Scuba-Diving In County Kerry Ireland
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Diving and Scuba Diving in County Kerry is the Jewel in Ireland's Diving Crown, which is also, might I add “THE” place to dive in Europe!
Diving in County Kerry Ireland is a hugely popular pastime with world-class diving centres dotted around the county’s coastline. PADI (Professional Association of Diving Instructors) is very well represented, while BSAC, CMAS, SSI and other agency qualified divers are also welcome.
The West Coast of County Kerry faces headlong into the powerful Atlantic Ocean. Kerry has a varied and heavily indented coastline that lends itself admirably to a feast of temperate water diving.
The rugged coastlines of Kerry are mirrored underwater; think sheer rock faces and stunning topography. That can hold its own on the world’s diving stage; an illustrious number of offshore islands offer unrivalled Atlantic diving where steep drop offs and colourful walls abound.
The water temperature off the coast of Kerry is moderated by the warming Gulf Stream, while nutrient rich water is ideal for a profusion of marine life. Expect an average of 9-10 degrees centigrade in the winter and spring months, and an average of 14-15 degrees centigrade during the summer and autumn.
A myriad of marine life calls the Kerry waters home. Lobsters, crayfish and conger eels will passively observe from under their rocks, while curious cuckoo wrasse, pipefish and oversized Pollack swim about. Indeed, divers lucky enough to dip their fins into Kerry waters frequently report close encounters with seals, dolphins and basking shark.
Here is what Jacques Cousteau said about the Kerry dive sites: "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.
"Abundant marine life - shoals of mackerel and Pollack; feeding wrasse and playful seals; lobster, crawfish and crabs; sunfish and basking sharks; schools of dolphins and pilot whales; while the reefs themselves are lit up by different varieties of sponges and anemones."
County Kerry has several 5 Star diving centres.
o Wine Strand, Ballyferriter, Dingle.
o Ventry, Dingle.
o Scraggane Pier, Maharees.
o Knightstown, Valentia.
One of the most amazing spots to dive in is Saint Finian’s Bay Ballinskelligs. Finian’s Bay is located on the South West coast of County of Kerry. Situated in the heart of the Ring of Kerry, and is the stopping point for the tourists of many countries.
The area offers spectacular scenic, adventurous and as yet, many unexplored dive sites, an ideal working ground for the serious photographer and naturalist. The crystal clear, unpolluted waters are home to a variety and abundance of life that is hard to equal.
There are also a limited number of wreck sites for the wreck diver. There is plenty to do between dives and the non-diving members of the party will not be disappointed either, as a lovely unspoiled beach is one of the main local attractions. To cater for the needs of the ever-increasing numbers of foreign and Irish divers, a dive centre has been established in the vicinity.
1. St. Finian’s Bay
Diving in the area is centred on the local pier, which is situated in an extremely sheltered and clean inlet. It is safe for the overnight mooring of boats. There are two slipways off the pier, suitable for the launching of RIBs and inflatables. The laneway leading to the pier is a little narrow and caution should be observed while travelling on it, especially while towing a boat, as the turning points are limited. however, a little prior planning can ease the situation.
The inlet itself is eminently suitable for introductory dives and beginner training. It's clear waters and sandy bottom are full of life, and flatfish are plentiful. The waters vary in depth from 10-25m and are suitable for swimmers and snorkellers.
3. Puffin Island Sound
A large rocky outcrop protects the narrow inlet - like a stopper in a bottle. the depth here varies from 10-25m. From the outcrop, rocky fingers spread down and out into the sandy bottom like the arms of an octopus. The sheltered gullies between them provide a haven for many species of fish and crustacean. as the distance from the pier is only about 500m, it makes an ideal location for an evening or night dive. The well-lit pier makes night diving a joy and safety is guaranteed.
The diving all along the coast West from the pier and on to Puffin Island is excellent, with depths from10-30m on a white sandy bottom. Ridges and reefs abound, with a multitude of gullies interrupting the underwater landscape. The waters here are generally calm, except in strong SW winds, with virtually no current.
