Diving in France
17 August 2020
The area from St Tropez to the Porquerolles islands is scattered with numerous wrecks sitting on sandy bottoms with clear warm water. What more could a confirmed wreck diver ask for?
My favourite of the moment is the Togo. The Togo lies in 51 to 56 m of water, reaching off the bottom to 45 m. Covered in Gorgone fans, which turn from a dark purple to a deep red when illuminated it is a delight to swim around in such clear water. The Togo is a cargo ship which went down in the 1st WW it split in two when sinking, and the bow is the shallower part described above. She sits upright on her keel, the last quarter of the wreck lies in 67m of water not far from the bow, but due to the depth is not normally dived by commercial dive firms.
She lies in on the Eastern side of the bay of Cavalaire, and is most easily dived from the port of Cavalaire Sur Mer. I have found the best people to dive with from Cavalaire Sur Mer are the Eperlan team. Claude and Jules, are the skippers who run this boat. They have a great sense of humor, are easy going, but expert at what they do. They know the wrecks intimately, and will ensure you have a great dive.
The bow is aligned with the coast and is in an excellent state, being protected from all major winds, the wooden bridge has disappeared, she is relatively easy to penetrate, the holds are filled with coal.
The engine room is cathedral like, several meters high, with enormous engines. It is cut off after this, were the explosion cut it in two. The second part of the wreck is several hundred meters further away, with the bridge and propeller, and is completely deformed.
Don't be too seduced by this wreck's beauty as she is deep, so keep an eye on the time, normally 12 minutes, but 15 minutes should be the absolute max, without special equipment, as otherwise the deco becomes too long.
Launched 30 August 1882 at the Scottish yard of Robert Thomson and Co., she first sailed under the name "Ville de Vaence", owned by the Hayraise Peninsulaire Company, sailing on Spanish routes. 1906 she was sold to Becchi & Calagno, an Italian company from Savone, and was renamed the "Amor". Come 1911 she changed hands again and was sold to the company St. Ilya de Genova, who renamed her the Togo. From transporting fruit the Togo changed to a coal freighter. She managed to survive the war until 1918, when she meet destiny by the hands of the German mining boat, UC 35. Although built by the Germans, and crewed by Germans it sailed under an Austrian flag. In the bay of Cavalaire, she laid several mines of 150 Kg each.
On the 12 May 1918, six months before the end of the war, the Togo hit one of the mines and sank immediately. 36 years after being launched this Scottish built ship, order by a French company, to operate in Spain, was sunk while under an Italian flag by a German submarine, under an Austrian flag! How more pro European can you get!
by Joe Ryan
Deep, blue, and full of caranx...
Hugo Lorentini, Belgium, 1 March 2013
Another beautiful wreck in the Cavalaire Bay is the Espingole. She lies a bit further to the South than the Togo on a sandy bottom. This torpedo boat is long and thin, and had an enourmous engine capacity for her time, with 2 x 2,600 horse power engines giving a top speed of 27 knots. Tt was equiped with 65 and 47 mm cannons and 2 torpedo tubes. You can still see some of the shells at the front of the wreck, but be careful not to touch them. She lies in a relatively easy depth of 38 meters, with no currents, and protected from prevailing winds.
The wreck has started to come apart after many years, and an early attempt to refloat, with the front part very open. Towards the rear is the best preserved. The engines are easily visible, surrounded by bricks of coal, some bearing a stamp mark. There is no superstructure to speak of, this boat being designed for speed. The guns have been removed at some point. It is still possible to see the remains of the chains passed under the keel, used to try and raise her.
The wreck has resident Moray and Conga eels, many species of fish, lobster and crayfish The waters are clear, and on descent the whole wreck is displayed before you.
The Espingole was built in 1900 at Le Havre, in the shipyard of Augustin Normand. She joined the Middle East squadron in 1901, and participated in an expedition to Turkey. At the beginning of 1903 she was based at Toulon. On the faithful day 4 February 1903 she was participating in naval exercises, and at top speed hit the rocks called Taillat. Aground on the rocks efforts started to get her to refloat, with here armaments, and heavy material jettisoned or transferred. Refloated an attempt was made to tow her to the nearby beach of Cavalaire, but less than 800 m later she sank beneath the waves. So ended the short life of the Espingole.
by Joe Ryan
Near Hyères, the Donator, lies in about 45 m and is upright. Covered in soft corals and loads of fish. Very pretty. Can be swept by a fairly strong current. Dive boat ties on to the wreck, so you must get back to the line to decompress or risk being swept off. Also a wreck known as the Grec (its real name is something else) in about 42 m. Both great dives, but best done as planned decompression dives.
by Jess McAree
A mile from Marseilles lies the wreck of the Liban. It sank in 1903 after colliding with another ship. The wreck is 90 m long, covered in small seafans and has conger eels living in it.
