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Around Bell Rock
Pride of Pembrokeshire
Dive North Pembs
Where We Are
Celtic Diving Base
Tel: 01348 871938
Scuba diving in the blue lagoon...
ďScuba diving in Wales? You
must be crazy! Isnít the water freezing? Can you actually see anything
Then came my real surprise.
ďYouíre Australian and you donít scuba dive !Ē I exclaimed. It turned
out that Tia had however done some snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, so I
was going to have come up with the goods if that was the benchmark.
A lot of people have similar preconceived ideas that diving in the Britain is dark, dangerous, cold and there is nothing worth seeing anyway. Quite the contrary. Here in Pembrokeshire we have a unique environment - this is the only coastal marine reserve in the UK. There is an abundance of varied and fascinating sea creatures, many small coves and reefs to explore, hundreds of shipwrecks (many still undiscovered) that in turn become home to more species.
As for combating the
temperature, itís actually not as cold as one might think most of the
time. We use thicker suits
than our tropical colleagues or dry suit systems in any case.
The visibility varies and
depends on the location, prevailing winds and plankton blooms. Some of the best visibility to be had is offshore, during the
winter when the wind is low. Of course when the weather really gets bad
thatís the time we stay off the sea and lovingly repair and service
our treasured diving equipment.
Some of the advantages of
learning to dive in the UK are that legislation here is much stiffer
than abroad, so instructors tend to be on the whole more diligent. They also want and expect customers to return to participate in
further training and go on diving trips. Furthermore the conditions are
challenging and therefore require a higher standard of training than in
more temperate climes.
Divers that train and
participate in diving projects in their home country keep up their
pursuit, stay in practice, purchase their own kit and are generally much
more responsible and safety conscious than fair weather counterparts.
Having dived around the world I can honestly say that some of the most
memorable diving I have experienced is here in the UK, especially West
Wales, and thatís the main reason I opened Celtic Diving as an
activity center in Pembrokeshire.
Well all that aside, brave little Tia from
Perth signed up for a try out dive with us to see what all the fuss was
about. As usual we met up at the shop around 9am, and started by going
into the classroom to introduce all the staff and participants to each
other. Then we get out the equipment, go over the main bits and pieces,
explaining what they do and how to correctly wear, adjust and carry the
items. We then talk about buoyancy, water and air pressure, how to
breath and equalize pressure on the ears, the signs we will use to
communicate with underwater, the safety issues, what we will be doing
underwater, where we are going to dive and what we can expect to see.
Finally we get everyone sized up for kit, pack the Landy and set off.
We like to start most people
off with a confined water dive. One of the most rewarding locations
around here is the ďBlue LagoonĒ at Aberieddy. This is an old
quarry, connected to the sea, but is actually confined water and not
affected by the tide too much except on spring tides. The location is
beautiful, the water a deep blue, great cliffs and, on this particular
day, we had sunshine and a curious seal to share the lagoon with.
Itís a bit of a trek getting up the path with all the gear, but well worth it. As we always say, diving is the sport you want to keep in shape for !
Once on site I give a
briefing on the current conditions we will encounter and go through the
plan once more briefly, the hand signals, depth, length of dive,
acceptable amount of remaining air before surfacing and who will dive
with whom and when. Tia is very excited and wants to go first, so we get
her kitted up and do a pre dive safety check.
We have one person on the shore as our surface support, myself as instructor and a rescue diver, Darren, who follows the proceedings underwater, looking out for any unforeseen hazards. We enter the water put on our fins and I get Tia to lie back in the water with her buoyancy vest full of air. Once she is settled we start our descent to 6 mtrs. It seems Tia is a natural, she has no problems at all and adapts very quickly to the underwater world. In fact I have to slow her down as she wants to swim around the lagoon at record speed !
The visibility is about 5
meters, not brilliant but adequate. The sunlight dancing off the walls
covered in; limpets, ďDead Manís FingersĒ (a soft coral) and anemones.
We see spider crabs, blennies, edible crabs and some gorgeous golden
brown swaying kelp. Tia looks good - relaxed in the water, using her
fins to swim as she had been briefed. We keep very close together and I
hold onto Tia at all times, checking on her air supply and depth.
Towards the end of the dive we spot some parts of the old structures of the quarry - kind of spooky in the half-light. It usually takes about 15 to 20 minutes to circumnavigate the lagoon and this is plenty for a first timer to get an idea of what itís like to scuba dive. I only hope that Tia saw as much as I did. I do try to point the creatures out as much as I can, but I also know that the whole experience is usually quite overwhelming the first time. Iím never completely sure until after the dive, during the debriefing, if the participant actually took it all in. We surface nice and slowly and I get Tiaís vest inflated on the surface so she can relax and paddle back to the shore safely. She lets out a whoop, exclaims that this was the most amazing experience and asks me when the next certification course is going to run as she wants to enrol !
what can I say. Great
Barrier Reef versus West Wales. I can only explain that there is a
special attraction to diving in British waters; you have to want to
discover things, taking your time.
Itís subtle, less obvious, even more mysterious. In crystal
clear waters, full of brightly coloured fish, that kind of diving has
its own lure, but it is easy to become quite blasť after a couple of
days, even complacent. Itís what you get used to.
people make the mistake of not checking out what is on their doorstep,
making excuses based on assumptions about what it's like to dive here
and fail to explore the adventure that is to be had. Others, like Tia
though, rise to the occasion, embrace the unknown and reap the rewards.
Tia has decided that diving is definitely for her. Sheís now on our winter training programme and well on her way to becoming a rescue diver herself.
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