by Jonty Summers

Turn west out of Malaga and keep driving the 100 km or so into Granada, however, and youll discover a coastal valley which has retained its Andalucian charm and remains sheltered from the tourism that has taken hold over the coast to the east. More importantly though, because the climate is sub-tropical (the average winter temperature is 18C), you can dive comfortably all year round.

This is Almunecar on the Costa Tropical. The Atlantic Stream causes this part of southern Spain to have a great deal more marine life than most other Mediterranean dive sites. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that a large number of photography contests have been held here.

Club Nautique, a BSAC Premier School, operates out of the Marina del Este - a picturesque harbour complex 5km outside the town. This is a perfect location from which to dive, with well over a dozen dive sites a 5-minute RIB ride away.

The diving is scenic. There are cliffs and walls, caverns and cave diving and some good deep diving. For wreckies, there is the possibility of discovering one of 25 pre-Armada galleons which went down in 1572 in the Bay of La Herradura, and which are, as yet, undiscovered.

Club Nautique is the only dive operation which runs trips to the island of Alboran, 67 miles off the coast. Here, the viz, huge variety of marine life and promise of diving uncharted territory make for an exciting and thoroughly worthwhile expedition. The island also provides an opportunity to see some of the larger pelagics which inhabit the Med. Its not uncommon to encounter striped and bottlenose dolphins racing the RIB; pilot whales can also be a rare sight for the lucky few further off shore.

On the marine life front closer to shore, octopus are common around the 20m mark, congers and morays are also frequently seen - particularly in some of the caves. Sun and moon fish gather around the base of some of the rocky outcrops. The crabs are big - especially when you dive deeper than 12-15m - and some very large scorpionfish can also be found lurking at depth.

During the winter months, Club Nautique is the base of a paragliding centre, the hillsides surrounding the Marina del Este offering perfect take-off points.

Club Nautique recently purchased a hotel, Hotel California, (no pink champagne on ice, please) to simplify clients holiday arrangements. The hotel (unusually for British-run hotels in southern Spain), has recently been refurbished in an Andalucian style, and provides accommodation for 20-24 people. Its versatile London-trained chef produces some gastronomic delights which more than satisfy the appetites of hungry divers. Enough said.

  • For more details contact Tracy Crook or Alex Duff (tel/fax 00 34 58 82 75 14).