Interesting wreck in the gulfe of Sainte Tropez.
Traci Allen, USA, 2006
The Rubis is a free French navy submarine captured by the Germans and converted to sweep for mines. Later scuttled a few kilometers south of cap St Tropez and used by the Germans as a sonar target. She sits upright on a sandy bottom in 40 m. Almost intact except for a few missing plates, stand on the conning tower. Good weather vis its possible to see the whole length.The hull is home to some very large congers.
David Rowe, 2009
In the bay of Agay sitting in 38M 3 German munition barges sunk by a lone British Sub. A tug was transporting barges loaded with shells to Italy from Marseilles and 4 torpedoes gained 3 direct hits, the tug got away. the remains are still in a line on a sandy bottom, the sea bed is littered with debris.
Stern posts of the barges are clearly visable as are the hundreds of shells some still packed in racks, the heads clearly show the holes into which the primers would sit. WARNING do not try to remove as in contact with air the still active unstable explosive charges will detonate. The wreck has lots of congers and moray.
David Rowe, 2009
This is a French vessel used for transporting fruits, therefore her nickname is 'Le Bananier'. Built in Denmark in 1934, she is 88,3m long and 14,65m wide. In December 1940 this ship was seized by the Germans to be torpedoed by the British submarine called 'The Ultor' in June of 1944. The wreck is still in very good shape. Requires at least a level 2 CMAS qualification (PADI Rescue Diver with Deep and Wreck specialities). More information at divemania.fr/.
The Astrée was originally a British ship, built in 1921. It was captured by the Germans in 1942. On may 1st 1944, on its way back from Egypt, the Astrée was torpedoed by the British submarine "Untering"'. The wreck lies in two parts on the sea bed. Require at least a level 2 CMAS qualification. More information at divemania.fr/.
This ship was built in Denmark in 1920. It is a freighter used for transporting minerals and is 80meter long. It used to sail under British flag and was baptized all over again in Saint Lucien in 1941. In 1943 she was turned over to the Germans. This ship was also prey to a British submarine named "Unruly". What's nice about this wreck is that it is already accessible for divers from a depth of about 30 to 32 meters deep. It is situated right in front of Cape Bear. More information at divemania.fr/.
The Saumur is also a well conserved French freighter of 108 meters long, built in 1920. In December 1940 this ship was captured by the Germans to be torpedoed in 1944 by the British submarine "The Upstart". It is the largest wreck in the region. More information at divemania.fr/.
Near Toulon, try the Ile de Hyeres, made of 3 Islands that compounds a French National Park: Ile de Porquerolles, Ile du Levant and Port-Cros, the best diving spot of all where you can dive in clear waters among many wrecks and search for the 40lb. brown mérou, a massive grouper once thought to be extinct. Sun Plongé, beside the Sun Bistro, runs open-water dives. (Telephone: 04 94 05 90 16, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Between Toulon and Marseille. Great diving spots around Port Issol, Embiez Islands, Le Brusc. Check also the Frederic Dumas historical diving museum
Very interesting scenery, based around a small lighthouse and plenty of aquatic life, including Conger and Moray eels, with plenty of breem and other colourful species
Again very interesting scenery just off the beautiful Cap D'Antibes. I saw plenty of fish, including scorpionfish and Rascasse as well as many others.
A fantastic dive, 2 underwater statues, an underwater arch, a vast array of fish and aquatic life. Fantastic dive site. There is also a wreck very near this dive site.
Often great visibility. Rocky plateau, stunning drop off with an abundant marine life.
Traci Allen, USA, 2006
Thanks for this great helpfull informative website. But why is there NO COMMENT AT ALL about France ? I'm just back from 2 weeks diving around the Port Vendres (South, Perpignan Dept) Natural Reserve, It was just gorgeous ! Very clear water, full diversity of Mediteranean fishes, some beautifull wrecks, everything under the sun!
Merou (big one), barracuda.
Nice underwater sand lop.
Drifting dive surrounded by barracudas and huge groupers - a must
Hugo Lorentini, Belgium, 1 March 2013
The Dordogne/Lot area is one of the greatest cave diving areas in the world. The three rivers, Dordogne, Lot and Céle in the central, southern region of France offer over a dozen classic cave dives including some of the longest and deepest "siphons" in the country, if not Europe: Emergence du Russel; La Doux de Coly; Trou Madam; Gouffre de Cabouy; Gouffre de St Sauveur; Fontain de St George; Oeil de la Doue are some of the evocative names given to these sites that are peppered throughout the region. Read our full article...
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