Who says cold water diving can’t be filled with color?
Travel the world for long enough, and you quickly realize that not all dive site were created equal. They can be vastly different in every location you go. And of all the places at our fingertips, cold water diving is never a fan favorite.
But nature is a wonderful thing, and if you play your cards right sometimes, even when you’re far from a tropical reef, you can get a dive that’s every bit as colorful as a rainbow.
The Côte Sauvage or “wild coast” of Brittany is found on the north-west of France. If it’s sandy beaches, rocky cliffs and dramatic landscapes don’t seduce you, perhaps the diving will.
Brittany is a territory that has 2, 800 km of coastline bordered by the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, the Iroise Sea and the Bay of Biscay. It is also a place filled with medieval mystic and legend. The story of King Arthur, the Knights of the Roundtable and Merlin are very much alive in the history and folklore of the region.
Carnac is a touristic town on the southern part of the Brittany peninsula. After a brief visit to France’s Côte d’Azur earlier this year, Carnac place was a nice change up from the traditional and well known French vacation destination.
At first glance Carnac may seem small, but it’s historic draws make it feel big. The town is known throughout the world for its mouth-watering surfing beaches and unique rows of ancient Neolithic menhir standing stones (also called Carnac stones).
Having traveled there myself, I must say it didn’t take me long to fall in love with Carnac. The hustle and bustle of summer tourists, the laidback vibes and the constant sounds of waves lapping at the beaches stole my heart. Aside from the historically famous stones, the whole town seemed to live and breath for the ocean.
Weightlessness, perfect freedom, that feeling of salt water soaking my hair. I was craving a dive and as soon as we arrived in Carnac, I could feel the sea beckoning.
Our dive tour started at the Carnac Dive Center.
The center was conveniently located seaside, beneath the Carnac Yacht club. Besides the ideal waterfront location, the center also had on-site shower and toilet facilities, free street parking and was relatively easy to access for divers needing to pick up or drop off equipment.
Once we checked in and got the low down of the diving weekend, we prepared for a weekend filled with boat and shore diving.
From Carnac, there are many hot commodity dive sites within an hour’s boat ride of the main harbor.
If you are a wreck diver, the Ile de Croix has stunning underwater landscapes and numerous shipwrecks. Alternatively, if you’re more of a flora and fauna person, the Bay of Quiberon or the Gulf of Morbihan are other great options for dive sites.
Bearing in mind that no matter how much you plan your dive or want to visit a particular location, it’s mother nature who has the final word. On our diving weekend, we were lucky with decent surface conditions and not too much tide or wave action. Patrice, the boat captain, and owner of the center decided that conditions would be best in the Bay of Quiberon region. So without adieu, off we went to the Bay of Quiberon primed to explore some of Brittany’s diving sites.
In the Bay of Quiberon we did two boat dives, and while the visibility wasn’t spectacular, each one afforded us some pretty sensational macro life.
Walls upon rocky walls stretched from the surface of the water right down into the muddy seabed. They were carpeted in green, purple, pink, red, orange, black jeweled anemones. These exquisite little beasts were everywhere, filling up every open surface available.
It was like a package of Skittles had exploded underwater and stuck to the landscape. Where one patch of green jeweled anemones ended another color seemed to start. It was almost as colorful as a coral reef, only way up in northern France.
When I wasn’t taking in the magnificence of the jeweled anemones, I was hunting out tonnes of little critters that seemed to find to most uncharacteristic of spots to seek refuge.
Gobies, blennies, crabs, snails, nudibranchs, wrasse. Tiny things were moving around all over the place, and even though they weren’t as colorful as my previous subjects I was more than happy to snap their pictures.
As you can probably see from the pictures our boat dives were simply splendid. My only regret was our jackpot find at the end of the day when I wished very much that I had put on my wide angle lens.
You may or may not know, but I’m a sucker for large aggregations of animals. After finding that massive swarm of pelagic swimming crabs while diving in Peniche, I didn’t think I would have another incredible find so quickly. But low and behold here on the dark and murky bottom of Brittany was a MASSIVE bed of Black Brittle Stars (Ophiocomina nigra). It was yet another jaw-dropping, eye-popping animals-are-so-cool kind of moments.
Please excuse the mediocre GoPro photography. I did my best to capture the essence of this huge collection of animals but the visibility and lighting did not cooperate too well with me.
Shore diving is not as common as boat diving in Brittany. I think it’s because most of the spectacular underwater scenery is found further offshore. But at the Carnac Dive Center, there is a beachy cove right in front of the dive shop that is perfect for equipment testing, try scuba and even on the odd occasion a marriage proposal.
