You may have read my last post about visiting Casa de Colon in Gran Canaria´s capital city Las Palmas, here´s yet another hint for everyone coming to this great island of the Canaries: A trip with a real submarine. Now, you might know about my fascination with submersible boats, one of my dearest sailing friends is one actor of the great original “Das Boot” movie and my kids love the thrill of the idea of going below surface as well. So, let´s go! As I did have an issue with verification of my debit card I couldn´t book the tickets for the ride in advance – I would advise to do so as there is a 10 per cent off for online booking.
So we went to the pontoon and got our tickets here. This is all around the marina and cannot be missed because it is all done in the bright yellow colors of the submarine itself. The submarine is based in the picturesque town of Puerto Mogan, one of the major tourist hotspots of the island. But behold, we have been there for strolling the little marina, having a nice dinner and just going around a couple of times and have never felt it was too crowded. No fear, come here preferably in the morning hours as temperatures will be bearable and less people underway.
Boarding a real submarine
I don´t know if we were just lucky but the lady at the counter said we could go on the next dive ride away so there was no waiting time. Unfortunately in Spain wearing a mask in all forms of public transport was still mandatory, but it was just a minor inconvenience. The boat looks just awesome!
Built in Finland this boat has an overall length of 18 meters and a width of 4 meters maximum. It can withstand depths of up to 75 meters safely but due to the given circumstances of the ocean floor around Puerto Mogan it won´t go deeper than 30 meters. In the brochure they say 20 meters but we have seen it on the pilot´s display: 28.5 meters max at some point. Embarking is done via two hatches, the crew of 4 people is very kind and professional.
Inside the atmosphere is surprisingly great: Fresh cool air is provided all through the approximately 45 minutes lasting diving excursion. Every seat, no matter where, is a prime seat: 80 centimeters wide bulleyes guarantee a breathtaking view on the outside world. Even still moored to the pontoon during casting off, some curious fishes come near and look what´s inside.
Front row seat at Captain Nemo´s side
Now, let´s dive, guys! It is so, so, so much fun, I can tell you! How many times reading all those submarine books, watching the movies and going through the stories had I wondered what it would be like to kill the buoyancy of a boat and go down. And here we are: Inside a real submarine! We cast with the help of a small auxiliary vessel that will stay above the boat all the time – a precaution to signal other boats and maybe also as a guide.
Captain and pilt take their seats as we slowly leave the harbor, subjected to the long gentle swell of the Atlantic Ocean. The view is absolutely breathtaking! As we have cleared the entrance area to the marina, we start to go down. The ballast tanks are opened, I can hear water rushing in and on the screens which are in front of each seat we see the deck slowly being washed by water.
Forward rudders point downward and the boat goes down. At a surprisingly steep angle (or is it just my puzzled imagination?) the GOLDEN SHARK submerges and I can´t barely see the surface above us anymore. Every guest will receive a headphone which, plugged in to the jack, will play a pre-recorded monologue giving information on the boat itself, the ride and the different things to see. I took those off early as I wanted to hear the real sounds and discover what was there to see by myself. Also, my kids were so excited that they regularly told me facts and figures they just heard.
Underwater marine sealife and wrecks
Underwater it was much different from what I had initially thought. The Ocean water was clear and as blue as the Atlantic gets, there were also a lot of fish but just this one kind of species. From time to time I could observe half a centimeter big chunks of some kind of “granulate” which was food. If the submarine released it at the bow or the aux crew above us was feeding the fish to attract the swarm I can only guess.
Nevertheless, we reached bottom pretty soon and I was surprised: Mostly barren, all over with smaller and bigger rocks, I couldn´t make out much fauna down here. No algae or underwater plants, therefore we could spot some starfish, which were really much, much bigger that the ones I knew, and red-colored. I also saw two huge rays gently flying over the bottom.
For my kids it was absolutely fascinating, both were excited as hell! Funny to see that my older son pretty soon lost kind of interest in the outside world. Sitting at the first passenger seat he had the best view over the pilot´s shoulders and a prime outlook into the submarine´s cockpit: He observed every button they pushed, every steering command given and every chunk of air released to avoid collisions. My younger son on the other hand got even more agitated the deeper we got and he played fish-spotter. So heart warming to see as a father.
The boat circled the area and we arrived at a marine protection zone which was initiated in 2007, if I got informed right by my headphone-wearing Lieutenant. The government declared it a fishing free-zone and sunk artificial reefs, which consist of blocks of concrete and – much more exciting! – wrecks. The boat meandered through a debris field, showing wrecks of wooden sailships as well as iron-boats in different states of disintegration.
A never miss highlight on Gran Canaria
Fascinating to see that even our pilots had to gaze through the water at an absolutely focused high intense level of concentration to find a safe passage. We hit rock bottom one time (no problem for the rugged boat whatsoever) and they had to blow the tanks multiple times or engage upward screws for dynamic course corrections to avoid collisions. A real adventure for sure. Approximately 40 to 45 minutes later we slowly headed back as they blew the tanks and the boat “shot” upwards.
What a nice feeling to have the hatches opened again and fresh warm air entering the air-conditioned steel tube. We could enter the deck of the GOLDEN SHARK to observe the landing maneuver of the boat and as gently and professionally as ever the fine crew of the sub brought us back to the pontoon. My kids are still today telling the story of their submarine ride with glowing eyes and have since then produced numerous sketches and crayon pictures of this trip. A great occasion and another must-see on Gran Canaria, especially for families. Out of the 110 Euros spent for the trip, each single Cent is money well spent. Dive, aye – let´s go!
Other submarine-related articles you might like to read:
“Das Boot” has shaped us forever
Berthing a submarine like a pro
Dangerous underwater Tango: A Soviet Sniper Sub in Hamburg