REGIÓN DE MURCIA INTRODUCTIONMurcia is a region in the southeast corner of the Iberian Peninsula in Spain, between Andalusia, Castilla-La Mancha and Valencia. Occupying an area of just over 11,000 sq km – barely 2.2 percent of the total surface area of Spain! – it is bordered by the province of Albacete to the north, Alicante to the east, Granada, Albacete and Almeria to the west, and the Mediterranean Sea to the east.

The region is a rich mix of dramatic mountainous terrain, barren desert rock, dense forest and fertile agricultural land; the produce from the vineyards in the latter being world-renowned. However, from a diver’s perspective, it is the 170km of coastline - comprising coves, beaches, rocky shorelines and sheer, craggy cliffs – known as the Costa Calida that will be of most interest. All along this shoreline, at places such as Islas Hormigas, Cabo de Palos, Isla Grosa, Cartagena, La Azohía, Mazarrón and Águilas, are shipwrecks, walls and reefs, not to mention some of the healthiest marine life in the Med. I have never seen so many huge grouper – and I mean huge, think a metre to a metre-anda-half long! - in this body of water, not to mention big shoals of barracuda and all manner of colourful reef fish, nudibranchs, moray eels and octopus.

The icing on this tasty Spanish cake is the climate. Murcia basks in an average annual temperature of 18 degrees C, with hot summers topping out close to 40 degrees C and mild winters only dropping to an average of 11-12 degrees C in December and January. Throw in some 300 days of sunshine a year, and water temperatures between 12-26 degrees C, and you gave the perfect recipe for great Mediterranean diving. I’d say a 5mm full-suit is more than sufficient for the summer months (if you are warm-blooded, you may even get away with a 3mm full-suit), but in the autumn and winter, a semi-dry or a drysuit teamed up with a hood is the preferred option for sure.

Mark Evans, Editor-in-Chief Scuba Diver Magazine

10 THINGS YOU MUST DO IN MURCIA1 Dive the El NaranjitoLying just over a mile outside the port of Cabo de Palos is the Isla Gomera, commonly known as El Naranjito due to its final cargo – thousands of oranges. Sunk in a storm in April 1946, the 51-metre freighter now sits upright, with the stern in 46m and the top of the superstructure rising to 27m. It is covered in marine growth and penetration is possible into the superstructure and engine room.

2 Try an Asiático coffeeA famous drink in Cartagena, the Asiático is an alcoholic drink made out of coffee, condensed milk and cognac, along with a few drops of Licor 43 and a couple of coffee beans, lemon rind and cinnamon. It is even served in a special thick glass to withstand the heat of it. It has got quite a kick to it, but you will see people drinking it everywhere throughout Cartagena.

3 Greet the grouper at Isla HormigasThe marine park at Isla Hormigas offers divers the chance to dive among some of the healthiest fish stocks in the Mediterranean. Drop in on sites such as Piles I, Piles II, Bajo de Dentro, Bajo de la Testa or Bajo de Fuera and prepare to be greeted by vast shoals of barracuda, amberjack, trevally and large, quite curious grouper.

4 Marvel at underwater treasuresA must for any diver is a visit to the Underwater Archaeology National Museum, which houses the famous treasure of the Nuestra Sra de Las Mercedes frigate, which includes more than 570,000 gold and silver coins from the 18th and 19th centuries.

5 Explore the SS StanfieldThe SS Stanfield is a vast wreck with a length of 120 metres and a beam of 14m. It was torpedoed on 26 June 1916 by a German submarine and sank in a depth of 62m. It sits upright on the bottom, but the bow has sustained a lot of damage and split wide open, allowing access into three deck levels and hold number one.6 Sail or surf the Mar MenorThe Mar Menor – Europe’s largest saltwater lagoon, with a surface area of 130 sq km - is a hotspot for kitesurfing, sailing and windsurfing. Being a vast lagoon with a max depth of just 7m, it is a perfect location for both beginners and experienced enthusiasts alike.

7Go back in time to the Roman eraCheck out the Carthago Nova Theatre in Cartagena, which was built in the 1st century BC by Roman Emperor Augustus, but was not discovered until 1990! Now excavated, the interactive Roman Theatre Museum has built up around it, and is a great way to look back into the past.

8 Savour the view from San Juan de Águilas castle-fortressThe sprawling town of Águilas is watched over by the imposing San Juan de Águilas castle-fortress, which sits atop a tall rocky outcrop. It was first constructed in 1579 and then rebuilt in the 18th century, and it has now been renovated and made into a mini-museum exhibit, but just the stunning 360 degree views are worth the visit.

9 Visit the Bolnuevo ErosionsClose to Mazarrón, you can find the weird-and-wonderful Bolnuevo Erosions, bizarre rock formations that have been carved and sculpted by wind and water and resemble something out of a science-fiction movie. Well worth checking out for a photograph.

10 Venture into the Cueva del AguaThe Cueva del Agua cave system is the most-famous cave in the area and actually one of several in the Costa Cálida region. There are over 3,000 metres of lines throughout the Cueva del Agua cave, and the water temperature remains a constant 30 degrees C throughout the year.