Photoseries on my October 2009 visit to the El Hierro Fotosub (underwater photography contest). This island, an Unesco Biosphere, is the smallest and most western of the Canary Islands (Spain) and is both spectacular under and above water.
An invitation to attend the Fotosub in El Hierro last year sounded almost too good to be true. But in fact it wasn’t only true, it was alos even better than expected. Great thing about attending as a photographer/journalist is that you don’t have competition stress but do get to dive almost as much as you want with big shots like Alex Mustard or Kurt Amsler. For an inexperienced underwater photographer like me that is certainly a treat!
The lavafields outside our hotel in La Restinga
So one chilly October morning I started out a long day of travel from Amsterdam to Madrid, then off to Tenerife before finally boarding a small prop plane for the 30-minute flight from one Volcano island to the other. For those who have never heard of El Hierro (or Ferro as it’s also called), I can’t blame you. I had never heard from it either but I feel lucky to have changed since last year. It’s the smallest and most western of the Canary Islands, an island group near the coast of Marocco. Back in the days (say, about 2000 years ago), it was thought to be the end of the world and it hosted the meridian for a long time before it was finally noticed there was a bit more to this planet than previously thought.
The famous Juniperus phoenicea trees at El Sabinar
Small part of the rain forests
The island hosts several volcanic outcrops and is exceptionally spectacular in nature: huge volcanic fields compete with Pine forests, rain forest or dry stretches of land depending on what square kilometer you happen to be at. I don’t think I have ever seen such huge variety in landscapes in such a small place, no wonder it’s now protected as a Unesco Biosphere.
El Hierro is not only a fascinating place, it completely lacks any form of mass tourism. As it doesn’t host a single stretch of decent beach (at least all year round) 99% of people don’t even bother to come here. Which is perfectly fine to everyone that lives there or to anyone who does happen to visit.
Photographer at work!
Grouper & Trumpetfish combo, standard for El Hierro diving
Sea Breams at the El Bajon dive site
Basically, one could write endlessly about the beauty of the place but we did go there to go diving. The Photosub is big event for the Island group and is a quite popular contest for photographers from abroad. Very well organized with a lot of attention to safety and the well being of attending journalist/photographers I might say. Add a very easy-going atmosphere and some superb diving and you kind of get the idea: there are worse places to be. Everywhere.
Kurt Amsler at work photographing Black Corals at 45 meters (145 feet)
Arrow Crab (La Restinga harbour night dive)
Diving hotspot and HQ for the contest week is the southern village of La Restinga, a quiet place with a good harbor and plenty of excellent diving opportunities. With a RIB it’s usually not more than ten to fifteen minutes to any great divespot in the clear waters. From huge stone pillars that take ages to swim around with nice big schools of fish to deserted place where large Groupers loom. Any of the divesites host fantastic underwater views and scenery. No, one doesn’t come here for coral formations but the rest of the wildlife more than makes up for it. So if you ever have the opportunity to visit: have no doubts about it, the place will blow you away. Under, as well as above water!
Safety stop with a view at Punta Miradero
You can see the full image gallery (including larger sizes) here.
And click here to see the article that was made for Duikmagazine (Dutch diving magazine).