UK Diving is the Most Rewarding
Richard Bull, Britain's Secret Seas dive supervisor, explains why UK diving is the most rewarding in the World.
Where are the great dive sites of the world? Any diver heading for Heathrow with his kit and his sun-cream can probably rattle off a personal top ten. Ras Mohammed in the Red Sea would almost certainly be there, alongside Blue Corner in Palau, the Maldives and other exotic destinations. I bet the UK wouldn't feature on too many of those lists! Well it would feature in mine - probably at number one. Do I hear laughter and disbelief? I am serious, although I have to say that a diver needs to be committed to really reap the benefits of our native waters. I could never pretend that diving around the coast of Britain is easy but there are many things in life that demand a little bit of effort before the best is surrendered. That's where UK diving can be number one - it can be the most rewarding.
Wreck Diving in British Waters
Britain has the best wreck diving in the world. Think of The English Channel: how many sea battles have been fought over the centuries on this strip of water? How many ships fell prey to submarines during World War II? How many submarines themselves perished? The answer to all these questions is undoubtedly, lots. The Channel is still the busiest shipping lane in the world and to this day the ships are still doing what they have always been doing - bumping into each other and sinking. At the other end of the UK, on the bottom of Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, lies a scuttled German fleet: battleships, heavy cruisers - the lot. All around our coasts there are wrecks of mysterious historic ships and modern wrecks about which we know a great deal. Was it really the cook at the helm when the biggest ship ever to be wrecked in UK waters hit the Seven Stones?
Basking Sharks and Cheeky Seals
Big fish? We've got them too. The Basking Shark is the second largest fish in the world and there are certain times of the year when these magnificent creatures are a common sight around our western coasts.
I have encountered marine mammals all over the world but by far the most intimate interaction has been with the seals in the Farne Islands off the Northumbrian coast. They will want to play, and even if you don't want to join in you can be sure that your fins will be nibbled and an aquatic ballet will be performed right in front of your eyes.
One of the joys of a diving trip is often the beauty of the location, whether it is a desolate Arabian desert or the lagoon of a Pacific Island. But let me speak up for Britain. The Farne Islands are a short boat trip from the mainland and as you approach them you witness a forbidding, sparse beauty that reminds you you're alive. Still, you wouldn't want to be out here in a North Easterly gale! The bird life is stunning; from the golden plovers to the gannets and the terns. Last time I was in the Farnes a white tailed sea eagle sat perched on a stone tower monitoring our arrival. Don't get me wrong, I like the odd palm tree, but the magnificence and majesty of the natural world that surrounds some British dive sites is truly inspirational.
Where the Tropics meets the Arctic
Britain is positioned where the weather and seas rising from the tropics bumps into the weather and seas that descend from the Arctic. The weather here is very unpredictable, and this is partly responsible for the great diversity of our underwater life. I am not a marine biologist but I am convinced that I see as many different animals and plants on a UK dive as I have done in any far flung resort. It's not "In your face" like it is on a coral reef and you do have to keep your eyes open - but it is all there.
Choosing the Correct Gear for British Diving
Forget the easy-to-get-on, don't-know-you've-got-it-on, very thin shortie wetsuit that's so popular in the Tropics. A dry suit with a thermal undersuit is the order of the day for most UK diving - and this is going to be cumbersome; especially as it's going to require more weight to get you under the water. Our diving is very dependent on tides but fortunately these are predictable and with a little bit of forward planning they need not be a problem. If you are going to dive all year round (some of my best British diving experiences have been on very still, crystal clear days in the middle of winter) then you are going to have to wrap up for the boat journey. Be well supplied with flasks of hot drinks.
Britain demands a bit more from the diver but if you want big fish, fantastic sea-life, spectacular scenery (above and below the water), historic wrecks and much more then it's all on our doorstep.
UK diving? For me it is the most rewarding diving in the World.