2. Puffin Island
Puffin Island is the real "Diving Jewel" in the area. About 10 minutes by RIB from the pier, it offers an endless choice of dive sites in relatively sheltered waters.
All areas of the island are diveable and the underwater landscape is identical to the landscape above, sheer rock faces and craggy outcrops. The island itself is home to many breeding birds, in particular Puffins, during the breeding season. The diving is relatively safe and sheltered on most sides of the island.
WARNING! The currents on Puffin Head at certain times and states of tide can be treacherous and instantaneous. Puffin Head is for experienced divers only and should be treated with care. The Atlantic swell at Puffin Head and on the Northern side of the island can be enormous, depending on the weather conditions. Again, common sense is required. Diver SMBs are essential here.
Having issued the words of warning, the diving on Puffin Head is spectacular. Two large reefs splay SW from the tip of the island, plunging down sheer cliff faces to about 50m at the bottom.
Slack tide, with strong sunlight streaming through crystal clear waters makes this a most memorable dive site. The strong currents have "close shaved" all the algae from the rock, and one gets the impression of a "bald head" while diving on the tops of the reefs.
The sheltered nooks and crannies are covered in an abundance of sponges and "bejewelled" anemones of all types. The fish and crustacean life is outstanding. Early morning often see Dolphins and Pilot Whales on the surface. Puffin Head is guaranteed to provide an exciting and spectacular dive every time.
The other spectacular diving on Puffin Island is in the area of the sound. Obviously, current and wave states dictate if it is diveable. A drift dive from the North side through the sound is magnificent given the proper conditions of sunlight and water clarity. It is the closest to "tropical" diving you can come across in European waters.
The variety and quantity of fish and sponge life is phenomenal. In September and October, huge shoals of mackerel and scad circle the sound incessantly, while legions of huge Pollack wait on the far side of the sound, like a phalanx of Greek warriors, holding in the current, and waiting to attack any food coming their way. seals also maintain a permanent presence in the sound and add their measure of excitement to the diving.
4. Dromgour Point
This ended up as the final resting point of the "Crompton", a four masted Barque, which ran aground and was wrecked in 1910. It is now badly broken up, but beautiful visibility and fish life make it an ideal second dive as she lies in relatively shallow waters. Travelling time from the pier is about 15-20 minutes.
5. Valentia Island
If you ever got board of diving on Puffin Island, Valentia Island should be your next port of call. About 30 minutes steaming from the pier at Bray Head, at the SE end is well worth a visit, offering gorgeous ledges, and gullies, much like those encountered on Puffin Island.
6. The Skellig
If the weather conditions are suitable, then the pier is the ideal launching site for an expedition on the Lemon and Skellig rocks. Approx. 30 minutes by RIB and about 8 miles off shore, they should not be missed. There is a large seal colony on Little Skelligs and they are used to playing in the waters with divers. The shelter of the South West tip of the island is probably the best diving location here.
The Large Gannet colony is also a major attraction but make sure you keep your mouth closed when you look skywards! While underwater, you can often encounter a Gannet that has dived on your bubbles. The first thing that announces the arrival of a Gannet is a loud "thump" as he hits the water.
Drop into 20m on top of a rock formation that looks like a road. Follow the road up into a small hollow. Turn around and come out to a great view of the hollow walls and follow the road back out and around until it opens up into a big arena.
This is followed by the appearance of a silver arrowhead surrounded by bubbles, normally at around 15m. When the Gannet sees the diver he turns about and beats it to the surface. Perhaps helmets should be worn for health and safety reasons!!!
7. Washerwoman's Rock
Skellig Michael is a major tourist attraction. A visit to the ancient dwellings on the rock is an ideal way to spend the interval between dives.
When weather conditions are good, Washerwoman's Rock off the SE tip of the island is the place to dive. A reef runs SW from the rock and it's diving, giving proper conditions, is second to none. Early morning is probably the best time to dive Skelligs as most of the good life seems to be about then. Dolphins, Basking sharks and whales are common.
