives from out side the center. The two ribs are 8.5m with either an inboard or twin external outboards. First aid kits, O2 and a ladder on each made for good, quick boat rides.
First day we dived two local sites, no more than 10 minutes by boat. The first was Flamingo Wall, a 16m maximum site, and the nearest to the our hotel. This was a great site which I later snorkeled with the daughter and was probably the best site of the week. A small harbor has been created to give a tourist beach surrounded on all sides by the wall with a small opening to get in and out, we dived the external wall. It was ray mating season and they were every where. Octopus, Trumpet Fish and a wide range of other fish were also seen. The rocks gave a good place to scout around and with the sand and rock topography there was plenty to find. During the 57 minutes we spent there.
After an hour shore side with coffee we were then dropped in on an interesting reef called Punta Jinez.. Again this was a simple dive with plenty to see with maximum depth of about 20m. The reef had some interesting caves, 1 with a very large lobster within. Moreys, octopus and both soft and hard corals were seen. An interesting moment when one of the group hit the surface, followed soon after by the guide. We were signaled that all was well and to continue back to the boat. The next thing we see is the guy coming back down with the Instructor trying to pull him back up. His BCD was inflated and on the surface he stayed. Turned out he had less than 10 bar in his cylinder when trying to descent, and the guide was having none of it. A fairly hard swim due to the current but all in all a good hours dive.
Day two saw me and one of the instructors drive up to Porto Del Carmen. The first dive of the day was a shore dive out from the small jetty. A simple swim followed by a 32m drop down to the Cathedral – a large cavern with resident fish and great views. Grouper, nuddies, sponges, shrimp and a range of fish were spotted on the way down, and back. The cave itself is a fun arch to swim around in with some lovely colors, so long as you have a good torch – and I did.
The problem with 15l cylinders is the gas allows you a good run time on shallowish dives, we dropped into deco whilst in the cave but as it’s a shallow rise back to the entrance point the few minutes spend were great fun looking around the rocks. Air tables were still being used despite the nitrox mix (30%) for that extra layer of safety. A total run time of just over an hour is a tad unusual for the guides at this spot and I think the poor bloke was feeling the cold, despite the dry suit and 18 degree water come the end. I was toasty in my 5mm!
After a coffee and cake we dropped back in, swam around the wreck of an old fishing boat and dropped down to the Blue Hole. A very similar dive in both profile and sights as dive 1, but a really enjoyable dip, especially with just the two of us. A second 32m dive soon pushed the deco up and it seemed no time at all before the computer was showing 20 minutes to do, again this was spent in the shallows hunting out a range of smaller critters and cuttle fish. After a 71 minute run time I think he was regretting encouraging me to use a 15 l cylinder – but I was more than happy.
Day three saw us again on the boat diving local to the centre. The first dive was a 50 minute swim around caves, rocks and an old fishing boat and a site called un-imaginary Wrecks and Caves. The highlight of the dip being an Angel shark that swam out from under a rock. Morey eels and a range of fish were also on the reef.
The final dive of my trip was spent urchin bashing at a site called Tongues. Another short boat ride straight off shore took us to a rather bland spot of old lava flows. Small vertical fingers splayed out across the sea follow interspersed with sandy areas for the odd ray to reside in. What made this area fun was the volume of urchins, they were every where and of every size. We spent the 52 minutes chopping them up, I dread to think how many fish we fed – and boy did they love it, but once complete you couldn’t evcen see the area we’d cleared. It’s an issues at this site and the centre run free urchin dives at certain times of the year.
I hoped to complete a re-breather dive whilst at the centre as they seem to have most makes on site with instructors to match. However I couldn’t get the extra day pass that would be required as there is no throwing it on and jumping in at this centre, lectures, class room runs and in water time was required. This was a shame but gives me something to do next time we go back.
A simple check out, transfer and flight home, again fighting Angry birds all the way, made for a good trip. The car pick up was easy and was in the car park waiting when we come through customs.
From booking, traveling, staying and diving a superb painless week which I would happily undertake again or recommend any section of it to anyone.