Santa Ponsa, Majorca, March 2002

For the second year in a row, we decided to go on an Easter break with Flight Options. This time I booked direct and was spared having to use Lastminute.com's website. We chose to go to Santa Ponsa in Majorca. The flights were with Monarch, and whilst the flight out was a very early 7.30am, the return flight on Easter Monday evening was due to get into Gatwick at 8.00pm, so work the next day didn't look like a problem. About four weeks before we were due to go we received a letter saying the flight time had been changed to arrive at 9.45pm, which was a bit annoying.

We arrived at Gatwick the night before and checked in when the desk opened at about 3am. When we got on the plane, we were pleased to see that we had the seats by the door, with loads of legroom. The flight left late because there was extra security and people left it to the last minute to go to the boarding gate, and so couldn't get on in time.

The flight itself was alright. Monarch have now started to charge rental for their headphones. It was only a £1, but I didn't bother after looking at what was actually on. The flight was only an hour and fifty minutes anyway.

The Sun Beach Hotel
Arriving at Majorca airport, we were met by the Flight Options representative and told which coach to get on. Unfortunately, that coach number wasn't actually there, so I had to ask the coach driver. Several people got on the wrong bus, as presumably they didn't speak any Spanish. The trip to Santa Ponsa only took about an hour and we arrived at our hotel, the Sun Beach.

The room had a bedroom, bathroom, quite a large lounge area and a kitchen with cooker and microwave. Toasters were available for hire from reception. The hotel's official rating was 2* and it had a pool, which was far too cold at that time of year, and a bar.

Santa Ponsa itself isn't the most attractive resort in the world. There's a large, sandy beach, but there are a lot of hotels, apartment blocks and shops selling tacky souvenirs. It didn't help that they were currently halfway through replacing all the pavements at our end of town, but then Spain wouldn't be Spain without some building work. There were also about five Irish theme bars and numerous British bars advertising televised English football matches, which isn't really what I go to Spain on holiday for. However, at this time of year, it's pretty quiet and a lot of the bars aren't open. There are still plenty of places to have a drink or a meal though and Spanish prices are pretty cheap.

Easter was really early this year, so the weather was a bit temperamental. On the Thursday, it was sunny, but very windy. On the Friday, it was grey, miserable and rained all day. It was much the same as England had been, only a couple of degrees warmer. Saturday was better. Sunday and Monday were both sunny, and whilst the shade temperature was still only in the region of 16-18C, the sun was warm and it was possible to get sunburnt if you weren't careful.

I'd planned to do one day's diving and had emailed Zoea a few weeks before. Originally the plan had been to go diving on the Saturday, but we changed it to Sunday because of the weather. I got a cab to the dive shop for 9.30am and found no one there. They eventually turned up at 10am. The delay had been because they had picked up another customer and he hadn't realised that the clocks had gone forward an hour the night before, so he wasn't ready.

Santa Ponsa Beach
I filled in the paperwork, including giving details of my insurance, and collected my tank and weights. I'd brought all my other kit with me. There were 12 of us on the boat, the maximum it was licensed for. Most of the people were locals from Palma, and there was myself and another English guy. I was wearing my drysuit, as were a couple of the Spanish guys. Most of the rest of them were in one-piece semi-dries with dry zips and reasonable wrist and ankle seals.

I had originally said that I wanted to do two dives, but the group from Palma only wanted to do one, so it wasn't an option that day. I wasn't that bothered. We were diving a site called El Toro, which was about 20 minutes by boat. The site itself was a large rock, which a lighthouse on it and another much smaller rock next to it. We put the anchor down in the lee, because there was a little bit of swell. I was diving with the English guy. He didn't have his own computer and I had my trusty Cochran Commander, so I decided that we wouldn't be going very deep.

The plan was to surface swim a small distance between the two rocks and then to dive along the side of the larger one. We did the swim, and after pausing for our breath, descended to about 18-20m. It was possible to go deeper, but the wall flattened out deep. At our depth there were quite a few big boulders at our depth, with holes between and underneath them, so it was more interesting.

I'm not very good at identifying Mediterranean fish, but there were various wrasse, including peacock wrasse, sea bream, salpe and quite a few others, large and small. We also found an octopus, which was making surprisingly little effort to hide.

After about 25 minutes, the wall became sheerer and there was a slight current going with us, so I turned the dive and we came back the same way, only shallower. I found the gap between the two rocks and we kept close to the larger one as we did our safety stop and surfaced close to the rock. It's quite a popular fishing spot, and there's a fair amount of boat traffic, so a delayed SMB would be a good idea if you're forced to surface in deeper water.

The total dive time was 41 minutes and our maximum depth was 20m, though most of the dive was actually shallower than that. The viz wasn't that great, because of the high winds a couple of days earlier, but it was still a respectable 15m or so. Whilst there was nothing spectacular to see, it was an enjoyable and relaxing dive.

Back at the shop, I rinsed off my kit and they offered me a lift back to my hotel, which saved me the price of another taxi. If I had thought to ask, I could probably have got a lift there. Quite apart from anything else, it's quite a long walk from the barrier at the front of the marina and you need a keycard to get in.

When it came time to go home, the bus again took us to the airport. It left a bit late because a couple of people still hadn't realised that the clocks had gone forward and we ended up leaving without them. Arriving at the airport, we found that the time of the flight time had been changed again. We weren't scheduled to arrive at Gatwick until after midnight. As this was the second change, and the original schedule had us getting back at 8pm, this was quite annoying. If you're only going away for a short break, you don't really want to end up taking extra days off work because of late flights. The actual flight itself was fine. We took off at the revised time and arrived in Gatwick on time.

I enjoyed the break. The weather wasn't that good, but that is the risk you take when Easter is so early. Besides, the weather was certainly better there than in the UK. It was also nice to do a dive under reasonable conditions with reasonable viz. It would have been better if Flight Options had stuck to the original flight times, but the trip was good value at only £239 per person. I wouldn't go to Santa Ponsa during high season, but at that time of year, it was OK.