Central Portugal, while often overshadowed by the country's coastal regions, presents an array of diving experiences that encapsulate the diversity of the mainland's aquatic offerings. The region’s rivers, especially around the areas with dam reservoirs, along with some coastal spots, offer unique opportunities for underwater exploration.
Best Scuba Diving Spots for Experienced Divers
Berlengas Archipelago: Just off the coast of Peniche, the Berlengas Archipelago is a nature reserve with crystal-clear waters and an abundance of marine life. The underwater topography here includes caverns, tunnels, and drop-offs that are best navigated by divers with a bit of experience under their belts.
Cabo Espichel: Near Sesimbra, this area is known for its challenging dive conditions and strong currents. It’s a hotspot for experienced divers looking to explore deeper waters and larger sea life that are drawn to the area by the nutrient-rich waters.
Best Scuba Diving Spots for Beginners
Pedrogão Reservoir: Inland dive sites such as the Pedrogão Reservoir provide tranquil conditions ideal for beginners. Diving in a reservoir can be a unique experience, with clear, calm waters and the chance to see freshwater fish and submerged trees.
Arade River Dam: The dam on the Arade River is another beginner-friendly site. Diving here allows for easy conditions and the unique experience of freshwater diving while exploring the structures and ecosystems created by the dam.
In Central Portugal, marine life varies between coastal and inland waters. Along the coast, divers can encounter schools of fish, octopi, nudibranchs, and occasionally larger marine mammals. Inland, the aquatic life includes freshwater species like bass, carp, and the elusive Iberian barbel.
Coastal dive conditions can be variable, with summer months offering warmer water temperatures up to 70°F and better visibility. Inland, the waters in reservoirs and dams tend to have more consistent conditions but with colder temperatures, often necessitating thicker wetsuits.
The cost of diving in Central Portugal is similar to other parts of the country, with guided dives starting from around $60 to $90 per dive, including equipment rental. Diving courses for certification will cost upwards of $300 depending on the level and certification body.