1st CMAS European Championships of Underwater Photography in the Azores - the green islands in the Atlantic

Visual 14.01.2014

From the 3rd to the 8th of September, 2014 the first European Championships of Photography take place in the Graciosa/Azores. This competition can be considered at the same time as an excellent preparation for the World Championships taking place in Zeeland/Holland in the next year (2015), because the diving conditions as well as the flora and fauna of these cold water areas are quite comparable.

Juergen Warnecke took a look around on site and found a unique landscape, which is cherished by amiable people and also presented with pride to strangers.

Graciosa lives up to its name

When the turboprop plane of SATA-Air pivots on the island, one can see lush meadows and fields, which all were piled up with straight, metre-high walls of volcanic rock. Flat white houses covered mostly with red bricks (Tialahs) duck in shallow valleys and narrow roads connect the few small towns. Santa Cruz, Praia, Luz and Guadalupe are the most important ones.

However, one does immediately recognize the volcanic origin while flying over the crater of Caldeira which is not to be overlooked with about 2 kilometres in diameter. Craters or their remnants are scattered all over the island and line up like camel humps on the horizon.

The island of Graciosa (62 km²) presents itself on closer observation as rugged beauty. The landscape is fully developed and is used rural with much diligence. Wine cultivation, cattle breeding and agriculture for the use on the island are the main sources of income of the locals. The natural warmth and hospitality also has a very positive effect on the increased tourism. Small hotels like fortresses built of volcanic rock or with white walls, which have been lovingly embellished with bold colours, invite you to stay. The spotless rooms always reflect a little the lifestyle of the owner. Small souvenirs, documents and ancient objects of the ancestors contribute to the cosiness and force the strangers to conversations at breakfast.
Especially the ancient windmills and lighthouses are real eye-catchers and usually to visit from the inside. They are set up multi-levelled as small rooms and can also be rented.

A 'must' is a visit of the sulphur grotto inside the volcanic crater of Caldeira. More than 100 metres inside of the earth (more than 200 steps) a 15-metre-deep lake is located in a gigantic cave. The deep cleft in the rock is visible from the top to the cave and illustrates the forces that once could create this unique lagoon.

The European competition

Several marinas are available alternatively for the leavings in solid wooden boats, here there is no shortage. Also qualified skippers and instructors are located at all major marinas, so that participants have a very short distance to the port and can always reach the water without bus-transfers. The equipment with diving apparatus (DIN) is secured in large numbers and is in very good condition. For the safety a helicopter connection to the neighbouring island of Terceira is planned. The pressure chamber corresponds to the international standards. All boats and dive centres dispose of emergency equipment and trained personnel.

Underwater you feel as if you were transferred to Madeira or the Canary Islands. Typical flora and fauna with large shoals of small fish that are hunted by predators such as bonito, madrigal and barracuda. Parrotfish, pushbutton fish and scorpaeniformes of all kinds populate the seabed. As said, you see the typical species of the Atlantic, they are only slightly larger and more numerous. With some luck, mantas and large rays or sharks can be seen.

The hotel Graciosa (there is only one larger hotel) is reserved for this Championship. All rooms are spacious and dispose of all the amenities of a four star hotel.

The here mentioned address should serve only for your information: www.graciosahotel.com

All bookings - also in advance for training purposes - can be made via azoreseurosub@fpas.pt.

The opening and the ceremony of the European Championships takes place in the cultural centre of the island. A special gag of the host FPAS - Federacao Portguesa de Actividades Subaquaticas - will be that all participants will get a voucher, with which they can take their dinner in one of the many restaurants.

Last but not least the CMAS VISUAL COMMISSION will advertise a training course for CMAS judges. Aim should be the common aim and adjustment of the jury in international events. Participants must be reported by the National Federation and the stay must be paid. Participating teams can not be reported.

Juergen Warnecke

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