Monday, November 30, 2009

Diving on the Isle of Man

There is a great report here about a recent diving visit to the IoM. I've chopped it up a bit.

Let me just start by saying what a fantastic trip it was. I’d never been to the Isle of Man before, but I wasn’t disappointed.

The island itself is in a bit of a time warp – yet in a nice sense. I didn’t see any graffiti, litter or see any loutish behaviour when we were out in the evenings, and everyone I met was friendly and helpful. It was a welcome relief form the various sights many of us have become accustomed to witnessing on a night out in the city.

The first 2 days were spent shore diving, as the swells and winds were a bit perilous. However these were by no means average dives. The first dive was at the Lifeboat Station in Port Erin which has an undersea wall that runs parallel and near to the lifeboat launch. It’s teaming with life and you’ll find Conger Eels, wrasse including Cuckoo, Ballan and Corkwing, with plenty of Tompots hiding in all the various cracks. Cammie managed to catch himself a lobster. Out of the water though it did look more like a juvenile so he sent it homeward to think again.

The next dive we did was At Port Soderick. It’s a nice wee bay enclaved by cliffs to the north. Basically, you fin towards the cliffs and follow their contours. The undersea terrain is reminiscent of St. Abbs with huge kelp stalks in such abundance it’s like a forest. There were a couple of youthful seals in the bay which followed us around too. Due to the weather, the swell and undercurrents were pretty exerting and required a lot of physical effort. I think most of us felt like we’d been in a washing machine on the spin cycle by the time we made our exit.

Again the weather was poor on the second day, so we settled for a shore dive in Fleshwick Bay. It’s a beautiful bay with high cliffs on either side and lots of rocks and underwater caverns to explore. Close to the cliffs leading back to the shore, there’s lots of thick kelp and if you’re lucky you’ll encounter a seal or two here. The combination of the topography and marine plant life makes this a really interesting and enjoyable dive, not to mention the dolphin which welcomed us with a graceful leap out of the water.

On the third day we finally got out on the boat. The sea was flat and calm and our first dive was a scenic dive at the Calf of Man on the south west side just beyond Calf Sound. This dive was as scenic as anything you’d find in the Mediterranean. Great viz and lots of coloured fish darting in and out of the rock crevices, along with spotted dogfish, and an abundance of mature scallops too close to the rocks for the dredgers. This has probably been the best scenic dive I’ve done in British Waters, despite missing out on seeing a basking shark which Joe, Alan and Ian had an encounter with.

Then Steve (Discover Diving) advised us our next dive was a ‘2 for 1’ experience, combining the wreck of the Clan McMaster with a drift dive in Calf Sound. We dropped in uptide of Thousla Lighthouse at the isthmus between the Calf of Man and the main Isle of Man. The wreck of the Clan McMaster lies at 15m deep and the drift was 3-4 knots! It was one of the best drifts I’ve experienced and it reminded me of Harry Potter flying around on his broomstick playing Quidditch.

Our last dive was the Sugar Loaf Caves. The caves descend to a maximum depth of 12 metres. After finning along the first walls, you encounter a large junction taking you into ‘The Cave of Birds’. There are stunning lighting effects here as the sunlight penetrates through the cracks in the rock. Take a torch with you to checkout the hydroids, anemones and various colourful sponges which adorn the walls. I found this particularly thrilling as you went from light to shadow to darkness, then shadow and finally light again. Cave diving has never appealed to me, so Sugar Loaf does just enough to provide a reasonable insight.

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