Scuba Diving

I first went scuba diving in Majorca when I was 14 years old and was instantly hooked. I must have done about 10 dives that holiday over and above all the training we did in the pool first. This would have been in the summer of 1969 and although the sport wasn't as structured or as well organised as it is now, the guys who were running the diving centre were very safety conscious even then. Before we were let loose on the Mediterranean we did a number of pool sessions where we ended up practising and doing all of the exercises and tests that contribute towards a modern-day PADI Open Water Certification. Having said that, once they did take us out into the sea we did a couple of very shallow and simple dives, but then they took us deeper and on more adventurous dives would be the case these days, including a number of boat dives, including a wreck and a dive through an underwater tunnel under a headland the other side of the bay.

After that holiday it was to be another 30-odd years before the opportunity presented itself to dive again. In the meantime Naomi and I got into snorkelling in a big way, even to the extent of buying wetsuits etc back in about 1999. We went snorkelling every opportunity we got, both in the UK and abroad (Spain, Portugal and Greece, especially) but our all-time number 1 favourite spot in the UK was in the coves dotted around Trearddur Bay on Holy Island, off Anglesey - plenty of fish, lots of nooks and crannies to investigate. Soon, though, that wasn't enough and inevitably we more and more started thinking of Scuba Diving. Our first opportunity came while we were on holiday on Tenerife...

Costa del Silencio, Tenerife

Naomi and I were holidaying in Golf del Sur on Tenerife's South Coast when we made contact with David & Yvonne who run Tenerife Dive at Las Galletas on the Costa del Silencio.

I got back into the whole idea very easily but Naomi (who has quite severe, although normally fairly well-controlled, asthma) found it quite hard going from a confidence standpoint.

We did eventually get Naomi to do a try-dive in the calm and shallow water in the Harbour at Las Galletas and although still very nervous she managed it very well and was likewise hooked.

We have been back to Tenerife since (after a couple more diving holidays in Greece) and Naomi & I had several really wonderful 10-15 metre boat dives with Yvonne and David. Tenerife, out in the Atlantic, gets much better fish than you generally find in the Mediterranean, larger and with more varieties. We even found the, by then, obligatory octopus to play with for a while (See Crete, alongside).

I really can recommend the Costa del Silencio as a place to dive, and Dive Tenerife in particular. They are a really friendly but professionally run outfit and can & do cater for every level of diver. Since Naomi and I really love Tenerife we'll definitely be going back at some point in the future. David and Yvonne are really encouraging and accomodating and there are a wealth of really great dives in the area.

Monoaftis, Crete

Having got our foot in the door on Tenerife, our next holiday happened to be in Crete. We were based in Rethymnon but there is nothing worth diving around there and we happened on the StayWet Diving Centre in Agia Pelagia, not far from Heraklion.

This is an absolutely fabulous location, with its own little sheltered cove which is rarely crowded. The cove has room for the Dive Centre (which has its own cafe), two taverna alongside a shop and and a small supermarket. The cove looks out towards Heraklion. Max and Beatrice, who run StayWet, are a lovely couple and all the [French] staff are incredibly friendly and supportive and endlessly patient.

The first time we went there, Naomi was still very unconfident underwater and she and her 1-1 instructor tended to stay separate from the group but we did about 10 dives over the fortnight we were in Crete and Naomi was fully with us by the end. The second week developed into a quest to find an octopus and in the end we did find out, with Naomi there, and it was a wonderful moment when Naomi was handling it down at about 8 metres.

Since Greece has always been my favourite destination outside the UK this is one place we'll happily go back to again and again. The last time we went we have Naomi's sister and her family with us and managed to get Judy and her son Taylor out on a couple of dives with us. Max and Beatrice are wonderful hosts (Beatrice does all their camera work) and their situation is just idyllic.

Costa Del Silencio, Tenerife, 2009

In 2009 I acquired my own BCD and other kit and we returned to Tenerife for a couple of weeks. We were based in Los Gigantes this time and the second week we spent mostly in and around Garachico on the north coast of the island. During the first week, however, I went diving with David and Yvonne at the Costa Del Silencio to get my Open Water ticket.