8. Lemon Rock
Lemon rock lies about half way to the Skelligs, and is also well worth a visit. Off the South there is a beautiful scenic diving down to 37m. Two light iron anchors lie together on a large flat rock; evidence of a mishap at sea. More evidence lies on top of the rock itself.
The North side has beautiful terraces for a stepped descent as far as you want to go.
9. Duchalla Head
Duchalla Head, about 20 minutes distance by RIB, and South West from the pier in Finans Bay, is also well worth noting. The outer rocks are only suitable for experienced and fit divers as the currents and swell can be difficult.
The ledges drop straight down to 50m in places and again, as in the rest of the area, the fish and crustacean life is abundant. There are a multitude of canyons, gullies, rock outcrops, drop off's and holes.
One of the greatest pleasures is to stop on a ledge at about 20m and look down into the clear dark depths below. After a few moments the Pollack, Balun and Cuckoo Wrasse rise out of the depths. They have not learned to be afraid of the diver and are very inquisitive.
The Cuckoo Wrasse in particular are very curious and adventurous. Conger Eels, Ling and Angler Fish are common among the many cracks and fissures in the rocks, particularly in the deeper, cleaner waters. It is also common to find large Cod and Conger co-habiting in the same crevice. It's hard to know what they find in common, but there is some mutual bond between them.
Located approximately 40 minutes drive West of Tralee, it has some of the finest restaurants and drinking houses in the country. Divers will be impressed by the warmth and efficiency of the local people of Dingle Town. The new Dingle Harbour Marina provides an excellent base with a massive slip way and ample car parking.
A snorkel with Fungie, the famous "tame" dolphin, can be enjoyable early in the morning or late in the evening. Because of the amount of spectator boats, extra caution needs to be exercised by coxswains and divers.
Diving in the area is much affected by the weather and careful attention must also be given to the local tide conditions, which can be very treacherous. For best visibility around the Blaskets, the first hour of the flood tide seems to be the time to dive.
The Crow Rock
Located about 800m SW of the Dingle Harbour entrance the Crow Rock provides a comprehensive range of diving in calm South Westerly or strong Northerlies. It is generally clearly visible, being awash through all but the highest tides. The North face of the Rock has a ledge at 15m sloping down to sand at 20m. A colourful 15-20m dive is available moving West from the Rock while the South face slopes down rapidly to boulders at 35m.
2. Brandon Creek
12km from Dingle on the North side of the peninsula, Brandon Creek provides excellent diving in strong Southerly winds. It is a beautiful cove with a reasonable slip and pier, which is usable 2 hours after low water. Just at the head of the creek on the West side there is a sea arch, which provides lovely snorkelling and leads down to an 18m dive towards the centre of the creek.
Moving either East or West out of the cove there is excellent wall diving with the bottom generally starting at 30m and dropping away deeper very quickly. Visibility in settled conditions is generally 20m+ and marine life is plentiful and varied.
3. Smerwick Harbour
As strong Westerly wind will make most dives around the Blaskets and the peninsula uncomfortable, your only escape may be Smerwick Harbour on the North coast. Launching from Wine Strand, interesting shallow dives may be made along the Western side of the Harbour. If you need to log deep dives you can generally get whatever depth you require in the middle of the bay, on sand. the further out you go, the deeper it gets.
Out side the Harbour to the South West, under the Three Sisters and Sybil Head, there is excellent wall diving.
Those looking for more adventurous diving should consider an expedition to the Blasket Islands. Diving here should not be taken lightly. The Blaskets, the most Westerly Islands in Europe, are a cluster of seven islands, inlets and rocks.
They are exposed to swells from South East right around to the North, the South Westerly and North Westerly swells being the most serious. Strong tides run in the sound, and Western passage. The 100m contour is located only 5km West of the Tearaght, with a result that Whales are a common sight from August to October.
The most Northerly Island has excellent diving on the Easterly face and in the cove on the South West face 15-20m with nice gullies and lots of life including seals.
At the most Northerly tip of this rocky pinnacle there is a most spectacular dive. Starting at the tip and heading in a South Westerly direction with the reef to the right you will descend to 15m. Maintaining this direction you come, after a few metres, to the top of a wall that is covered in Jewelled Anemones, Sponges, cracks and crevices full of Crabs and Crayfish.
