Want to know about diving in Ireland? Well, don't just take our word for it… Take Jacques Cousteau's. The underwater superhero was pretty descriptive in his enthusiasm: "Some of the best diving in the world is at the northern side of the Dingle Peninsula where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Brandon Mountains in a landscape of exceptional beauty."
National Geographic journalist Jennifer S Holland was as impressed as Cousteau: "I'm floored by anemones that gleam as pink as bubble gum" she writes, "as green as a lime snow cone, so orange I can almost taste the juicy pulp."
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Being on the very edge of the western European continental shelf does have its advantages. It means our waters are perfectly suited to scuba diving, and you can dive year-round with almost a hundred clubs on the island.
Finding the right course
Operators on the island teach the world-standard PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) courses, with most offering a one-day Discover Scuba Diving course, PADI certified Open Water Diver, Advanced Open Water and Rescue Driver courses.
The Irish Underwater Council and the Northern Ireland Federation of Sub Aqua Clubs are always good places to start when looking for approved training courses.
Rich marine life
In Kinsale in County Cork, Anne and Graham Ferguson make up Ocean Addicts. "Our beautiful, rugged coastline translates to spectacular underwater scenery," enthuses Anne. "The Gulf Stream, as well as warming the sea, brings nutrients to our water, which results in unique and rich marine life."
Besides the pretty sea anemones and corals, sea citizens range from dolphins to octopus, dogfish to frogfish, electric rays to conger eels. But for Anne, one of the most spectacular sights is a basking shark: “These gentle plankton eaters visit our coast every spring and we’ve even seen them as late as September inside the Old Head of Kinsale."
Dolphins and shipwrecks
Up the coastline at the Galway Dive School, you can dive in Lough Corrib, do a night-time dive or even go cave diving. Further north still, North Irish Diver LTD in Antrim runs sea-safaris watching for seabirds and whales, and takes trips around Rathlin and Sanda Islands. Around to the eastern coastline, take to the wreck-laden waters of Strangford Lough in County Down where many a ship's captain has met his maker.
Speaking of wrecks, Irish Wrecks Online lists over 10,000 vessels sunk, stranded, scuttled and even torpedoed in Irish waters over the last few hundred years. Where else would you have the choice of diving a scuttled U-boat, a mined WWI battleship or a sunken bulk carrier, which is the largest wreck by tonnage in the world?
We say, take a deep breath and see them all.