After some time in the local pool doing exercises and tests, we got out into the Costa Del Silencio again and had some terrific dives. Besides getting my ticket, the high point for me was feeding bull rays at the mouth of the harbour - great fun!

Although I'm really happy to have got my Open Water ticket, diving is no longer a straightforward exercise for me: I've been diabetic for a while now and each time I am intending to dive I have to get a piece of paper from my GP that says I'm fit to dive.

The problem is mainly that if you're diabetic your body reacts differently to being under pressure and you're much more likely to have a heart attack whilst diving. A heart attack is obviously a non-trivial experience any time, but much more serious when under several atmospheres of pressure and especially if you're either not in a position to ascend directly to the surface or not able to concentrate on breathing properly even if you are able to do so.

My diabetes is now controlled not just by pills but by lixisenatide injections and the next time I want to dive, my GP might decide that enough is enough...

Gulf of Aqabba

Naomi and I had a week in the Red Sea in December 2008 sailing about the Gulf of Aqqaba. Lots of snorkelling and I managed one dive over the week. The sea-life and corals out there really are all they're cracked up to be and this definitely spurred me on to get my PADI Open Water certification during 2009. I didn't have my underwater camera with me in December so no piccies, but we were sure we would be going back.

Eilat, 2010
WOW! We had two weeks in the Gulf of Aqabba in the Spring of 2010. Lots of Diving when we were in Israeli waters. The best dive there was on the wreck of the Satil, an Israeli missile boat sunk just south of Eilat in about 20 metres.
Wreck of the Satil, Eilat
Wonderful dive on the wreck of an old Israeli patrol boat sitting upright in 25 metres. Dove from the Rib straight down the shot line to the wreck; round from the bow deck to the stern where we saw a massive Yellowbar Angel (about 25-30 cm) and in through a doorway; down stairs and along a corridor to the control room. Then up and out onto the bow deck again and returned to the surface. Several large Lion Fish on the ascent. Plenty of fish inside the wreck but nothing dramatic.

Started swimming on the surface back towards Romy, but were met by the Rib again, but subsequently got into trouble with the Marine Police for drifting back onto the Dive Site whilst we were getting back into the Rib - ho hum: in the shit again!
The other fascinating dive we did was only in about 15 metres and only a very short way out from the waterfront promenade at Eilat. The Amphibic Vehicles dive is on a group of vehicles, machinery etc that have been strategically placed close to each other on the sea-bed.

Gulf of Aqabba, 2010

Amphibic Vehicles, Eilat
Eyal, who was leading this dive, got lost while we were making our way there from the two catamarans, which were moored nearby, so we ended up not having too much time on the site itself. We did, however, see a lovely crocodile fish, a large moray eel, Turkey fish, loads of Lion fish and a couple of large puffers. The machinery that's been placed here for divers to explore has plenty of interest and it definitely worth a visit. The viz wasn't too great, though, so try to pick a calm day.
In Jordanian waters, you're obliged to dive with a local dive company rather than being able to dive off the boat. One advantage to this was having someone with you with a really good level of local knowledge, but the cost was not inconsiderable.
Wreck of the Cedar Pride, Aqabba
The Cedar Pride was left abandoned for a number of years after a fire on board, but was eventually sunk as a dive site in about 30 metres of water just off a resort beach near Aqabba on the orders of King Abdullah, who is himself a keen diver. It will probably take a few more years before the Cedar Pride matures as a wreck, but even so it's a great dive.
I had two dives in Jordan, the second one being close by the Cedar Pride wreck site: Japanese Garden.
Japanese Garden, Aqabba
This was a fairly shallow dive but incredibly beautiful with some of the best and most varied coral I've seen in the Gulf of Aqabba. Plenty of fish too, as we made our way along the ridge. There's no moments of high drama on this dive, but the colours were drama enough.


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