When you think of your top 5 to dive scuba sites, your first thoughts tend to turn to the Red Sea in Egypt, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, or any of the amazing tropical dive locations all around the world. One of the last places on the list would be the waters surrounding the British Isles in the UK.
Totally understandable, as there is a perception that the UK's waters are cold, murky and rather dull. I am not going to lie, some days this is very true. However, if you ask any diver based here we will tell you stories of colourful reefs, huge wrecks and amazing marine encounters!
Some of my favourite dive spots are home to cuttlefish, catsharks, seals and even the occasional octopus. Unlike some dive destinations, there is not even a 55% guarantee you will see any of these marine creatures on your UK dive, and this is what makes diving here so exciting, every time you jump in you never know what you might find!
One of my passions is to share why I dive here in the UK, and the fantastic dive sites we have here, in the hope that others will start exploring our waters, particularly if they are local to you. So I have a couple of my absolute favourite dive moments to share with you below.
Spinning Around With Seals
I will never forget the first time I dived with the Atlantic Grey Seals at Lundy Island. We were warned on the boat that they were curious marine creatures and loved to play with the divers. If you can see 1 seal in front of you, there will be 3 more watching behind you!
Image Credit: Joe T-D
About 10 minutes after jumping into the water, a flash of grey started circling. Watching the bubbles, then you'd feel a tug on your fin. If you turn around quick enough, you might just catch the seal in the act of chewing on your fin.
You can go around in circles for a wonderful 45 minutes, watching the seals play their own game with you.
You know they are getting more playful when they start 'nibbling' at your drysuit legs or at your arm. I remember one dive, I was floating around watching a seal in the distance when they decided to come right up to me and start poking at my camera lens before settling in front of me.
For about 5 minutes, it was just me and the seal. Myself filming and my new friend poking the lens and admiring themselves in the reflection, before deciding to shoot off in search of the next diver to play with.
It really was an amazing encounter! Personally, it’s such a privilege to spend time in their natural habitat, and for them to want to explore divers who come to visit them.
Cornwall’s Colourful Reefs
Another dive site I love is Drawna Rocks at Porthkerris in Cornwall. It is a shore dive ideal for an Open Water diver that will bring you right into the heart of a rainbow of colour.
Tall green kelps surround you, red algae's and purple snakelocks anemones cover the rocks with big brightly coloured wrasse feeding as they pass you.
Shining a torch into the cracks in the rocks reveals orange squat lobsters and the beady eyes of the flatfish. More than likely there will be a tompot blenny hiding in its crevice too, a real character on any reef. Such a beautiful, simple dive that in the summer months it will make you feel like to are diving somewhere tropical.
If you need even more colour, then jump on a boat and head out to dive a reef called The Manacles. At The Manacles is my favourite UK dive - Vase Rock. A pinnacle, that at its deepest is approx. 40 m rising up to the top at 10 m.
I remember the first time I dived it, my dive buddies and I descended to 25 m. You could see the life on the rock, but it wasn't until we turned our torches on that we got the full effect of the rainbow in front of us. Vase Rock is covered in every colour of jewel anemone, like a patchwork blanket, with pink sea fans and dead man’s fingers dotted in-between.
Has the UK moved up your to-dive list yet?
Hopefully, I have given you a good insight into what fantastic diving there is to find in the UK seas, and you now want to give it a go!
If so, here are a couple of tips for taking your first dive in the UK
1. Keeping Warm
This is super important with any dive, but the waters here in the UK are much colder than the Caribbean!
Proper exposure protection is a must-have, towards the end of summer months you can dive here in a wetsuit. However, it is much more comfortable to drysuit dive, you will find most divers will be in a drysuit and all the dive centres will offer training for drysuit diving too.
Also, don't forget your hood and gloves, your fingers will thank me later!
2. Find a Buddy Who Already Dives In the UK
Diving with someone who has the extra experience and knowledge of UK diving will make your first experience much more enjoyable.
If you don't have a friend to dive with, get in contact with your local club, the UK dive community is very friendly, and there is always someone who will be happy to take you out diving.
After all, scuba diving is about having fun! It will be a completely different experience diving in the UK, so go into it with an open mind, and you'll be amazed at what you can see.
If it is not quite what you were looking for, then that's okay, and it will certainly give you a wider diving experience, in turn making you a better diver.
I look forward to hopefully seeing some of you trying out UK diving, and maybe even bumping into you at a local dive site. If you do, be sure to come and say hi!
Thank you for reading and happy diving!
Written by Jo Cale (@josoceanmedia)
Jo is a dive blogger and videographer from the UK. Her love of the oceans started a few years ago when learning to dive, now a PADI Master Scuba Diver, Jo is sharing the beauty of UK diving through her website, Jo's Ocean Media.