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Scotland’s newest snorkel trail reveals Lochaber’s hidden depths

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A new snorkel trail exploring Lochaber’s beautiful beaches and rocky shores has been created by the Scottish Wildlife Trust and West Highland College UHI. The self-led Lochaber Snorkel Trail features six sites on the region’s coast and identifies areas that can be explored by both beginner and more advanced snorkellers.

Launch of the Lochaber snorkel trail
Snorkellers at the launch of the Lochaber Snorkel Trail © Scottish Wildlife Trust and West Highland College, UHI

Exploring these areas could lead to close-up encounters with colourful wildlife including starfish, jellyfish, anemones and crabs, as well as seals and a range of fish.

The trail began as a final year project for a Marine and Coastal Tourism student based at West Highland College’s School of Adventure Studies. It was launched on the shore of Loch Linnhe by students from the college and Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch.

Dr Sam Collin, Living Seas Manager, Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “Lochaber’s dramatic landscapes, beautiful beaches and internationally recognised biodiversity make it one of the finest locations for marine and coastal tourism in Scotland.

“The Lochaber Snorkel Trail is a fantastic addition to the network of trails being developed as part of our Living Seas project and we are delighted to have worked closely with West Highland College UHI to create it. We want to help people realise the importance of protecting Scotland’s seas – helping local people and visitors to safely discover marine wildlife through snorkelling is a fantastic way to achieve that.”

Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said: “It was fantastic to have the chance to experience first-hand the amazing coastal environment we have in Lochaber. This initiative goes to show that you don’t have to go to the Caribbean to see crystal clear waters and colourful marine life.

“I’m pleased to see West Highland College UHI and the Scottish Wildlife Trust collaborating on this new snorkel trail, a welcome initiative during Scotland’s Year of Coasts and Waters. The work helps to highlight Lochaber’s stunning coast and the amazing life beneath the waves. I’m sure the trail will enhance adventure tourism in Lochaber, and raise awareness of the importance of looking after our local marine life.”

Annabel Lawrence, Lecturer in Marine and Coastal Tourism at West Highland College UHI said: “We’re delighted to have worked with the Scottish Wildlife Trust to deliver this new trail, which is an opportunity for residents and visitors to Lochaber to experience our coastal and inshore waters and foster a connection to this environment. We hope that it will lead to a greater understanding, appreciation and protection of these fragile, threatened habitats and iconic species.”

Kate Forbes MSP (far right) at the launch of the Lochaber Snorkel Trail
Kate Forbes MSP (far right) at the launch of the Lochaber Snorkel Trail © Scottish Wildlife Trust and West Highland College, UHI

“The trail began as a final year project for one of our Marine and Coastal Tourism students. The project, developed with support from the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Centre for Tourism Research (CRTR) at West Highland College, has resulted in this new trail around Lochaber, the training and qualification of 12 UHI students as British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) Snorkel Instructors and also Dolphin Snorkeller training for primary school children in the area. The training and elements of the leaflet production were supported through the CAPITEN project, co-financed by the Atlantic Area INTERREG programme and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.

“Our Marine and Coastal Tourism degree delivered by the School of Adventure Studies was developed in response to Scotland’s initial marine tourism strategy ‘Awakening the Giant’ which presented the opportunity to create a world class marine tourism sector in Scotland, the relationship between UHI and the marine tourism sector has now developed into a partnership with the 2020 ‘Giant Strides’ marine tourism strategy ensuring that ‘Marine tourism is sustainable and meets changing consumer, workforce, community and environmental needs and expectations, whilst growing the industry’s overall economic contribution to over £500 million by 2025’ (Giant Strides, 2020:3).

“The degree is in its sixth year of delivery and has had many positive outcomes. Graduates from the course are involved in sea kayaking, sailing, leisure cruises, business start-ups and community marine projects.”

Click here to find out more about the Scottish Wildlife Trust snorkel trails.

Nick and Caroline (Frogfish Photography) are a married couple of conservation driven underwater photo-journalists and authors. Both have honours degrees from Manchester University, in Environmental Biology and Biology respectively, with Nick being a Fellow of the Royal Photographic Society, a former high school science teacher with a DipEd in Teaching Studies. Caroline has an MSc in Animal Behaviour specializing in Caribbean Ecology. They are multiple award-winning photographers and along with 4 published books, feature regularly in the diving, wildlife and international press They are the Underwater Photography and Deputy Editors at Scubaverse and Dive Travel Adventures. Winners of the Caribbean Tourism Organization Photo-journalist of the Year for a feature on Shark Diving in The Bahamas, and they have been placed in every year they have entered. Nick and Caroline regularly use their free time to visit schools, both in the UK and on their travels, to discuss the important issues of marine conservation, sharks and plastic pollution. They are ambassadors for Sharks4Kids and founders of SeaStraw. They are Dive Ambassadors for The Islands of The Bahamas and are supported by Mares, Paralenz, Nauticam and Olympus. To find out more visit www.frogfishphotography.com

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Get a FREE undersuit when you buy a trilaminate drysuit from Scubapro

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IT’S TRILAMINATE TIME!

