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Diving in the Cíes Islands Explore an underwater paradise!

Diving in the Cíes Islands is one of the greatest attractions that can be enjoyed in the National Park of the Atlantic Islands (Galicia). An activity in a unique site, since, together with the Cabrera Archipelago, it is the only maritime-terrestrial National Park in Spain. Each island is a natural paradise of unparalleled beaches, and, together, they are only a small part of the natural park of the Cíes Islands. About 85% of its surface is composed of crystalline waters that harbor a reserve of marine species full of life and an underwater environment that all divers and snorkelers should see at least once in a lifetime.

Just a few minutes by boat from the Vigo estuary,
the Cíes Islands
offer an ideal place for diving, snorkeling and scuba diving. Due to its ecological richness, you can admire the explosion of life just 50 meters from the shore in simple snorkeling dives. However, the diversity of this habitat also invites the practice of more advanced diving, being able to choose routes for all levels. Many nautical tourism enthusiasts have discovered in the Cíes Islands the beginning of their favorite hobby and the number of diving baptisms in recent years has only increased. More and more people dare to take part in the different recreational diving courses and underwater activities offered in the Parque Nacional das Illas Atlánticas de Galiza.


diving in the National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia

The Cíes Islands, located 14 kilometers from the municipality of Vigo (Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain), are an archipelago of three islands at the mouth of the Vigo estuary. These islands are called Isla de Monteagudo, Do Faro and San Martin. They are also known as North Island, Middle Island and South Island, respectively. Since 2002, the Cíes Archipelago and the Ons Archipelago, together with the islands of Cortegada and Sálvora, constitute the Atlantic Islands National Park in Galicia.

Many elements make the Cíes a natural paradise. On the island of Monteagudo is considered the best beach in the world, Rhodes Beach. We also find a unique ecosystem, favored by its peculiar location, which makes the archipelago a migratory point of passage for many birds, being able to see, for example, the largest colony of yellow-legged gull on the planet.

However, exploring the land portion of the Atlantic Islands and their nature is just scratching the surface, never better said. It is when diving the Cíes Islands that we discover the greatest treasure of the Vigo estuary.



scuba diving in the Cíes Islands National Maritime Terrestrial Park

The seabed and the diversity of its ecosystems motivated that, in 1980, the Cíes archipelago was declared the Cíes Islands Natural Park, becoming part of the Maritime-Terrestrial National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia in 2002. Thus, the Government of Spain ensured that the entire area had the best conditions of protection and ecological preservation.

diving in the Cies Islands

Today, scuba diving in the Cíes Islands is an experience that every diver, amateur or professional, must try in their lifetime. Thanks to the location on the map and oceanographic conditions of the Cíes, multiple habitats rich in nutrients are developed in which a great variety of marine flora and fauna communities can be observed.

The amplitude of the tides, together with the action of the winds and the course of the currents, favors the formation of communities of various mollusks in the rocky areas, such as limpets, barnacles and mussels. Although there are specimens of these species worldwide, it is thanks to the Gulf Stream that we can find them in these latitudes, as it raises the temperature of the surface waters.

In the area permanently covered by water, we find large forests of brown algae, with species of up to 2.5 meters, among which octopus, crabs, lobsters, conger eels… find shelter.

recreational diving in cies

There are several environments in the seabed of the Cíes Islands, Depending on how sedimentation has developed throughout history, one can find sandy, maërl (formed by coralline algae and red algae), gravel (with the remains of bivalves and gastropods) or muddy bottoms. All of them are mobile bottoms, that is, the waves and currents constantly remove the surface layer of sediment, thus benefiting biodiversity.

In the sandy areas live scallops and volandeiras along with flat fish such as rays, which camouflage themselves under the sand. In the points with maërl bottoms there is a large amount of coralline algae in the form of arbuscules, which harbor clams, sandeels and cuttlefish. The gravel bottoms do not present large plant formations, but favor the appearance of razor clams or scallops. Finally, between Monteagudo Island and Faro Island, there is the so-called Lagoa dos Nenos, which has an area of muddy bottoms where two types of Zostera grow, forming real meadows of marine flowers ideal for the spawning of numerous species of fish.

underwater environment in ciesAs if that were not enough, in the open sea diving trips in the waters surrounding the Cíes it is common to see sea turtles, dolphins and whales.

You can find much more information about the ecosystem of the waters of the Cíes Islands on the website of the National Park of the Atlantic Islands of Galicia.

This web site also has a well kept photographic gallery of the fauna and flora at sea and on land. We also recommend, if possible, a visit to the Visitor Center, located in the old town of Vigo (Rúa Palma, 4) and a visit to the Galician Sea Museum, also in Vigo, to learn more about the Cíes Islands and their ecological paradise.


diving in vigo

When diving in the Cies Islands you can find forests of anemones, populated by sea urchins and seahorses. The Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas de Vigo (IMM) is carrying out an ambitious study on the latter.

After finding in the last 20 years the presence of the common seahorse in the map of the Cíes Islands National Park, and after the discovery of a new species of seahorse in the Rhodes Beach environment Hippocampus guttulatusor little horse with a nose, in 2016 the Hippoparks project was born, whose purpose is to learn about the habitats and food sources of these species, apart from those of other syngnathids, such as pipefishes. The results of the study will be known during 2018.



snorkeling in cies islands

Around the Cíes Islands, along the entire width of the Vigo estuary, several ships are sunken, the result of shipwrecks and battles.The Cies Islands, such as those fought against Francis Drake in the sixteenth century, who used the Cies Islands as a refuge for his fleet, or the Battle of Rande, in the early eighteenth century.

