Scuba Diving and Snorkelling

Scuba Diving and Snorkelling

You could hardly live in a better country in the temperate zone for underwater diving than Ireland, though it would be difficult to claim that the warm waters of the tropics do not have some advantages! But our west coast is hard to beat; the Atlantic waters are clear and the Gulf Stream keeps them relatively warm. There are fine diving sites all down the coast. It is a wonderful feeling to be down below the surface, able to move three dimensionally with ease and to explore the underwater countryside, seaweed forests, cliffs, sandy plains, and mix with the indigenous inhabitants. For many, another attraction will be that it is a non-competitive sport, which you can practise at your own standard, though of course it is possible to become proficient to a very high level.

There is no need to say much about the gear - we have all seen plenty of films of divers back-flipping out of dinghies in wet suits and fins, life jackets, masks, snorkels, air bottles, gauges - not forgetting watches.

A Risk Sport

But diving, particularly Scuba, is a risk sport; humans are not in their natural environment in the sea, and the last thing any prospective diver should do is buy the gear and go off on his or her own. There's no need, the national organisation for diving, the Irish Underwater Council-CFT(*) is a highly efficient organisation with clubs all round the country (not just on the coast) where you can get training, advice on the best equipment to buy and find companions to dive with. There is a large range of qualifications from trainee diver up through diving leader to specialities. All this minimises the risks. Training is also offered at numerous Centres run by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and their qualifications can be converted to CFT. (No overall PADI website). The fact that divers never dive alone and watch their companions carefully means that if anything does go wrong, it is noticed quickly, and help follows. In case of a serious accident, it is re-assuring to know that recompression chambers are available.

Where to Dive?

The CFT website is very comprehensive and includes a guide to diving sites all round the country, although the west coast as stated above offers the best, including Donegal, Killary in Connemara, Aran Islands and Valentia. The waters round Ireland also harbour, if that's the right word, innumerable wrecks, from the Armada to the Second World War which you may find attractive. Of course the Armada and other important wrecks are out of bounds, but there are still possibilities for the amateur diver.

If you want to dive abroad e.g. in the Red Sea or Australia, you will find that your CFT qualifications are recognised more or less world wide - you will not be let dive unless you have the right qualification.


Snorkelling is Scuba's kid brother; it offers a lot of the fun a lot more simply, and is suitable for children (from age 6 they say) up to second childhood. The basic equipment is simple, mask, snorkel, and fins. However under Irish conditions, a wet suit is more or less essential. People do buy the gear and go off an their own, experimenting in the shallow water, but you are strongly recommended to go to one of the CFT clubs where you can get training easily, and feel far more confident to cope with any unexpected situation. Thus equipped you can (with a friend please!) take to the sea and experience the great difference between peering down though the surface, and actually having your eyes below the surface, able to see clearly the seabed with its shells, rocks, pebbles and fronds of seaweed.

Since it is suitable for children, it is a good activity for schools and outdoor pursuit centres, and CFT clubs provide training for Snorkel Leaders.

Finally if you want to take up scuba, but are a little nervous, you may like to try snorkelling first to pick up confidence. You won't be wasting money on gear - you need it all for scuba as well!


Irish Underwater Council:

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