Best wreck dives in Murcia

By Ed Smith

The Murcia region of Spain is known as the Costa Calida, the warm coast. Its southeastern location famously boasts 300 days of sunshine per year. With a warm, year-round climate, Murcia makes a perfect dive destination.

Water temperatures rarely dip below 15° C/60° F in winter. They reach as high as 30° C/85° F in the summer. Excellent visibility makes for superb diving. We are also lucky to have some incredible marine life and wreck dives.

You’ll find these in the surrounding waters off La Manga and Cabo de Palos. An underwater mountain range stretches into the sea from the coast. The tips of some peaks break the surface. These make small islands, the Islas Hormigas, now an official marine park. The islands offer fantastic diving with a vast variety of marine life. They are also the location of several wrecks. 

Many wrecks came to a sticky end in rough seas due to poor navigation, misread charts or war. They provide breathtaking artificial reefs, amazing swim-throughs and fascinating steel structures, covered in life. All have interesting histories. Sometimes, how they ended up here is a mystery. 

Nadir or El Naranjito

The most famous wreck is the Nadir, commonly called El Naranjito. This 50 m/165 ft merchant ship sank in 1946. During a storm, its cargo of oranges shifted, causing it to list, take on water and sink only 1.0 km/0.6 mi offshore.

El Naranjito means little orange. This refers to the hundreds of oranges that washed up on the beaches of Cabo de Palos after her sinking. Sadly, some crew lost their lives. This included the engineer’s wife, who some say brought the vessel bad luck. Others claimed bad luck resulted from the ship’s numerous name changes.

The wreck’s popularity stems from its near-perfect condition, upright position and its proximity to shore. It is 42 m/140 ft to the sea bed. The shallowest part of the wreck is at 28 m/90 ft.

You can explore this wreck from bow to stern in one dive, with minimal decompression. Features include a good-sized engine room with its triple expansion boiler intact. There is also a large, four-bladed propeller. This site can also host rare Mola mola sunfish! 

SS Stanfield

The SS Stanfield is another great wreck dive, especially if using Trimix. This World War I wreck was sailing to Italy under a Greek flag. Rumored to be a British ship in disguise, some call her the SS Nitza. This creates confusion over the events leading to her sinking. 

Some reports say a U-boat torpedoed her during the night. Others suggest she was sailing with no navigation lights to avoid being spotted by U-boats. This led to her crashing into the reef near Isla Hormigas.

Whatever caused her sinking, this 110 m/360 ft wreck now sits upright at a depth of 60 m/200 ft. The shallowest part is the main deck and bridge area at 45 m/150 ft.

The wreck is in good condition with many areas to penetrate and explore. This includes the holds and surrounding areas between the main decks. There is plenty to see on this dive, including an abundance of red and yellow sea fans. There is even a telegraph mysteriously still in reverse.

Carbonero

The Carbonero is another fantastic wreck, close to shore. She was initially the Thordisa, then Lilla. U-35 torpedoed and sank her on October 13, 1917. This is a perfect technical dive due to depth and size.

Because of the cargo of coal or carbon, divers now call her the Carbonero. This 88 m/290 ft cargo vessel sits in 44 m/145 ft of water about 8 km/5 mi offshore.

Like the Stanfield, the Carbonero is in excellent condition. She sits upright, covered in marine life. There is plenty of room to penetrate and explore safely.

Torpedo damage creates a small debris field separating the stern from the main wreckage. The bow section is impressive. It sits upright on the sea bed and is easily penetrated. Fully appreciating the wreck takes more than one dive. 

Bajo de Fuera 

On the eastern side of the Islas Hormigas Marine Park, you’ll find a perfect wreck graveyard. This area is called Bajo de Fuera. It is an underwater pinnacle rising from over 60 m/200 ft deep to just 5 m/15 ft. It is home to three known shipwrecks.

Of the three wrecks, the Sirio provides the easiest access. Wreckage starts at just 20 m/65 ft and spreads out across the reef’s northern plateau. This was a large ship 115 m/380 ft in length.

The Sirio was making her way to the USA when she struck the reef. She sank quickly with a significant loss of life. The rescue of survivors was among the largest in Spanish history.

There are several large boilers covered in red sea fans and soft anemones. These descend deeper onto the reef towards the impressive intact stern section at about 50 m/165 ft. 

The Minerva sits upside down on the south side of the reef. The wreck starts at 40 m/130 ft. Here you will see the intact propeller and rudder, covered in brightly colored sea fans. 

The last wreck is the North America. It is the deepest of the three wrecks. The North America is on the same side of the reef as the Minerva. It lies mostly on its side.

A large section of the wreck is intact. There are rows of portholes and a well-defined rounded stern section with a deck gun pointing toward the surface. With many fascinating parts of this wreck to explore, you can find surprises on every dive. Marine life covers the wreck, including gorgonians and a plethora of fish species. It is an amazing dive.

Due to the 60 m/200 ft depths, this is a Trimix/deco dive. You can decompress happily on the reef itself while hanging out with the many local inhabitants. Big schools of amberjacks, tuna and barracuda are there to keep you company.

What you need to dive Murcia 

Because of the depth, the wrecks described here require technical diver training. Most involve decompression. The deeper wrecks require Trimix.

The reefs surrounding Islas Hormigas marine park can experience strong currents. This is true despite the Mediterranean’s lack of extreme tides. The currents can be unpredictable, so good boat cover and surface support are essential. 

The Murcia region has many more wrecks. Some are too deep for even technical divers. Others are on the fringe of sport diving depths. Still others are too broken up to be identified. Centuries of trade and warfare from Roman times to the present make this area an exceptional wreck diving environment.

If you are interested in diving these wrecks or would like to know more about the training we offer, please get in touch.

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4 replies
  1. José Hernández Abenza
    José Hernández Abenza says:

    Good article.! I live in Murcia and as a technical sidemount diver I usually dive in all this wrecks and is an experience one can´t get tired of.

    Reply
      • Hanko Sueiras
        Hanko Sueiras says:

        Yes, there is so many but Islas Hormigas diving center, Rivemar and mostly all diving centers that are in Cabo de Palos go there… specially out of season …that ends in October, water can be freezing on winter time around 9 or 10 Celsius but in summertime can reach 28 … Google for diving centers cabo de palos and you can have a view of all them… but better season is on outum, winter and spring… summer time is too crowdy for wreck diving… but some of them do it if you book in advance

        Reply

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