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Dive Notes from a Small Island: Part 2 – Devon & Dorset

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Mike and I had originally planned to dive in Plymouth, a couple of boat dives to the Scylla and JEL, or the reefs, but unfortunately the weather decided not to play and we got blown out. Moving on to Dorset we got a weather window to dive Swanage Pier, so taking advantage of the better conditions we decided to do a nice morning dive at high tide.

Dive 6: Swanage Pier

Site description:
The original Swanage Pier was first built in 1860, in the mid 1870’s it was found that a new and longer pier was needed for the increasing traffic, so the new pier was constructed by 1897. It was damaged in war time and from 1966 the pier was left to deteriorate for 30 years. In 1994 the Swanage Pier Trust took control in restoring the pier and making it available for local people and visitors to enjoy. As a dive site the new pier is considered better thank the old pier pilings that lies to the right hand side and it provides a sheltered, shallow dive site with easy access. It is no more than 5m at high tide and has variable visibility depending on recent weather, it is a good training site and can have lots of life both on the sea floor and on the pier posts. Parking costs £6 and it is £2.50 for each adult diver or £1 for a junior. It is also possible to take boats from here to dive the many wreck dives in the area.

The Dive:
We had 1-2m visibility and calm conditions at high tide. The sun streamed through from above us each side of the pier making navigation easy and we spent a thoroughly enjoyable 75mins pootling about looking for tompot blennies, painted topshells and velvet swimming crabs, which were in abundance!

Mike’s thoughts:
I’ve always liked critter-spotting pier dives and Swanage was really nice. The setup is about as perfect as you can get, with on-pier parking and dive shop, easy entry and pretty sheltered conditions. The sea life was abundant on the day we dove, and I managed to get several nice photos of tompot blennies. They are quite common in UK waters but being both charismatic and not terribly shy make for great subjects. The resident blennies did not disappoint as I was able to meet my main goal for the dive and get the pictures I wanted. I’d love to return on a day with better visibility as the conditions only allowed for fleeting glimpses of the pier structure through the murky water. No doubt a clear day with sunbeams shining through the pier would be even better!

CJ and Mike are dive instructors who have travelled all over the world pursuing their passion for the underwater world. CJ is a PADI MI and DSAT Trimix instructor with a degree in Conservation biology and ecology, who has been diving for 15 years. She loves looking for critters and pointing them out for Mike to photograph. Mike is a PADI MSDT who got back into diving in 2010. He enjoys practicing underwater photography and exploring new and exciting dive locales, occasionally with more than one tank. Follow more of their diving adventures at www.facebook.com/bimbleintheblue.

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TRAVEL BLOG: Jeff Goodman Dives SOMABAY, Part 3

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somabay

Today we are diving one of the outer reefs from an inflatable. As we reach the bottom, a reef octopus eases its way into the cover of a small crack in the coral while displaying it’s incredible ability to change colour. They are arguably one of the most charismatic of reef dwellers and it is always exciting for me to simply hover and watch. I would have spent longer and waited for it to come and investigate me, but as dive time is limited we wanted to move on and find a turtle.

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The waters around Somabay are well protected and hold a rich variety of marine life. The reef edges are thriving colonies of coral and shoaling fish, while nearer the sea bed plenty of wildlife is still to be found.

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Then we located the turtles. They are very used to divers and so show little concern when slowly approached. In fact occasionally one will come over to see what you are doing. There is always huge excitement when diving with a turtle. The shear thrill of sharing a moment with another species.

somabay

What a fantastic way to finish a wonderful few days diving and I would like to thank SOMABAY, ORCA DIVING and THE BREAKERS for making my stay such a good one.

I had a great time, with diving everyday either on the house reef or on one of the offshore reefs by inflatable or larger day boat. Orca diving provided high quality equipment and facilities while the staff were all very friendly and welcoming. The Breakers was right on the coast with nice rooms, good food and once again friendly staff making the whole trip a real pleasure.

somabay

Soma Bay covers an entire peninsula and is home to several resorts as well as residential  compounds.

As well as scuba diving, Somabay caters for many other sports and activities, and so is perfect for families as well as individuals and/or groups. And of course there is always time to lay peacefully on the beach under the Egyptian sun.

somabay

Book your next Red Sea dive adventure with SOMABAY! For more information, visit www.somabay.com.

Stay at the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge when you visit! For more information, visit  www.thebreakers-somabay.com.

Find out more about ORCA Dive Clubs at SOMABAY at www.orca-diveclubs.com/en/soma-bay-en.

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TRAVEL BLOG: Jeff Goodman Dives SOMABAY, Part 2

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Day three of my trip to Somabay and we were spending the day on the Lady Christina and diving on the wreck of the Salem Express.

somabay

Diving wrecks for me is always one of mixed emotions. The excitement of diving a wreck is more than often tempered by the thought of loss of life when she sank. The Salem Express was a passenger ship and a roll-on/roll-off ferry travelling from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to Safaga, Egypt. Most passengers were of poor class travelling home from their holidays while around 150 people were returning home from their pilgrimage to Mecca.

somabay

The ship struck a reef and sank within 20 minutes. Passengers were trapped below deck and the ship was filled with fear and panic.

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The wreck area is strewn with personal belongings from the crew and passengers such as a transistor radio and a flat iron for clothes. A diver at sometime has put them in a prominent place to be seen.

somabay

Tragically only one life boat was launched while the others went down with the ship. More than 600 men, women and children lost their lives here.

somabay

It’s a stark reminder that the sea can be unforgiving and so when we dive on such wrecks we should do so with humble regard.

Returning to the surface, shoals of fish are gathered under our boat and seem to be welcoming us back into the light.

somabay

Back at the Breakers I sat in the dining area with a beer and a very good meal while my thoughts still remained with the day’s dive on the Salem Express.

Check in for part 3 tomorrow for Jeff’s last day of diving with Somabay on the off-shore reefs looking for turtles.

Book your next Red Sea dive adventure with SOMABAY! For more information, visit www.somabay.com.

Stay at the Breakers Diving & Surfing Lodge when you visit! For more information, visit  www.thebreakers-somabay.com.

Find out more about ORCA Dive Clubs at SOMABAY at www.orca-diveclubs.com/en/soma-bay-en.

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