An exciting and accessible activity
Whether snorkelers opt for a dip in the magic of the forests of kelp or eelgrass beds, from the sandy bottoms or the rocks that skim the surface, most of them are surprised by the wealth of life that abounds in these unknown ecosystems and are amazed to discover so many dazzling new shapes and colours.
After just a few fin strokes, divers already forget the feeling of cold experienced when getting into the water, especially as the centre provides quality snorkelling kits specially designed for the activity. Wearing a 6.5 mm swimsuit with a hood – or shorty for those who are less sensitive to cold – , flippers, a mask and a snorkel, participants can fully enjoy the underwater trip, which lasts between 45 and 90 minutes, depending on their comfort and on water temperature. In summer, the latter varies between 15 °C and 19 °C. Moving around helps snorkelers warm up a bit and they get used to this new environment which, at first, may seem a bit hostile. They progressively appreciate the richness of the seabed around them.
A large selection of snorkeling
After a proper briefing session on the snorkelling equipment and an introduction to the basics of free diving, the instructor gives each participant a board and a waterproof map to help them identify the underwater fauna and flora of the Atlantic. To ensure their comfort and safety, groups are limited to a maximum of five or six divers. The activity can be practised by amateurs and experienced divers as from the age of 8. The outing departs from the sandy beach of Tresmeur or from one of the centre’s boats at sites with such evocative names as the ‘Baie des pirates’ (Pirates’ Bay) or the ‘Roche aux Serpents’ (Snake Rock), where first dives are also carried out. From the beach, snorkelers can easily access the Castel site, whose eelgrass bed is listed as a Natural Area of Ecological and Wildlife Importance (ZNIEFF), with sandy bottoms that is strewn with rocky tips and which harbours a rich and diverse life.
Between pink granite and kelp
The snorkelling outings give participants the privilege to enjoy both outdoor landscapes and the ocean floor. The change of scenery is guaranteed in Trebeurden whether under water or at the surface. The rugged pink granite coast stretching from the Arcouest Point to Trebeurden is dotted with beautiful small beaches and large rocks. Worn down by erosion as time and tides goes on, the latter have given birth to a multitude of still mineral shapes that spark the imagination of old and young alike. The activity is a good opportunity for the observation of sea birds whose diverse colonies seek refuge on the islets in the region. But when you are floating on the surface of the water, the call from the depths is often stronger and divers are irresistibly drawn by the faults and small tunnels that are hiding spots for countless species of fish. The sites are protected from swells and the wind and their configuration facilitates the development of fixed fauna, which attracts a wide variety of fish. When snorkelers venture into the forests of kelp, they are surprised by the magical atmosphere which draws them into a kind of underwater Broceliande forest with some surprising encounters. Around an algae ‘branch’, we come face to face with some wrasses while a pollack slips through our flippers. The guide uses his expert eye to help us find some hidden treasures such a beautiful spiny starfish stretching its long spiny arms along the rock or large green, brown or white frilled anemone, entangled with orange corals on which swarm countless little multicoloured ophiuroids, some of them with a blue heart. After resurfacing following each observation, the instructor uses the identification leaflet to show the species to the divers with an explanatory comment.
Discover the hidden wealth of the seabed
With a little experience, it is quickly possible to observe the various plant and animal species around the rocks. Among the limpets, shells and periwinkles clinging on to the rock face, spirograhs, ascidians, cindarians, beadlet or strawberry anemones jostle for the best hiding spot close to the current in order find food while protecting themselves from predators. Shellfish lovers can, for once, observe their favourite food in their natural habitat and a flurry of swimming crabs, edible crabs, spider crabs and lobster if they are lucky! The encounters are as varied in the sand with plaice, soles, turbots, dragonet fish and sand gobies, without forgetting the scallops, common whelks and fascinating cuttlefish. The eelgrass bed is also well worth seeing for the encounters with enigmatic seahorses, sea slugs, cuttlefish and netted dogwhelks. Depending on the tidal range, the sites offer completely different views of the underwater life.
Continuing the discovery at the Tregastel Marine Aquarium
The Tregastel Marine Aquarium is located a few kilometres from Trebeurden and allows visitors to deepen their knowledge of the fauna and flora of the coastline of Brittany while discovering a unique and entertaining space. Nestled in an impressive heap of granite boulders a hundred metres away from the beach, the Tregastel Marine Aquarium is a place where there is plenty to attract visitors, who can enjoy a panoramic view of the beautiful coast from the highest part of the complex, called the ‘Père Éternel’ (Eternal Father), towards the end of the visit.
The marine aquarium focuses on the local marine life and invites visitors to uncover the mystery of the phenomenon of tides and discover animals that are often unknown in the Channel. The visit is organised around three areas: the spray zone, above the high-water mark; the tidal area, swept by the ebb and flow of water; and finally the subtidal zone, which is always submersed.
Discover the fauna and flora of the Channel
The visitors can walk around successive caves where prevails a mysterious granitic atmosphere, embellished with sounds of the sea and soft lighting. The interactive and entertaining equipment (touch tank, wave tank, interactive terminal on the phenomenon of tides), completed with general information signage, give a better overview of the different ecosystems and local marine phenomena. ‘Our aim is to promote local marine species and show people the colours and shapes of the ocean floor of the Channel, which is packed with life and wonders!’ says David Borg, a biology technician at the Tregastel Marine Aquarium who also leads the ‘algology’ and ‘discovery of the foreshore’ outings. This service available in summer consists in observing the phenomenon of tides and getting familiar with the marine ecology in an entertaining way through the search and identification of algae and animals. This is a unique opportunity for David, who is a graduate in marine ecology, to sensitise visitors to the protection of the marine habitat. But shows above all the keenness of this level 3 diver, who is also an instructor in marine biology and a professional deep-sea diver, to convey his message. Since his first steps in underwater photography in 1998, David Borg has been recognised through numerous local and national awards and has even started to collect an inventory with photos of not less than 400 underwater species in the Channel and the Atlantic! It is not surprising that the young photographer is in charge of managing the ‘Trophée Aquarium Marin de Trégastel’ (Tregastel Marine Aquarium Trophy). The results of this underwater photography competition, which comprises photos of fish, invertebrates, molluscs taken between the Channel and the Pays de la Loire, are exhibited every summer in Tregastel.
The Aquarium also holds various temporary exhibitions such as the one organised by the Bretagne Vivante (Living Brittany) association and named ‘10 years after the sinking of the Erika’. Ten panels explain in an educational way what is oil, its uses and effects, oil spills and their consequences on birds and the environment, while presenting possible alternatives to oil.