The maximum depth here is approx. 40m. Following this wall the direction swings more NW and you enter a gully, which eventually narrows, to an undersea cave. With the aid of a torch one can follow this cave for a short distance to find it blocked by a boulder.
Keeping the reef wall to your right, the gully begins to open at about 20m. Here there is a series of outcrops and ledges with plenty of life. The general direction of the dive is SW and these ledges and small gullies fade away into flatter but craggier terrain.
This site is suitable for divers of all levels.
5. "The Three Brothers"
One of two good wrecks lying off the Great Blasket Island. This is a 30m steel fishing boat lying between 18-30m near the South West point of the island. The hull is sound and clean and so provides an excellent introduction to wreck diving "virgins". the exact position of the wreck is not known, so local knowledge is required to find it.
6. The Quebra
The second Great Blasket wreck is a WW1 munitions ship which sank on the North face. The "Quebra" lies in 15-27m starting in a gully just off a rock known as "Speir Cuas Faill Beag". This wreck is well broken up but as the dive site is relatively sheltered from most winds it offers a good, safe and interesting dive.
The cargo consisted of wire and artillery shells and these can be seen in the gullies to the West of the wreck. On the wreck the boilers are standing upright while the recoil spring of a ship's gun is still visible. Heading North out into deeper water the gully, containing the main bulk of the wreck, falls away.
7. The Island Harbour
Just off the slip and out of the small natural harbour of the Great Blasket, the area has a maximum depth of 12m and is suitable for trainees. Heading East out of the Harbour you can follow the reef, which acts as a breakwater for the slipway. The bottom is on white sand with a wide variety of sea life and seals frequent the reef.
Returning along the original dive path instead of re-entering the harbour proper, head North West along the sands to another group of rocks and some shallow gullies. This is an excellent shore dive for the trainee or casual pottering diver.
During the day it is advisable to use an SMB as the ferry boats operating to and from the islands have to travel over this dive site in order to reach the slipway.
8. Tearaght Island
This island has excellent diving and large schools of fish especially beneath the lighthouse and along the ridges and gullies of the North face. There are two landing stages to serve the lighthouse on the North, and South of the spectacular sea arch and it is possible to travel ashore there from inflatables.
The most Southerly Island is privately owned but has excellent diving along it's south shore, most notably at Fohish Rocks.
There are three pinnacles joined by a reef with a ledge out 20m on the North East but dropping rapidly to 40m and on the South side. Fish life is abundant with plenty of drop off.
Those scuba diving in Caherdaniel in county Kerry will be able to enjoy some of the most prolific marine wildlife for miles around. The warm Gulf stream flows past and with it comes whales, dolphins, turtles and a huge variety of fish. While in Kerry, remember to include a spot of scuba diving in Dingle in your itinerary. Here, the town's resident dolphin, Fungie, might just let you snorkel with him. There are also numerous high quality scuba dive sites in the area combining both wreck sites and rich marine life environments.
Dive Site: The GulleyLocation: Castlegregory, County KerryDescription: Reef and gulleyDepth: 20 - 25 metres (65 - 80 feet)Visibility: 10 - 15 metres (30 - 50 feet)Rating: ***
WINE STRAND HOLIDAY CENTRE
Wine Strand, Ballyferriter, Dingle, Co. Kerry.
Waterworld, Harbour House, Scraggane Pier, Maharees, County Kerry.
Tel: + 353 66 713 9292 Fax: + 353 66 713 9557
VALENTIA ISLAND SEA SPORTS
PADI Dive School, Knightstown, Valentia, Co. Kerry.
Ventry, Dingle, Co. Kerry.
SKELLIG AQUATICS DIVE CENTRE
DES & PAT LAVELLE
Valentia Diving Centre, Knightstown, Valentia, Co. Kerry.
VALENTIA HYPERBARIC DIVING CENTRE
Knightstown, Valentia, Co. Kerry.
Caherdaniel,, Co. Kerry.
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