“We can’t snorkel today because there are a lot of jellyfish.” My heart sank a bit. The activity I was looking forward to the most on my trip with Visit Costa Brava was snorkeling at the Medes Islands, located just one mile off the coast of L’Estartit. I absolutely love seeing marine life and once upon a time I even wanted to study to be a marine biologist. So I was beyond excited when I learned that not only would I be snorkeling, but that there was coral reef at the islands! Coral reef is hard to find in the Adriatic and Mediterranean.
The Medes Islands are an archipelago made up of seven islands and have been protected as a marine park since 1983. Twenty years of protection and the prohibition of fishing at the islands has brought about an incredible wealth of marine life from red coral to huge grouper. Though I was dying to dive into the clear blue waters and see the red coral for myself, I still had an amazing morning sailing around the Medes Islands on a schooner built of old tropical wood, just as pirate ships that sailed the islands once were.
The Medes Islands were a haven for pirates between the 15th and 18th centuries. Pirates based themselves on the islands for forays to the coast, bringing back their loot and kidnapped victims. Because piracy was such a huge part of L’Estartit’s history, it is still remembered today with a festival every September. We had just missed the Pirates in L’Estartit i Corsaris festival by a day. But our motley crew still took part in remembering by donning pirate bandanas and posing for a group picture. Argh, matey!
Back on land in L’Estartit, I got a feel for the huge dive culture in this small beach town. Wet suits were hung out to dry from practically every hotel and apartment balcony. Truck beds full of dive tanks made their way to and from boats, readying themselves to take the next group of divers out to the islands.
Not into diving? Over 3 kilometers of white sandy beach stretch along the coast. And there may have been jellyfish near the Medes Islands, but none were to be seen in the aquamarine waters lapping at the shore. I enjoyed lounging on the fine white sand for a bit.
Calamari, fried sardines, battered mushrooms, garlic steamed clams, and steamed mussels with two different kinds of sauce made their way around the table at La Sal. The tapas alone were enough to be a meal! And they were so delicious that I just kept putting just a few more morsels on my plate. The menu featured typical local dishes such as arròs negre, a black rice resembling seafood paella, and fresh fish.
I selected a dish from a little further afield. I couldn’t resist trying the kangaroo filets. I mean, how often can you say you had kangaroo in Costa Brava?!* Prepared simply grilled and served with peppers and french fries, it was delicious and very lean. Kangaroo meat is very high in protein and very low in fat, with only about 2% fat. It has a slightly stronger flavor than beef, but was comparable to a filet mignon.
Know Before You Go
- Diving is available year round at the Medes Islands for all levels of divers and there are a number of dive companies in L’Estartit
- Sailing is available daily April – October at 11:30am and 3pm and on Sundays only at 11:30am from November – March with Nautilus. Adults €18.50 and children €11.50. Ages 2 and under are free.
Thank to the Costa Brava Girona Tourism Board for hosting me, to Nautilus for the excellent sailing adventure, and to La Sal for the delicious meal! As always, all opinions are entirely my own.