On-board Diary: Arrival to Sardinia

Author: Thierry Lannoy
Date: May 24, 2007



We left the shores of Corsica, and the stormy French waters, for the peace of La Maddalena archipelago, in the north of the island of Sardinia.

Although Corsica made an excellent impression on us through the tranquillity of the streets of Bastia’s Vieux Port area, and the spectacular views of the Corsican coast, Sardinia also has beautiful scenery. We’ve also discovered many mountainous areas in this part of the Mediterranean, with mountains and cliffs that drop down to the turquoise blue waters of the sea, forming coves and a picturesque contrast of colours.

La Maddalena archipelago is a marine reserve located off the north of the island of Sardinia, to the south of Corsica, on the southern side of the strait of Bonifacio. We chose to moor at Cannigione, a very attractive and tranquil port in the heart of La Maddalena marine reserve. It appears that we arrived in this area at the right time, before the floods of summer tourists, and enjoying good weather. The town of Cannigione has all the Basic facilities for the Ranger’s crew: a supermarket, a laundry and perhaps most important, a caber café for access to the Internet….How difficult life would be these days without the Internet! I realise this each time I am away from home and want to keep in touch with people.

After the adventures of the last few weeks in France, we are going to devote ourselves to diving in this marine reserve. On this expedition, the divers are: Jorge Candan, underwater videographer; his assistant and support diver, Maria Moyano; the underwater photographer, Carlos Suárez; and his assistant and dive master, Thierry Lannoy.

It was up to me to organise the coming dives with the local diving centre. We planned these with Marco Ferrazza, of the AREAMARE diving centre. Marco has a wealth of knowledge of the area, having dived in these waters for the last 20 years. He will be the perfect guide for exploring and helping us to document La Maddalena marine reserve.

We make two dives a day, at different points in the archipelago, in the shallows or in the islands. The idea is to cover the different underwater topography. We usually begin with the deeper dive. We dive along the walls, and at about 30 metres depth we find large numbers of red gorgonia, in very good condition in comparison to the other areas of Italy previously visited. The water is a bit cold, especially at the awful moment of crossing the thermocline, the boundary between the layers of cold and warm water, which is found at about 14 metres here. At this moment, I recall diving in the warm waters off the beaches of Mexico….and no doubt my companion, Carlos Suárez, also has fond memories of the waters of his beloved Canary Islands.

As well as the red and yellow gorgonia, we encounter walls covered in parazoanthus, a coral with a very bright orange colour, and various anemones and sponges.

I’m surprised at the number of nudibranchs we’ve found in the reefs of this reserve, especially the dotted sea slug, so called because of the black spots that cover its white body. Flabellina affinis is another nudibranch, of some 4 centimetres, displaying elegant colours.

On reaching the shallower area, we see various groupers of a good size and an impressive conger eel in its cave, keeping watch over its territory. The size of these animals demonstrates that these reefs are well protected, and this was confirmed by our later dives.

The deep blue of the Sardinian waters has once again offered us some splendid views of the Mediterranean Sea, motivating us still further to devote ourselves to its conservation.