Diving and snorkelling


Overview

Diving and snorkelling travel guide, top diving and snorkelling experiences, tips for diving and snorkelling, where to go and diving and snorkelling tips

As long as you can swim, snorkelling is an easy first step to take towards under-water diving. It is best enjoyed with at least one ‘buddy’, although it doesn’t have to be limited to just one other person – whole families can snorkel together.

Once confident snorkellers, many people want to learn to dive. One popular way to become proficient is on a specialised learn-to-dive holiday. Wherever land meets sea, you will find a diving school, which can train you to a high level of competency.

Organisations such as the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and The British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) have training schools teaching diving fundamentals.

If you would like to take your diving further and become a certified diver, qualified to dive in open water with a buddy, PADI offer the Open Water Diver which is completed over four to five days.

Once you’ve passed the Open Water Diver Certification course you can continue your scuba diving education by enrolling in other speciality courses including Night Diving, Underwater Photography or even becoming an instructor. Once fully qualified, your certification or C card is your diving passport and is recognised worldwide.

They say that the most dangerous creature in the sea is man. That may be so, but there are still a few critters that you should watch out for. Like all animals, sea creatures are generally only dangerous if they are cornered, if you upset their mating behaviour or blunder into them accidentally.

The blunder types cause the most grief, as this group generally includes the jellyfish family, which have long trailing tentacles armed with stinging cells. That is why it is always advisable to wear protection underwater – a wet suit at the very least. With the correct buoyancy technique taught by a dive centre there is no need for you to touch the reef or its creatures, thereby avoiding any nasty encounters with something which may sting or bite you in defence.

Dive centres which proudly display their association with large organisations will tend to be okay. There are always a few dodgy outfits around, but this is generally due to inexperience and laziness. Come back to these same centres in a few years time and you will often discover that they’ve become quite professional!

If you have any doubts about a company before diving, ask around for any recommendations by locals or hotel staff. Always have a look at the quality of the equipment – a good dive shop will tend to replace its diving gear almost every year. That way you can be fairly certain that it will not let you down when you need it most.

Further Reading

Top 7 dive and snorkel destinations

1. Malaysia Lying off Borneo’s north-east coast is the tiny island of Pulau Sipadan. Its reef was not explored until the late 1970s, when both Jacques Cousteau and the WWF gave it glowing reports. Along with a reef teeming with life, green turtles nest on the island and hawksbill turtles are prolific.

2. Egypt The Red Sea is the world’s most northern tropical sea and while its coast is made up of seven nations, most divers flip their fins towards Egypt. With short flights from Europe, a million or more divers congregate in Eqypt’s coastal resorts every year.

But legions of divers are no match for a teeming marine population – pop your head underwater and mingle with crustaceans, cephalopods, molluscs, schools of reef and pelagic fish. Throw in sharks and dolphins plus anthias, butterfly fish, rays and morays and all you are missing is a swim with Moby Dick. Perennial divers’ favourites include Sharm El Sheikh for reefs like Ras Mohammed and wrecks like the Thistlegorm.

3. Great Barrier Reef Many divers have become blasé about the barrier, but when someone tells you they’ve been disappointed here, ask just how many of its one million square kilometres they’ve explored. With that much coral to snorkel, pretty much all bases are covered. There’s marvellous shore-snorkelling from Lady Elliot Island, its waters teeming with manta rays, turtles and leopard sharks. Cruise among the white-sand beaches of the Whitsunday Islands on a yacht, slipping off the side to spot huge maori wrasse and the peculiar tasselled wobbegong (it’s a shark, but it looks more like a sofa). Or head for the remote outer reef for close encounters with minke whales.

4. Malta and Gozo; Estartit Closer to home are Malta and Gozo in the central Mediterranean and the Medas Islands off northern Spain. The Maltese islands are home to clear, clean water, an abundance of marine life and some super wrecks. The Medas Islands near Estartit in Spain have been a nature reserve since the early 1980s and while much of the Mediterranean fish stocks have been seriously depleted, these islands are filled with huge grouper and many other types of fish and invertebrates. Best from May-October.

5. Bahamas The Bahamas, popular for its close proximity to the US, is regarded as the ‘Shark Diving Capital of the World’ and has an amazing reputation for getting divers frighteningly close to sharks in a number of different scenarios (including hand feeding) with a minimum of fuss and in as controlled a situation as you can be with wild creatures. Year-round diving.

6. Cayman Islands The Cayman Islands are home to ‘The best ten foot dive in the world'. Referring to an unbelievable hands-on experience with dozens of large stingrays. 250 stingrays swoop in and envelop you in their ‘wings’ in search of a free meal. This is a curious mix of nature and enterprise and no-one is certain which has trained what. Year-round diving.

7. Scotland Probably better suited to more experienced divers, Scotland has an impressive repertoire of shipwrecks – in Scapa Flow in the Orkney Islands, you can find the most wrecks in European waters. The Eyemouth and St Abbs Head area on the Scottish east coast is also home to the only marine reserve in Scotland and the rocky shores are a haven for interesting marine life.

Surprisingly, there are probably more divers trained in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK. The western sea lochs are calm and sheltered and while the water is not warm, even at the height of the summer, diving can be enjoyed all year round.