I HAD AGES, AND IT WAS A GOOD JOB I DID. The 10m-deep Octopus Cove is one of the few places where angel shark sightings are common. Yet at the beginning of the winter season theyre a little thin on the seabed, and I needed the patience of a truffle-hunter.
There was a time when angel sharks were found at Los Gigantes only around the fish-farm just off the cliffs, but the weather has shifted the coarse volcanic sand on which they like to lie into the shallows of Octopus Cove, and Los Gigantes Dive Centre uses this as an afternoon and training site.
That adds spice to a dive, taking it from chicken tikka masala to full-blown jalfresi!
Angel sharks are bottom-dwellers, and they have adapted well to this environment. Their flattened bodies and broad pectoral fins have earned them the scientific order name Squatiniformes.

THERE ARE SOME 16 SPECIES of angel shark across the world, and Squatina squatina inhabits the north-east Atlantic. The sharks follow the Gulf Stream around the UKs western coast (they were even common in the North Sea in the 1800s) and as far north as Sweden, but the Canary Islands are a favoured haunt.
They are now common here only in a handful of places, one being the small port town of Los Gigantes, off the west coast of Tenerife. This could have something to do with deep water near to shore, and a bottom too irregular for effective demersal trawling.
Elsewhere, the species is so rare that its down as critically endangered on the UN Red List.
Angel sharks prefer coolish water, so generally venture shallow enough for divers to see them only in winter and spring, when the water is cooler.
So just before last Christmas, I found myself swimming across the black-sand ridges in Octopus Cove searching for them.

I WAS STARTING TO FEEL LIKE an infant two hours into a five-hour car journey when I heard frantic muffled shouts from my buddy, Los Gigantes Dive Centre owner Sheila Widdrington. She had spotted the faint outline of a shark buried in the sand.
It was almost impossible for me to see - any small fish swimming over the jaws of that shark would be in a queue, waiting for its next life to be allocated.
Yet angel sharks are fickle and shy, as this one demonstrated by shaking off its sand cover and swimming away before we had even settled on the seabed. Not the start Id hoped for.
A second shark was lying on the sand, rather than under it, but stayed in place. Settling down slowly and carefully, I crept into position and waited. The shark seemed unfazed, and carried on eyeing the fish that flitted around me, as if I afforded them some protection.
However, what I had inadvertently done was lead them to the gates of hell. Suddenly the shark leapt upward, its mouth flashing open, and one of the fish became lunch. It settled back as if nothing had happened for a minute or so and then swam off, looking for another place to settle.
Over the next few days I found several more sharks on the sand, some beneath it, others on top. They all had personalities - some scared, some grumpy and some calm. I had been attacked by an angel shark a few years ago, and know that they can have
a temper, so I gave them a lot of respect, and acted as calmly as I could.
Octopus Cove isnt necessarily a speciality dive; its the sharks that make it so. However, Los Gigantes has a particular dive that is its own speciality.
On Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, the dive centre collects fish scraps and gives them back to the ocean. The dustbin of fish attracts a smorgasbord of marine species such as Atlantic sting, eagle and butterfly rays, kingfish and triggerfish.
For a diver, its an incredible sight. You dont have to travel to the Cayman Islands to get friendly with a sting ray.
The dive is close to the cliffs, on a fine sandy seabed at 18m. A guide takes the fish down, the smell attracting the ocean visitors. They dont gather there all the time and you can see rays at most of the regions dive sites, but having so many species in one place is a great way to find out what lives around us while we dive.
First to arrive like sprinting dogs with flapping tongues were the smaller sting rays. Then came the Atlantic eagle rays, as cute as their tropical spotted cousins, but in drabber clothes. Young and old mingle to take whats on offer.
As I knelt on the sand watching this spectacle the seabed next to me moved, and rose up like a seismic event.
This heralded the arrival of the queen of the sea - a massive Atlantic sting ray that has been coming to this feed for years. She is enormous, but gentle.
The mainstream media have painted sting rays in the same light as sharks after the Steve Irwin incident, but none of those here shows any aggression. Ive dived this site many times and my heart races only with excitement, not fear.
But divers do need to take care. For several years, shy butterfly rays have also come to join the menagerie, and they are as well camouflaged as the angel sharks. Putting a fin or knee on one of these will get your heart pounding, as the seabed beneath you leaps up and swims off!
Photographers are advised to get their shots early, as the fine sand is quickly puffed into the water by excited fins - both human and fishy. Good backscatter discipline is required to deal with it but the shots can be incredible.
On a sunny day, the water is a gorgeous cobalt, complemented by the dark sand. And if you miss one shot of an eagle ray swimming past the sun, dont worry, another will be along soon.

AT 18M, HOWEVER, TIME PASSES QUICKLY and the divers soon head back to the surface as the rays and fish disperse. The feeding opportunity is short-lived and, as it happens only twice a week, the species do not depend on it - it just tops up their natural diet.
I travelled to Tenerife with Easyjet which, apart from a nightmare check-in at Gatwick, I rated highly. The baggage allowance for dive gear was easy to use, and much cheaper than paying excess with other airlines.
Los Gigantes can accommodate you in villas, apartments or hotel rooms, and the town is quiet and relaxed, so if you want drinking and dancing at night, look to Las Americas further south.

Los Gigantes Dive Centre, www.divingtenerife.co.uk

GREEN BONUS
Los Gigantes Dive Centre centre offers another dive a short drive down the coast, a special for interested groups who want to see several rehabilitated green turtles that have taken up residence.
The bay is long, and the turtles live in the outer reaches, so the swim out over a fairly lifeless sandy seabed takes a while. If the turtles dont show, I can imagine some people getting annoyed, but even tame turtles are still wild at heart.
The unpredictability of diving is what makes it so special, but after 20 minutes in the water, I was starting to feel disappointed. Then unpredictability gave me a swift kick in the butt, as two young female green turtles swam towards us from the middle of the bay.
The two fat angels glided effortlessly, circling closer and closer, until one acted like a teenager, checking her appearance in a mirror.
Green turtles are on the UN Red List as endangered, and are not particularly common in the Canary Islands, where the loggerhead is the most-seen marine reptile.
But greens are the turtle equivalent of Kelly Brook, whereas loggerheads just about make a Neanderthal look pretty.
These two specimens, in immaculate condition, had no fear of humans, actively seeking our attention.
Its not an altogether wild experience, but the animals are free to do as they please and its great to be able to get so close that you have to keep checking your fingers.