France has been your dream dive destination, and you are now finally traveling to this gorgeous country to go scuba diving. Wonderful! However, if you’ve never scuba-dived in France before, then there are a few things you should know before going.
Pick Your Location
France is home to many scuba diving hotspots; depending on your preferred style of diving and diving conditions, you can pick from a large variety of dive sites. Before arriving, you’ll probably also want to find a dive operator and a place to stay as there are limited dive resorts.
In the South of France, the sea is clean and clear with visibility up to 30 meters. The water temperatures are steady year-round, and there’s plenty to see.
In the North of France, you are surrounded by mainly wreck dive sites. These sites are easily accessible and can be shore-dived.
Then, of course, the icing on the cake is the famous Cote D’Azur.
Since there are so many sites close to the shore, there aren’t as many liveaboards in France. Also, be aware that in Northern France and Normandy, you will need to be part of the French Scuba Diving Federation to go with the dive centers.
>>Also Read: Best Scuba Diving Spots In France
Choose The Best Time
Now that you know where you are going, you can start planning when you would like to go there! Whilst the temperature will range for each dive site, the North is usually at its best around August. Overall, the dive season in France is from June through September. It is worth noting that The Mediterranean has a dive season from April through November.
Know the Dive Conditions
The diving conditions will vary depending on your location and the time of the year. If you aim to dive at the Normandy, expect colder water and less visibility. Although the Normandy temperature can get up to 17ºc in August, in March, it would be just around 9ºc.
The famous Cote d’Azur is known for its crystal visibility and warm water. Its temperature can get to an average of 24ºc during the summer. There is little to mild current.
Marseille gets better visibility when the cooler water flows with the current. The temperature in the summer can range from 14ºc to 24ºc.
Be sure to pack your wetsuit or drysuit accordingly!
Check Your Diving Certifications.
As one of the few countries that has strict regulations governing the sport, you’ll want to check if you are allowed to scuba dive by yourself! The French Sports Ministry only recognizes dive certifications from limited French agencies (ANMP, FFESSM, FSGT, SNMP, UCPA) and CMAS.
Even if your dive certification isn’t from one of these agencies, it’s still possible for you to dive, but your dive director will be responsible for you and your safety. In most cases, you’ll have to prove to your dive director that you can actually dive by doing a checkout dive.
Understand Some Equivalent French Terms
As the dive culture is quite different in France, you will often hear about PA or PE. PA stands for Plongeur Autonome, which means Autonomous Diver, and PE stands for Plongeur Encadré, which means Supervised Diver. The first term indicates you can dive independently, and the second one indicates that you will need to be supervised by a professional.
There is also a two-digit number that follows this rating. This number represents the maximum depth of your dives.
For example, if you are a PADI Open Water diver, you could be equivalent to PE20. It is crucial that you understand that this rating is to be respected. The Dive Police is authorized to check your certification and your dive computer if they suspect a violation of the rule. And if you’re caught, there might be a fine for both the diver and the Dive Director.