Last Updated on 24/09/2022 by Alfred
France offers several scuba diving opportunities, the characteristics of which vary. For example, the diving conditions on the Côte d’Azur are very different from those found in Normandy.
Then, several types of diving are possible, such as cave and cave diving, which are very popular in France.
We want to remind you that this page is about metropolitan France, which is located on the European continent. So we are not talking about the overseas departments and islands here.
The French DOMTOMS of the Caribbean or the South Pacific are treated individually. Thus, you will find pages specific to French Polynesia and St-Martin, for example.
Besides, it should also be noted that the laws and regulations governing scuba diving in France are very strict. Also, different from most diving destinations. Details on this can be found in the following sections.
This article is a detailed guide to the best scuba diving and snorkeling in France.
Best Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in France
The best scuba diving sites in France
France consists of three distinct coastal areas and inland water bodies. There are several types of diving available to divers. Here are some of the most beautiful diving destinations in Metropolitan France.
The Cote d’Azur
The Côte d’Azur is one of Europe’s chicest and most popular destinations. It is not a specific destination but the entire coastal region between Toulon and Menton, near the French-Italian border. The warm water, excellent visibility, and hundreds of dive sites await you. Many wrecks in the area and a few small offshore islands are interesting to discover. The area offers countless diving clubs, which can be found in the various coastal towns.
Marseille is a city on the Mediterranean coast and your gateway to diving on the Riou archipelago. The best time to dive around Marseille, where the water is rather cold, is between June and October. As for visibility, it is better at the beginning of this season. But the water temperature can be as low as 14ºC. It is especially the locals who dive in this region. There are very few tourists.
Normandy and the English
Normandy and the English Channel are diving destinations only in the summer season. Indeed, conditions on the water can be very rough in winter. The underwater landscape of the region is dramatic and offers many wrecks.
Lot-et-Garonne is a region located southwest of France. It is the capital par excellence for cave and cave diving in France. The water temperature is rather stable all year round, around 13ºC.
Reviews of scuba diving in France
Depending on the region, organizing a diving trip to France may take some effort. Indeed, it is suggested to find your dive operator before departure, at least for most regions.
For example, on the French Riviera and Marseille, you won’t have to worry about finding a dive center. But it can be more difficult in Normandy.
The majority of diving clubs in Normandy are those of the French Federation, FFESSM, which is equal to the BSAC of the United Kingdom.
Since most dive sites are near the coast, France has no dive cruises. Indeed, no major liveaboard sails there, and diving resorts are very few. So, to dive in Metropolitan France, you must go with a diving club and choose a package or a day trip.
In Europe, there is little cruising-diving, and people mostly go to the Red Sea to dive.
Laws & Regulations on Diving in France
In comparison with the majority of countries, the structure of the scuba diving industry in France is different. The restrictions are many, and the certifications recognized by the French Ministry of Sports are limited.
The organizations recognized for diving training are ANMP, FFEESSM, FSGT, SNMP, UCPA, and CMAS.
Here are some indications to understand the “acronyms” related to diving in France.
- ” PE ” means you must dive with a divemaster or instructor.
- The letters “PA” mean that you are qualified to dive without an instructor.
- Following the letters is a two-digit number representing the maximum depth allowed for your dives, i.e., 12, 20, 30, or 40 meters.
- If the number is unique, after the mention “PE,” it is the level of learning of the diver in training.
Alternatively, you can still dive in France if you hold a diving certification from another agency. Indeed, you will only have to do a verification dive with the dive director, regardless of your level.
This applies to everyone, even instructors when your certification does not come from an agency recognized by the French Ministry of Sports, and you have never dived with this dive director.
Here are 4 other important things to note:
- The French code states that scuba diving is permitted only under the supervision of a dive director. The latter does not have to be in the water with you but must be present and in control when you start the dive.
- The different certifications may seem similar but do not allow you to have the same limits. For example, an Open Water level with PADI and SSI allows you to dive independently up to 20 meters. But, in France, this equals a PE20, meaning a master diver or instructor must go with you. Also, regardless of the level, you must be 18 years old to dive in France or have a consent form signed by your parents.
- We often hear that there are no “diving police.” Yet, the French coastguard has the authority to ask to see your licenses and your dive computer. This can result in a fine for you and the dive director.
- You must have a medical certificate and adequate insurance covering the risks of scuba diving. The medical certificate must be a maximum of 1 year to dive and 3 months to start diving training.
Best time to dive in France
The best time to dive in France varies depending on the region and the type of dive you want. Overall, the diving season in France is summer, from June to September.
On the side of the Mediterranean Sea, the season is a little longer, from April to November. Thus, the majority of diving centers are closed in the winter season.
Only a few, and the major clubs, maintain their activities for training and diving in caves and caverns.
France is not a place where it is simple for a tourist to pass a level of diving. As mentioned above, patents and extra training are available in some French organizations only. But, then, if some dive centers issue international certificates via PADI or SSI, they are few.
Also, those who have their eyes turned to an instructor certification face a training path of up to 2 years. The state must issue you a certificate to teach a sport in France.
The latter is obtained as a result of courses outside the diving industry, mainly in French.
Scuba diving conditions
Diving conditions vary depending on the dive destinations in France. Here are some details.
First, the Côte d’Azur is known for its excellent underwater visibility; marine currents are very weak or non-existent. Then, the water temperature in summer is around 24ºC.
Then, at the level of Marseille, the water temperature is colder, between 14ºC and 24ºC in season. This is due to the presence of cold sea currents that bring even greater visibility.
Then, the water is always cold and cloudy in Normandy and on the English Channel. In March, the water temperature will be around 9ºC, while in August, we talk about a maximum of 17ºC.
Snorkeling in France
Snorkeling is mainly practiced on the Côte d’Azur, which offers beautiful snorkeling sites. Shallow coral reefs surround many offshore islands. So they are ideal for the surface diver!
Underwater fauna: Fish and Coral
Marine life is scattered across Atlantic dive sites. But the Atlantic coast is a good place to dive when migrating whales!
Otherwise, the Mediterranean Sea offers a variety of subtropical marine species. In fact, on the reefs, you will find groupers, moray eels, sea urchins, sharks, rays, cuttlefish, and barracudas.
If you are planning to go on a trip to France, I advise you to invest in good travel insurance that also covers scuba diving. You never know what can happen, and good insurance can get you out of difficult situations.
All in all, France offers you different types of scuba diving. The caves and cold water dives will delight divers in the country’s north.
As divers who go to the Côte d’Azur, they will discover very beautiful sites and subtropical conditions.
Then, given the European transport network, which is very developed, it’s easy to plan a little diving getaway on the weekend!
We hope the content “Best Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in France” was helpful to you.