In addition to our two boat dives in Carnac, we also did two shore dives from the Yacht club beach. These shore dives offered ample opportunity to play around with my camera and to enjoy the sunny shallow waters.
The profile of the shore dive site was basically heaps of small boulders covered in a vegetation garden. Thanks to the relatively shallow depth and excellent light penetration, there was an abundance of seagrasses and rockweeds as far as the eye could see. I almost felt like I was diving in a salad bowl.
On these bountiful green plants, there were spiral-shelled snails, darting gobies and the occasional nudibranchs. Aside from that if you trained your eyes hard enough, you could also find a splash of color like in these Sandalled anemones that reminded me of flowers.
Interesting Fact: The Sandalled anemone (Actinothoe sphyrodeta) can have up to 120 tentacles.
Though the diversity of the shores fauna was not really comparable to the boat dives that we did in Carnac, it was nice to be able to wade in and scuba at our own pace.
We had a blast diving in Carnac! Apart from a small language barrier that sometimes left Joey having difficulty communicating with people, we were very pleased with our dive weekend.
If you are a cold water diver who marvels at the little things, we would highly encourage you to check Carnac out; the macrofauna was so colorful and so pleasing. Top that off with a fantastic family-like atmosphere and its a recipe for perfection.
Of all the places we had the opportunity to dive while on Brittany’s north-western peninsula, for us, this one ran away with the gold medal.
Diving in the Carnac region of Brittany costs 35€ to dive without a guide, 45€ with a dive guide. Depending on which dive shop you go with often they will have package deals if you are doing six dives or 10 dives.
Additional rental of equipment is shop dependant but generally costs between 5€ (per item) to 15€ (for a complete set of gear). Tank fills run at 3€ for a 6L, 5€ for a 12L and 6€ for a 15L tank.
The peak season for diving in Brittany is in the summer months from May to October. Most dive shops are open every day during this time. The diving slows down significantly in the winter months.
Diving in France is a little different than diving in certain other places in Europe. They have pretty tight rules and regulations when it comes to diving. To dive in France, you need to present your dive certification, dive insurance, a logbook and a Dr. note from within the year stating that you are fit to dive. Most shops and dive clubs will not take you out with anything less because if anything goes wrong, they can be held liable.
With the ease of the internet, travel diving has become relatively easy to search out a reputable shop and book in a day or two of diving, but what Joey and I found, especially in France was that we had a hard time getting responses to English sent emails. If you are reaching out to shops before a dive trip, translating your email in google translate will give you better success in getting responses from France dive shops. Alternatively, shops can get busy during the summer especially if there are only a handful of people running them. Give the shop a call, sometimes speaking to a shop directly can get you timely answers to your vacation planning questions.
While in Carnac we joined the Carnac Dive Center. Patrice was very easy to reach over the telephone and that is how I would recommend getting in touch with them.
Here is a list of dive shops/clubs in the area:
Have you been diving in France? What was your experience like and what diving locations did you visit? Let us know in the comments below.
Writers Note: This scuba diving post was sponsored by Carnac Dive Center. Want to explore more diving in Europe? Take a look at our scuba destination page and navigate to your area of interest to discover more dive adventures.
Saint Andrews by-the-sea may be small in size, but this summer town packs a pretty big dive punch for scuba divers willing to brave the Bay of Fundy's tides.
Bonaire TEK is an annual October occurrence, where Buddy Dive Resort partners with leaders in the tech diving industry for a week of technical dive demonstrations, equipment trials, presentations, training ins and outs, and camaraderie.
When it comes to getting outside and immersed in nature, Ontario Parks is at the top of the list. Not only do the parks boast magnificent nature, but it's hundreds of thousands of lakes make it a real treat for those who love the water.
Not all things underwater can be seen at first glance - for some, you need to take a closer look. Macro photography is the art of close-up photography on small subjects.
Do you enjoy cold water wreck diving? This dive destination will let you experience the best shipwrecks and scuba diving opportunities on the Canadian east coast.
When diving in Nova Scotia where do you even begin? Do you start in Halifax the province's capital or do you wander beyond to see what the surrounding area has to offer?
Sometimes finding a good dive spot is easier said than done. Shore diving around Saint John, New Brunswick is a testament to how unpredictable the Bay Fundy can be.
No matter what level of diver you are, scuba backroll entries are a fun-filled way to get off the dive boat and get into the water.
