The UK diving season will be here quicker than you can say “beast of the east 2” and while some warmer water divers are looking forward to their summer ‘olidee’s somewhere hot ‘n far flung, others are ironing their dry suits (don’t try that) and working some life back into a BCD that’s been stuffed under the bed since it’s last outing the previous summer. Having spent a bunch of time on busy dive boats in places like Cozumel or rushing to get in the water before the crowds at Iceland’s Silfra fissure. (indeed, first world problems) – at this time of year, I start to look forward to UK diving more than any other place in the world – and here’s why.
Just moments off our beloved UK coast, I believe it is possible to explore in the true sense of the word, just you and your dive partner, at your own pace, your own depth and often never meeting another soul during the entire dive. Although I prefer to share the experience, many UK divers choose to dive alone and completely immerse themselves in the experience solo style. Not something you’re ever really able to do on a standard tourists dive boat. Unless you choose to dive at one of the more frequented wreck sites like Dorset’s M2 submarine or let’s say the Kyarra, then for my money, there’s no place better than the UK to explore wrecks from both world wars. These destinations are essentially underwater museums frequented by only a few people and away from the gopro selfie stick waving crowds. The wreck of the James Eagan lane, just off the coast of Cornawall is in fact a cousin of everyone’s favouritite Liberty ship – the Thistlegorm. Much like the Thistlegorm, with perhaps fewer vehicles and welly boots to speak of, it is possible to penetrate the spacious interior from end to end and the visibility is usually brill. Not only do we boast some of the best wrecks around, we also boast some pretty lary looking fish species, like the male cuckoo wrasse pictured here checking itself out in my mask. Around certain parts of the Sussex and Dorset coastline in August, it’s possible to dive with grey triggerfish – these guys are visitors to the UK, travelling from their native western Atlantic waters and South American waters. The UK provides some of the richest wall dives, with many of them adorned with dazzling jewel anemone – pictured here impressing a famously hard to please Spanish diver somewhere off Plymouth.
And that’s not all, “warm water holiday diver”s, because the fun doesn’t stop there – aboard a UK dive (hard) boat, there’s none of this handing your weights and equipment up to a waiting skipper – UK divers are hoisted up, out of the water in one piece by a lift, escorted to their seats and plied with hot chocolate, pasties, cakes and other healthy treats, before peeling off suits and enjoying a leisurely surface interval. Sometimes it’s possible to gorp at passing dolphins, minky whale and sunfish while off gassing, before it’s time to drop back in to the (sometimes) clear, cool water.
Yes yes, of course I love diving abroad, in shorts and a rash vest with endless visibility, or messing about in Cenotes. But, if I really want to escape the crowds and leave the conveyor belt of diving tourists behind to do some adventuring on my own terms, then I’m hopping on one of my favourite south coast UK dive boats to explore off the beaten reef.