Diving around the Emerald Isle

The Emerald Isle has over 5,600 kilometres of coastline which not surprisingly offers the diver, from the most experienced to the beginner, the opportunity of some fabulous memories. The Atlantic coasts of Ireland are washed by deep, clear oceanic waters, warmed and fed by the Gulf Stream. Unpolluted and full of marine life, this is temperate water diving at its best.

There are more than 70 scuba diving clubs and 30 dive centres spread about the country with many operators offering a complete package including flights, transport, accommodation and a fully serviced dive operation.

The predominant features of Irish diving are dramatic underwater scenery with a myriad of colours that blanket the rock faces, along with many species of fish, shellfish and invertebrates. The marine life is hugely varied, from macro masterpieces such as jewel anemones, to seals, dolphins and basking sharks, in summer.

On the Atlantic coasts, visibility will generally be in the 15 to 30m range, though in good conditions it can reach a staggering 40m. Clean waters mean a healthy environment and indicators such as plentiful sea urchins, crustaceans and fish life are a reassuring sign. It has been illegal for scuba divers to take shellfish since the 1960s, which is probably why a good population of lobster and crayfish still exists.

The kelp forests and richly populated waters make it a great location for photographers. Tides and currents mean local knowledge is often essential, so ask skippers or dive centres before you get in the water. There is an abundance of wreck diving and in the Cork area alone there are believed to some 20,000 wrecks. Due to the winter storms breaking up the shallower wrecks you have to dive a little deeper in order to find a more intact wreck. Wrecks of more than 100 years of age are protected by law and permits may be required to dive theses wrecks.

The most infamous of these is the Lusitania. A victim of a German U boat RMS Lusitania was a trans Atlantic passenger liner – more than 1900 people were killed. She was sunk in 1915 some 10 miles off the Old Head of Kinsale, Cork. However as she lies in 100m of water it is a specialist dive. There is speculation that she was carrying several priceless paintings when she was sunk.

Temperatures will range from 7°C (45°F) in winter warming up in early spring to a maximum of about 15°C (59°F) in August and September. A drysuit is recommended, although a 7mm semi dry can also be worn.

Below is a video from watchxinxyou of a wreck dive in Loch Garry, Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland.

Some other places to mention follow below but we urge you to do your research to find what best suits your demands.

Tory Island – located 14kms off the north coast of Co.Donegal. There are many dive sites around the island which you reach by ferry. Fabulous marine life including a chance of seeing whales, dolphins and basking sharks. Book well in advance as there is great demand.

Diamond Rocks, Kilkee – superb dive off Ireland’s west coast in a bay sheltered from the prevailing winds – masses of marine life, rocks and gullies

Carraroe and Fanore – fantastic clear water and abundant fish life and reefs

Rutland Sound, Burtonport, Co. Donegal – a drift dive to a maximum depth of 23m which depending on the tide can move you 1 km in about 20 minutes so a good boat man is essential. Be aware that the Aranmore Ferry runs up and down this channel.

This last video from ddniUK shows a dive on the north west cliffs of Rathlin Island.

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