Famous for its sun, sea and sand dunes, The Canary Island’s Gran Canaria boasts another renowned attraction in the form of a (rather brightly coloured) submarine. Sasha Arms goes rolling in the deep…
I’ll admit it: my imagination went slightly into overdrive when I was invited to travel to the bottom of the ocean in a submarine off the coast of Gran Canaria. Scenes of clandestine operations with submariners, as we drifted through murky waters off the coastlines of Africa, hundreds of metres below sea level, flashed through my mind. Perhaps there would even be commando suits?
Pushing past tourists at Puerto De Mogán, known as the ‘Venice of the Canary Islands’, my anticipation increased. There would surely be some shadowy, nondescript corner of the port from which I would be whisked onto the submarine. Perhaps they would even catch me by surprise, place a bag on my head, spin me around five times and lead me on board. This would be perfectly understandable of course: I was well aware that civilians can’t be trusted not to give a submariner’s secrets away.
When I saw a yellow submarine, of all things, emerge to the surface of the water in the middle of the port, hordes of camera-wielding tourists and screaming kids pile off, paving the way for more tourists to be shepherded aboard, I thought of Gustave Flaubert. According to Flaubert, “anticipation is the purest form of pleasure”. It became an enforced chant in my mind as I waited my turn in the queue for el Submarino Amarillo. Even if Peter Kay had been there to try to convince me, I had a feeling this wasn’t the way to Amarillo.
Despite a beginning filled with emotional highs and lows, I decided to try to embrace the yellow submarine experience. In fact, I actually had quite a fun time of it, even if it was in an ironic sort of way. Posing for a cheesy photo in front of the yellow submarine (which hilariously made British-journalist-in-surprise-visit headlines in the local press), I embarked on the sunglasses-inducing submarine and clambered down the ladder, allowing the campy, schlock-vampire music playing in the background (and also played in the queue for the Vampire ride at Chessington World of Adventures) to get me in the mood. For what exactly, I wasn’t sure, but the mechanical voice of our captain would keep us all regularly updated throughout our voyage. “All to plan so far,” he assured us.
I took a seat next to my very own porthole and as the submarine began to lower and turn (“30 degrees port, distance 10 metres!”), the music changed from the vampire schlock to classical, the orchestral crescendo coming just in time for schools of fish to swish past our windows and through the ocean beyond. Despite the theme-park-esque commentary, this is one view you don’t usually get without a wetsuit, an oxygen tank and a regulator. Indeed, the next sights on our underwater tour were shipwrecks being explored by divers, evoking some of the mysticism I had originally expected from my submarine adventure.
Trouble, however, wasn’t far off, as the classical music was abruptly interrupted by our captain’s robotic voice: “There’s a strong sea current. There’s no need for concern but please hold on tight.” It seemed perfectly calm to us, but…oh well, might as well play along. Not long after: “Collision imminent. Hold tight.” A child squealed in excitement, clearly filled with every confidence in our captain. Sure enough, the intercom soon told us: “Everything’s under control.” Nothing appeared to have changed as we bobbed serenely through the ocean during the entirety of the faux-disaster scene, but a fellow passenger and I mouthed a mock “phew!” at each other nevertheless.
Forty minutes later, we were above water again having survived the turbulence and unpredictability of the underwater world. It’s a bit embarrassing, but I was strangely buzzing. (I had travelled approximately 20 metres below sea level and had not even left the port.) So you’re right Flaubert, anticipation is pleasurable, but even the reality of the experience doesn’t necessarily disappoint.
More Info on Gran Canaria
Visit Gran Canaria’s yellow submarine official website.
Visit Gran Canaria Natural for information about rural tourism activities.
For sailing holidays in the Canary Islands (and the rest of Spain), check out Get Sailing.
For airport to hotel transfers you can reserve in advance via Book Taxi Gran Canaria.
Yellow is not Sasha’s lucky colour… read about “The Curse of the Yellow Wellies” when she took on all 13 museums of Frankfurt’s Museumsufer embankment.