Sitting pretty right next to the gulf stream, Jupiter is known as one of Florida's best shark diving location. Drift along in the current as you enjoy an up-close encounter with the ocean's apex predators.
Forget the colorful piñatas and all-you-can-eat tacos, when in Mexico's coastal town of Zihuatanejo, it's all about the scuba diving!
GoPro dual battery charger conveniently charges two HERO6 Black, HERO5 Black, or HERO camera batteries simultaneously
Bare 5mm evoke women’s full suit designed by Bare’s all-female design team. The suit has technically, innovative celliant infrared technology which increase circulation, body warmth and performance.
Bare drysuit trek boots designed for rocky shore entries, boat decks, and boat ladders
Diving lens filter kit for GoPro HERO 5/6 which enhances colors for underwater video and photography conditions
Bare SB System Mens Full Under-layer
Sony Alpha a6500 24MP mirrorless camera with a 16-50mm lens, able to shoot 4K movies.
Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM FLD Large Aperture Standard Zoom Lens for Canon Digital DSLR Camera + 32GB Memory Card + Photo4Less Cleaning Cloth.
Compact underwater scuba diving hand reel with a 150ft of white line on the spool
Black Mares Cruise Roller Tauchen bag, perfect for scuba diving and traveling
The Sony SEL90M28G FE 90 mm f/2.8-22 Macro G OSS Standard-Prime Lens for E (NEX) Cameras.
Compact scuba diving finger spool with 150ft of white line and a 4-inch brass double-ended clip
DUI heavy duty dry suit gloves with yellow liners available in sizes: S, M, L, XL
Suunto SK-8 wrist compass with bungee straps, faster stabilization, and enhanced readability
If you’re not quite ready for the expense of big lights, this little video light goes perfectly with any GoPro setup
Ikelite photography strobe DS161 with NiMH rechargeable battery pack
3PC curved armband glow in the dark slate.
Black scuba diving turtle fins
Dry glove lock system that accommodates all hand sizes
AmazonBasics 60-Inch Lightweight Tripod and Bag with adjustable-height legs and rubber feet
Capture amazingly smooth GoPro footage in the air with the GoPro Karma Drone
Canon Macro Lens EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM – non Image Stabilised
Black Mares Dragon Scuba Diving BCD
Scuba diving 4ft neon yellow surface marker signal tube with “Diver Below” print
13-inch inflatable dive buoy with a 12 by 11-inch scuba diving flag surface marker
Bare 7mm thick elastek dry suit hood
Ikelite Canon EOS 100D Rebel SL1 underwater camera housing in white
Ikelite compact ball arm for quick release handle
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L USM Telephoto Zoom Lens
GoPro HERO6 Black Camera
Ikelite underwater macro lens casing is comprised of an acetyl body with glass front and can hold lenses of 4.37 diameter x 3 inches (111 x 76 mm)
The Cuticate floating dry box is a waterproof sports container perfect to fit money, ID, cards, keys and more. The case is small, portable, compact, and comes with a lanyard clip hook to take with you as you scuba dive.
Sigma MC-11 mount converter lens adapter (Sigma EF-Mount lens to sony E cameras). Essential photo kit contains Altura photo rapid-fire wrist strap, small lens pouch, cleaning kit, and microfiber lens cleaning cloth.
Ikelite aluminum digital camera tray with dual handles
Ikelite TTL dual flash sync cord attaches two strobe’s to the underwater camera housing.
Bare drysuit drawstring scuba gear bag the perfect alternative for transporting a dry suit to-and-from the dive site
Suunto Vyper Novo wrist scuba diving computer with USB
SHOOT 6″ Underwater Dome Port for GoPro Hero 6/Hero 5/Hero(2018) Black Camera Diving Lens Hood Housing Photography with Waterproof Case Accessories
Bare Sports 5mm men’s wetsuit made with elastek full-stretch nylon-2 and neoprene celliant liner infrared technology.
Flexible Lightweight Portable Tripod for Projector DSLR Cameras and Go Pro
Mini blue scuba diving tank key ring with brass pick tool and o-rings
Dive hands-free with a diving flashlight glove. This torch holder has a universal adjustable wrist strap scuba and is made of superior nylon material, which means it’s durable and comfortable to wear.
Capture amazingly smooth shake-free video with the GoPro Karma Grip
Rechargeable Ikelite NiMH battery pack compatible with Ikelite’s DS125, DS160, and DS161 strobes.
The Hydra 5000 WSRU is an all in one photo and dive light with wide, spot, red, and UV modes