October 23, 1702, During the War of the Spanish Succession, Spanish galleons arrived in the Ría de Vigo loaded with great treasures from America. Once inside the estuary, were attacked by the Anglo-Dutch ships in one of the fiercest battles the Galician coast has ever seen. History preserves no further data on whether the galleons were already attacked on the beaches of Vigo with the cargo still inside or whether the treasures had already been disembarked. Legend has it that the sunken galleons still harbor a great fortune in their wrecks, resting underwater, amidst mud and sand.

Jules Verne, aware of this historical episode, imagined Captain Nemo searching for the submerged treasure in his famous work Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. Today it is known that, just from the Battle of Rande, there are at least six wrecks resting at the bottom of the Ría de Vigo. Many adventurous divers and people who dedicate their lives to archaeological diving have tried to locate the spoils over the years. How about you? Would you like to find out what fortunes are hidden in the waters of the Cíes Islands?



cies islands diving baptism

The wide variety of habitats found throughout the waters of the Cíes and Ons archipelagos make our archipelagos an ideal place for any diver or scuba diver who wants to enjoy a unique experience admiring the aquatic life of the Ría de Vigo (Pontevedra). Whether it is your first dive (first time) or your umpteenth dive, in the Cíes you will find routes for any level.

If you have not yet experienced the pleasure of diving and want to get started in this sport, there are many diving schools in Vigo where you can take diving courses and dive courses for beginners. If you are already an experienced diver, you can consider getting one of the official PADI certificates from diverorecreativo. Without leaving the estuary you will find PADI diving courses for all levels.

diving courses and dive courses  The Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) conducts a series of courses for different levels of recreational scuba diving. The certifications awarded after the courses depend on the level of the course.

The main certifications are, from least to most experience in recreational diving: PADI Scuba Diver, PADI Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water Diver, Rescue Diver and PADI Master Scuba Diver.

There are also diving activities that can be enjoyed in the Cíes and throughout the Natural Park that do not require any type of experience or having taken a diving course previously. This is the case, for example, with snorkeling. This is a type of shallow scuba diving, ideal for any age and experience.The equipment required is very little: wetsuit, mask, snorkel and fins. There are dive sites in the Cíes that display before the diver a range of colors and life at a depth of just a few meters, thus constituting a full diving experience for those who do not plan to attend diving courses or diving school. For the practice of snorkeling in the Cíes you only have to ask for permission to visit the park, you do not need a diving permit.


In Naviera Nabia we strive to offer these services, ideal for a diving baptism. We offer routes to our clients around Cíes and Ons Island. With the maximum flexibility of schedules and the best prices, we want to encourage you and make you feel welcome to dive.

Our intention is to be able to offer you as many snorkeling trips as possible, as well as kayak excursions. However, these activities are variable, since we always want to offer the best experiences at the best rates, so if you want to know what service or services we currently offer, please contact us and we will get back to you as soon as possible. This can be done via the web, by email or by phone (our contact number is +34 986 32 00 48) or through our social networks. You can also visit any of our facilities. Any of our professionals will be happy to inform you about the rates and services we offer for your diving trip in the Cíes.

If you want to be always informed of the latest news about products and services and activities that we propose from Naviera Nabia, you can follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Youtube and Instagram and access the latest news.



snorkeling trips in the Cíes Islands

For the safe practice of diving and scuba diving, as well as the conservation of the environment, from Naviera Nabia we offer you a series of recommendations that should always be kept in mind:

  • Make sure you are in good health and physical condition for diving. These activities in a high-pressure environment require a specialized medical examination, which should be performed periodically.
  • Always follow the instructions of the instructors. Be alert to any warnings you may receive.
  • For your protection, keep your diving equipment in optimal conditions. Wetsuits, fins and masks must be ready and undamaged before your dive. Check it on the boat. The more technical aspects of the equipment, such as the air regulator or the clock, should not be neglected.
  • Find out about the places you are going to explore. Researching and looking at a map of your dive routes, outings and destinations not only makes the sport safer, it also makes it much more interesting. Also, plan the rest of the aspects of the trip: boat, accommodation, days… Check the availability of camping sites in the Cíes Islands, it is worth it.
  • Never go diving alone. With friends or in a team it is much safer. Give the gift of scuba diving!
  • Prepare yourself physically and mentally before your trips. Diving is a sport that can be very hard, so it is advisable to have a good physical and mental preparation, to make sure that everything is in order when we make the dives.
  • Take care of your ears. Regulate the pressure in your ears by using the Valsalva maneuver every meter of depth you descend.
  • Control breathing. The instinct to hold the air underwater unnecessarily causes the feeling of distress to increase. Each puff of air that enters and leaves your lungs must be regulated. Unless you are freediving!
  • Pay attention to ocean and weather conditions.

Regarding the care of the environment while developing the practice of diving, remember:

  • Do not touch the fauna and flora, the seabed of the Cíes and its beaches are fragile, it is important to try to make our visit as unnoticed as possible.
  • Do not lift stones from the seabed. With that simple gesture you could be destroying the habitat of that entire underwater area.
  • Do not access unauthorized areas. It is advisable to follow the established route at all times.
  • Of course, sport fishing is prohibited.
  • The beauty that lies before your eyes deserves to be enjoyed by our future generations. Please be extremely careful with everything you see around you. Preserving and caring for what we have here is only in our hands. It allows everyone to enjoy nature.

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