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Diving in the Mediterranean Sea

When I spent my childhood vacations in Sanary/mer, in Provence Coast region – located along the Mediterranean Sea between Marseille and East of Toulon – days were filled with swimming and playing on the nearby beaches, hanging on the local fishing harbor watching the wooden fishermen boats returning from the day catch, filling up shopping baskets with local produces at the daily market, enjoying evening walks in the narrow streets bordered by scented Mediterranean plants, watching over and over the sunset beyond the “Grande Bleue”. For the several weeks of holidays spent in this part of the country, life was as simple as it can be and days were passing by far too fast doing nothing.

Decades later, nothing has changed! Nothing? Almost… Sanary/mer has now grown in reputation not only for its unique fishing harbor and its “Pointus” (traditional wooden boats) but also for its rich history in diving. In sites near Sanary-sur-mer and places along Provence Coast, J-Y Cousteau, P. Thailliez and F. Dumas, AKA ‘Mousquemers” pioneered modern diving. The Historical Diving Museum in Sanary-sur-mer displays unique collections of these first modern diving gears, underwater cameras, scubas, etc. as well as a large number of antique pieces from Roman and Greek wreck ships and ancient harbors found along Provence Coast.

Diving is of course a very attracting activity when visiting Provence Coast region. Local diving centers offer varieties of dives including training, snorkeling and discovery of the sea world, wrecks diving and sub-aquatic archeology. Besides offering touristic interest, diving activity is also at the core of programs for educating visitors and locals on the vulnerability of the sea and the urgency to protect it.

By Evelyne

View Diving sites between Marseille and Toulon

Download pdf map of Diving Sites in Western Var Region


Port-Issol Bay underwater pictures and videos


Diving and underwater videos

(Port-Issol Bay – Sanary/mer – Provence Coast – France)

More about Snorkeling at Passion Snorkeling(French)



La Seyne-sur-Mer

Diving Sites – Islands

Education and protection of the sea world

2000 Regards Sous la Mer (French)

Additional information for diving in France

Beaches and Sea in Provence

This beach at the Eastern side of Sanary/mer (in Six-fours-les-plages) is the Bonnegrace Beach. It is ideal for swimming and it is guarded from June to October. The beach is made of very small smooth pebbles. It is of easy access from Sanary/mer and Six-fours / La Seyne. It offers a great view to the Embiez Island and sunset on the west.

It has playgrounds for kids and it offers areas for windsurfing, surfing and jet-skiing.

It is great all year long for sunbathing or enjoying walk along the boardwalk and stops at one of many and very good restaurants or pizza/crepes shops.



Snorkeling Trails in Port-Issol Bay

Port-Issol is an unique historical beach where the scuba diving pioneers (P.Thailliez, F. Dumas and J-Y Cousteau) performed their first scuba dives. Port-Issol was also a Roman port and trading place. Ruins are still visible at the east side of the beach.

It is a great spot for snorkeling and during summer months (July-August), guide snorkeling tours are available.

On the west end on the beach, beyond the first set of cliffs, a small area with private beach rentals offers a unique spot to view the bay and eat unique local seafood specialties at La Kima Beach.

Beware of JellyFish!

They love French Riviera too!

No one likes them but they are members of the sea world and even paradise spots on the Mediterranean have to deal with their presence. The most common Jellyfish in this part of the Mediterranean is the Pelagia Noctula, a small purple transparent jelly creature that can sting when a body touches its fine invisible tentacules. The sting is not dangerous for human but very irritating, and may lead to allergies if a large number of stings are present.

Jellyfish come and go with currents and according to the location of the beach (exposed to South,, East, West…) and the strength of the currents and winds they are more or less present. Usually a current from South (from the high sea) will tend to push jellyfish to the shore. A wind, current from the North (land) will push jellyfish away from the shore. This is a general trend along Provence Coast but many local variables can affect the presence of jellyfish or not. A large study – Jellyfish Watch Program – is underway to develop projection models for estimating the presence of jellyfish or not in various locations according to weather conditions, jellyfish population density in the region, shape and exposure of the sea shore. Possibly by 2012, beach authorities on the Mediterranean sea will publish daily forecast about the probability of the presence of jellyfish.

The best way to get protected is to wear a full swim wetsuit or even better a StingerSuit. You may not see many people trying to protect themselves with full protective suits as fashion and dress code in France is what dictate behaviors, even on the beach!
Note: I DO use a StingerSuit when there are jellyfish and I am very much noticed on the beach and certainly a source of high disapproval regarding fashion and style, however I am also the source of lot of envy as I can go to the water and enjoy a wonderful swim in the Mediterranean without any risk of bad stings.

Beach Regulation

Beach Rules

On all guarded beaches, dogs and ball games are forbidden except in designated areas. Feeding fish, spearfishing and fishing are not allow in swimming areas. It is recommended to be very cautious when getting into the water after sunbathing, the difference in temperature between the beach and the sea can induce thermal shock especially in the middle of summer.

All beaches, unless mentioned are non clothes optional although topless and very small bikini and thongs are allowed…