Menorca: A Snorkeler’s Paradise

1. Dirt trails shaded by pine trees which form part of the ancient “Cami de Cavalls,” or “Road of Horses,” slope gently uphill, downhill, leading to Menorca’s southern coves. The Cala Pregonda, like almost all of the island’s coves, rivals an aquarium. Through its shallow turquoise waters one can see perfectly the silver fish darting about, and sometimes the small purple jellyfish that float to the surface. It’s hard to believe that in a place as inspiring as this, there is almost no one, just a handful of beach-goers. All the other tourists have flocked to the more well-known, easier-to-access beaches.

2. There is something about horses that I’ve always loved. Maybe it’s those movies in which Mongolian horsemen gallop wildly through the desert in a war of passion, robbing the ivory combs and hearts of young women in caravans. They are majestic, powerful animals, especially the Menorcan breeds. Black, elegant, and calm, these horses are show-cased during celebrations and trained to rear up on their hind legs in a fierce dance,  inches from spectators. We went horse-back riding on less elegant, yet no less worthier, creatures on a two-hour tour through dirt tracks, past beaches, all the way to Cala Pregonda. The steady plodding of their hooves, though not the lightning gallop of the Mongols, evoke the tranquility of these landscapes.

3. The Mediterranean is for snorkeling. There is nothing like submerging the body underneath its docile waters and hearing just your slow breathing, perhaps the tick tick of hundreds of fish nibbling off the rocks. This world has nothing to do with the one above, with its dark hiding places, its slow, dreamlike movements, the buoying, lulling currents, its trove of finned creatures. I am afloat and breathing, I believe momentarily that I’m a fish, that I belong underwater. And all those dreams of water from childhood seem to return in a strange rush, as if this isn’t quite reality. I roam the great rocks, I poke my head into crevasses. When the corals end suddenly and the ocean floor plummets into a murky abyss, I feel a slight pang of fear, of wonder. I swim off the edge daringly and pause, trying to make out any creatures that may surface from the depths. Stillness. I swim back towards shore.

4. Sleep is deep after a day on the beach. It allows for dreams that are clearer, that are sometimes difficult to discern from real life in their vivid moments. One morning I dream about my house. In the kitchen there is a large fish with black stripes moving through the air as if it were swimming, its tail flipping back and forth. I am bewildered. I reach out a hand to try to touch it. It scurries away, slipping into the basement. I ask my mother how a fish can swim like that out of water, and she says, “Fish have evolved from the creatures they used to be; it’s amazing what a species can adapt to.” I open the basement door hesitantly, and behind it an entire school of fish of different sizes and colors float in the air, ready to flit into the kitchen. With alarm adding to my confusion, I quickly close the door.

5. When it rains on a beach holiday, what do you do? Veto your partner’s serious suggestion of waiting out the rain in a dank beach cave. Eat a huge, tasty Menorcan-style lunch (their stuffed eggplants and cheese are delicious), then go to the arcades and start a tournament: basketball, hockey shots, foozball, billiards. Win twice at billiards 😀 . Wander the town looking for souvenirs, then head towards the beach with an oversized towel to take in its lonely, drizzly state.

6. Menorca’s regulations, which conserve the natural state of its beaches and forests and prohibit the construction of houses or hotels near its shores, make its experience much more authentic and less touristy than its neighboring islands. The raw beauty of its isolated beaches rival even those of Formentera. Having a whole cove to yourself to snorkel is a treat.

7. It’s hard to get beached-out here, even after visiting almost 10 different coves in 6 days. They are all spectacular, and the best ones make you work to get there by trekking, sometimes through hilly desert-like areas, sometimes through refreshing pine forest. The pace of life here is extremely relaxed, especially at the tail end of the tourist season, late September. Bowling alleys and bars remain empty, and as the sun slowly dips in late afternoon, our lengthening shadows are among the only few briefly inhabiting the fine sand of the cove.



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