SCUBAPRO is launching its 2024 drysuit promotion:

With the purchase of a trilaminate drysuit EVERTECH DRY BREATHABLE or DEFINITION DRY, SCUBAPRO gives you the matching K2 EXTREME undersuit (GBP 345) for free.

If that’s not a reason to start drysuit diving, because in our climate it’s drysuit season all year round! So don’t miss out – the promotion is valid until May 31, 2024 at participating SCUBAPRO retailers and in participating regions.

All information at https://scubapro.johnsonoutdoors.com/eu/en-gb/free-k2.

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Diving with Frogfish in Costa Rica: A Hidden Gem Underwater

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In the vast and vibrant underwater world of Costa Rica, there’s a peculiar creature that often goes unnoticed but holds a special place in the hearts of divers: the frogfish. This enigmatic and somewhat odd-looking species is a master of camouflage and a marvel of marine life. Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is not just a dive; it’s an adventurous treasure hunt that rewards the patient and observant with unforgettable encounters. Let’s dive into the world of frogfish and discover what makes these creatures so fascinating and where you can find them in Costa Rica.

The Mystique of Frogfish

Frogfish belong to the family Antennariidae, a group of marine fish known for their incredible ability to blend into their surroundings. They can be found in a variety of colors, including yellow, pink, red, green, black, and white, and they often have unique spots and textures that mimic the coral and sponges around them. This camouflage isn’t just for show; it’s a critical survival tactic that helps them ambush prey and avoid predators.

One of the most remarkable features of the frogfish is its modified dorsal fin, which has evolved into a luring appendage called an esca. The frogfish uses this esca to mimic prey, such as small fish or crustaceans, enticing unsuspecting victims close enough to be engulfed by its surprisingly large mouth in a fraction of a second. This method of hunting is a fascinating spectacle that few divers forget once witnessed.

Where to Find Frogfish in Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is dotted with dive sites that offer the chance to encounter these intriguing creatures. Bat Islands (Islas Murciélagos), Catalina Islands (Islas Catalinas), and the area around the Gulf of Papagayo are renowned for their rich marine life, including frogfish. These sites vary in depth and conditions, catering to both novice and experienced divers.

The key to spotting frogfish is to dive with a knowledgeable guide who can point out these master camouflagers hiding in plain sight. They’re often found perched on rocky outcroppings, nestled within coral, or even hiding among debris, perfectly mimicking their surroundings.

frogfish

Diving Tips for Spotting Frogfish

Go Slow: The secret to spotting frogfish is to move slowly and scan carefully. Their camouflage is so effective that they can be right in front of you without being noticed.

Look for Details: Pay attention to the small details. A slightly different texture or an out-of-place color can be the clue you need.

Dive with Local Experts: Local dive guides have an eagle eye for spotting wildlife, including frogfish. Their expertise can significantly increase your chances of an encounter.

Practice Buoyancy Control: Good buoyancy control is essential not just for safety and coral preservation but also for getting a closer look without disturbing these delicate creatures.

Be Patient: Patience is key. Frogfish aren’t known for their speed, and sometimes staying in one spot and observing can yield the best sightings.

Conservation and Respect

While the excitement of spotting a frogfish can be thrilling, it’s crucial to approach all marine life with respect and care. Maintain a safe distance, resist the urge to touch or provoke, and take only photos, leaving behind nothing but bubbles. Remember, the health of the reef and its inhabitants ensures future divers can enjoy these incredible encounters as much as you do.

Join the Adventure

Diving with frogfish in Costa Rica is just one of the many underwater adventures that await in this biodiverse paradise. Whether you’re a seasoned diver or taking your first plunge, the waters here offer an unparalleled experience filled with wonders at every turn. Beyond the thrill of the hunt for frogfish, you’ll be treated to a world teeming with incredible marine life, majestic rays, playful dolphins, and so much more.

So, gear up, dive in, and let the mysteries of Costa Rica’s underwater realm unfold before your eyes. With every dive, you’re not just exploring the ocean; you’re embarking on an adventure that highlights the beauty, complexity, and fragility of our marine ecosystems. And who knows? Your next dive might just be the one where you come face-to-face with the elusive and captivating frogfish. Join us at Rocket Frog Divers for the dive of a lifetime, where the marvels of the ocean are waiting to be discovered.

About the Author: Jonathan Rowe

Are you looking to make a splash online? As a seasoned diver and digital marketer, I specialize in crafting bespoke websites and innovative marketing strategies for dive shops worldwide. With my expertise, your business will not only be seen but also remembered.

From deep-sea to digital depths, I navigate the complex waters of web development and online marketing, ensuring your dive shop stands out in the vast ocean of the internet. Contact Scuba Dive Marketing for more information.

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