Diving In Scotland

Scotland is a diver's paradise, a Northern marine jewel rich in sealife, shipwrecks and astonishing underwater scenery. Can you imagine what it's like to dive with dolphins or seals? To visit the remains of a Cromwellian warship that last raised sail three hundred years ago? To glide weightlessly through a coral-encrusted underwater arch so massive and breathtaking that it is known as The Cathedral? To watch a 10m Basking Shark cruise by? To see things that most people will never see?

The coastline of Scotland offers divers some of the most scenic and exciting diving in the world. From the relatively shallow East coast with eroded gullies and archways covered in soft corals and colourful anemones to the spectacular stacks of St Kilda rising vertically from the clear oceanic waters of the Atlantic. Then there is Scapa Flow, with the wrecks of the Imperial German Fleet attracting divers from all over the world to dive them. Further North the Shetland Isles have more than their fair share of wrecks from the Dutch East India Company to Russian factory ships all in crystal clear water. And for the ultimate thrill you can’t beat being bowled along in a four knot tide race like Kylrea, or whisked through the Falls of Lora like a piece of washing in the spin cycle of a washing machine. Or hover weightless on a sheer cliff face with a forrest of kelp above and a kalidescope of brightly coloured jewel anemones covering the rock in front of you.

Yes, Scotland has all this and more, I’ve not mentioned the sea life wolfish, lobster, skate, wrasse in all colours, too many species to describe and new ones still being discovered.

Dive Scotland with the Scottish Sub-Aqua Club

There is no denying that to sample some of the above delights, you must be properly trained in a safe and sensible way.

There is only one official governing body for recreational diving in Scotland that offers training specifically orientated to these challenging waters, with a wealth of experienced instructors and the outstanding camaraderie of a genuine club structure - not to mention a safety record that is second to none. Whether you are young or old, male or female, we make no distinction for entry and, as a non-profit making Organisation, ScotSAC offer expert tuition at minimal cost to the individual.

What makes people want to take up diving as a sport? Perhaps for many of us its the thought that we might just be missing out on something under the waves. Scuba diving has become not only one of the most appealing of all leisure activities, but also one of lifes great adventures. What is it about this seemingly dangerous sport that has caused it to become so popular? There are, in fact, more answers than questions, more reasons to go diving than most people can possibly imagine.

Firstly, one is rarely too old to dive. So long as you are sound in wind and limb, you can take the plunge at almost any age with comparative impunity.

The same applies to the sexes. Once thought of as an activity for hairy-chested macho types only, diving now has a significant female following with the proportion of women divers on the increase.

Disabled people, too, find that diving is one sport in which they can participate, for it is easy for most to move with relative ease under water.

But what is the actual attraction? Well, the fact is that the world under water is spellbinding. Cousteau called it "The Silent World" and, indeed, the only sound is usually that of your own bubbles. It is like being on another planet and has aptly been called "inner space". Another similarity is that, although heavy with equipment on the surface, divers achieve a state of weightlessness underwater - like astronauts - and are able to hover effortlessly or glide about with ease. Warm, clear seas are obviously inviting, and in many places abroad there are exciting things on offer - reefs, caves, canyons and walls, festooned with corals and sponges, abounding with myriad fish of magnificent colour. There are places of breathtaking beauty such as the Red Sea, the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, the Seychelles, the Philippines, Belize, and the Great Barrier Reef. Nearer home, there are islands such as Malta, Gozo, Cyprus, Corfu, Corsica and the Canaries.

Though divers flock each year to these and other areas, there is lasting and enormous enthusiasm for diving in the United Kingdom, here there are wrecks to be discovered and explored. Some of them are veritable "time capsules", containing important historical artefacts intact, including items of great worth. It has, in fact, been said that if you look out to sea from almost any spot on the British coast you are looking at a maritime graveyard, and it is certainly true that every year more wrecks and the remains of such are found.

But wrecks are not the only reason for diving in British waters, for they are rich in marine life. Of all, the seas around Scotland offer the ultimate diving in UK waters, with scores of divers visiting locations such as the Sound of Mull, the Summer Isles, St. Kilda and, the wreck divers paradise, Scapa Flow in the Orkneys. During 1995, a notable year for excellent weather, it is estimated that there were more than 2 million dives in the seas around the UK, testifying to their popularity.

Using advanced equipment and techniques, it is now possible to dive to great depths to explore sunken ships such as the Lusitania, which rests at a depth of more than 300ft, and there is a growing band of adventurous souls whose ambition is to explore new frontiers.

But shallower depths are much more attractive for most divers, because this is where light reaches and life is therefore more abundant. Shallow waters are, for example, the favoured domain of underwater photographers, who are able to take their time to compose and shoot stunning pictures of the underwater environment. Encounters with marine life are more likely at these depths from the tiny hermit crab to inquisitive fish such as Wrasse and Bib. If you are really lucky you may encounter one of the shy giants of the deep, Basking Shark, who visit the West Coast of Scotland during the summer months.

There are vast areas of the marine environment open to all divers but yet to be explored. Not for nothing has the sea been called "the last wilderness", and that is part of its appeal. Diving also, however, presents opportunities that exist in no other sport or pastime, such as the study of the extraordinary marine life that exists only underwater. A dive at one spot during the day presents a vastly different scene at night, when life on a reef changes dramatically.

Many divers are excited by the possibility of finding treasure underwater - and some do - the more serious take to underwater archaeology. Others become involved in marine conservation projects, both in Britain and overseas. For the majority, though, there is the sheer joy and privilege of entering what is largely an unknown and fascinating world where life has survived unchanged for millions of years. Also, too, the opportunity briefly to share an environment with wonderful creatures such as seals, turtles, manta rays, dolphins, whales - even sharks. As for the physical dangers of diving, they are widely exaggerated, for training and equipment these days is highly advanced and state of the art. There are wetsuits and drysuits to keep you warm; regulators to make breathing easy; lifejackets for buoyancy and safety; computers to give you all the information you need; watches and gauges for back-up, and all manner of ancillary equipment for pleasure.

In short, diving is no longer only a pastime for the hardy few, but for anyone seeking new adventures and horizons.