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As I write this in the middle of the UK’s Corona virus lock down, it’s occurred to us at Mike's that even when we’re finally allowed to emerge, blinking into the light, desperate for some scuba-action we may well still have quite a long wait until we’re able to get overseas on our holidays.
That means that if you currently love diving but don’t dive in the UK, you’re facing either a long wait or, perhaps, an opportunity…
There are a whole bunch of reasons that keen scuba divers don’t actually dive in the UK, this article will hopefully counter some of those objections and tempt you to give our waters a chance. Besides, if you desperately need to scratch your scuba-itch (there are creams for that) you might not have much of a choice!
A surprising number of divers aren’t even aware there’s a thriving scuba scene in the UK. They do their Open Water and possibly Advanced course overseas and then dive once or twice a year without ever realising there’s a whole bunch of diving on our doorstep. Just because there’s no coral reef or advertised diving destination doesn’t mean there isn’t loads to explore. Read on to find out more about what the UK has to offer.
We all know how easy it is on holiday, especially in the days when the Red Sea was such a huge holiday destination: On the first day of the trip a holiday rep would turn up and tell you about scuba diving, you’d sign up and then you’d be picked up in the morning and whisked off for a couple of dives before being deposited back at the hotel in the late afternoon, salty, windswept and happy. Diving in the UK doesn’t seem anywhere near as accessible, but the good news is that there are loads of dive clubs and dive centres in the UK that can get you started. A quick google search should bring up a list of potentials. Many centres have a dedicated route to introducing divers to UK waters, one of the best ways of which is to have a go in a drysuit. Which leads us onto...
Lots of new divers find the concept of drysuits quite intimidating. This often stems from learning in a tropical country where the instructor paints a nightmarish picture of cumbersome, bulky equipment and dark murky water when in actual fact they’ve probably never used one… The thing is, if you don’t know then you just don’t know and drysuits have really come on leaps and bounds in recent years. There are loads of options, different sizes, ladies cut suits, form fitting neoprene styles that are much easier to dive in as well as take on and off. With just a one day course you can be introduced to drysuit diving and you’re away! If you need help with choosing the right drysuit and suitable undersuit then visit our Drysuit Guide and Undersuit Guide for helpful tips. Drysuits also go hand in hand with the other big issue divers tend to give:
It’s hackneyed analogy time: If you attempt a hike wearing flipflops and a micro bathing suit you will probably suffer a less than satisfactory outcome (if you’re not arrested first). Attempt the same thing goretexed up to the eyeballs with a stout pair of walking boots and you will not only avoid the attention of the police but be perfectly comfortable throughout. The same goes for diving: the water may not be as warm as your last jaunt to the Maldives but if you wear the right kit then you simply won’t be cold. Although most regular UK divers favour a drysuit, if you’re only diving in the Summer then a thick wetsuit like the Scubapro Nova Scotia or the Waterproof W4 7mm Wetsuit is more than adequate. Diving in the summer also has the added advantage of a warm day to ascend to and a beer garden for that well-deserved post dive beer.
Well, I’m sorry but that’s just not true. Britain as an island nation has a very long maritime history meaning the entire coastline is dotted with incredible wreck diving opportunities. However, diving in the UK is not just about wrecks, it’s also about amazing wildlife encounters: From blue shark encounters in Cornwall to diving with seals at the Farne Islands and basking sharks in Scotland there are some truly amazing diving experiences to be had. Read our Top UK Dive Sites guide for more recommended dive spots. There’s also even the opportunity to catch and cook your own seafood where permitted. I’ll never forget a fantastic weekend down in Weymouth where we dived a 1st World War submarine in the morning, picked up some scallops on the second dive and had them on the BBQ that evening!
There’s also a second part of this that needs addressing and that’s visibility. No-one is going to pretend that jumping into UK waters will result in crystal clear, blue water but neither are you guaranteed murky conditions. As you progress along the south coast of the UK towards Cornwall, visibility gets increasingly good and it’s not uncommon to have 10-15m. Progress up to Scotland and it can be even better, I’ve had 20m plus out in Scapa Flow. Besides all that though, visibility isn’t everything. Nobody likes crawling around in what might feel like a cup of tea, but 5m, although it doesn’t sound like much, will give you plenty to see and can add to the feeling of exploration too.
UK diving has so much more to offer that a lot of divers just aren’t aware of. The equipment required to dive in temperate waters has dramatically improved and with a good dive centre or club by your side it really is very easy to give it a go. We’ve had magical, incredible experiences diving in the UK as well as the opportunity to turn something you might only do once a year into a full-time hobby. Imagine being able to sling your kit in the boot of the car on a Saturday morning and head off diving?
The reality is, it maybe some time before we’re all able to board those flights to the Red Sea or the Maldives again and who know how social distancing is going to affect flight availability and price so do something for yourself and the UK diving industry and give it a try.