After a week of snorkelling the caves and coves of Dingle, with a brief appearance of Fungie, I was determined to head off diving. I fired off a text to Lorna and Dave. The speed at which the reply came told me they must have been patiently sitting by the phone. After a long break from Irish diving there was only one place I wanted to go, Costa Del Sandycove.
The area has a rich literary history with the Joycean museum in the Martello tower well worth a visit should the weather act up. The first lifeboat station in Ireland was constructed here in 1803 and the looming tower housed soldiers, which could explain how a local diver recovered a rusty old hand gun from the forty foot area.
The sea really does have a strange draw once you have become comfortable in it. The more you dive, the more relaxed you are floating weightlessly along. Once you build up the confidence and experience the sea conditions become less important. If the clarity of the water is good you can look further into the blue for the larger fish and underwater topography. If by the chance the visibility is lower then you can focus in on the first few meters to look out for nudibranchs, molluscs and bryozoans
So there comes a point for divers when the clarity of the water has less of an impact on the enjoyment of a dive. It matters less where you dive but most importantly you actually pack up and go! Sandycove is easily my most frequented dive site for both fun and training dives. It consistently provides a calm and easy dive. Wether its small sharks, seals, lobster or a pipefish (close relative of the seahorse) you can always see some incredible marine life.
The shallow waters provided an excellent area to work on the rusty buoyancy, in deep water you have so much space to adjust. Navigating a simple line out north-west for 20 minutes we crossed an even spread of sand and kelp areas that offers a variety of life. Small shrimp flitted around the kelp and wrasse nervously kept a look out as we finned by. The few moon jellyfish we spotted were dead and bobbing gently on the sea floor or stuck firmly in the tentacles of snakelocks anemone.
Most of the marine life we came across were regulars for the Sandycove area but myself and Lorna each spotted some new little gems that put the icing on the cake. A fifteen-spined stickleback highlighted under a torch appeared to be in no rush and it was the first time Lorna had seen one. They have a stretched out and slender body shape and their unusual hovering swim lets them blend in amongst the weeds.
My first European cowrie for Sandycove made its way slowly across some kelp. For an animal that was once used as a currency its status is surprisingly listed as not threatened. The incredible patterns on the shell seem to be divided down the middle with the fleshy body hanging out the back giving it a more terrestrial appearance. It was one of the most gentle and colourful snails I have ever come across. An interesting project for the area would be to keep track of the full range of species found at Sandycove.
My recent adventure exploring the dark and long caves of Dingle and the wonderful scuba dive of Sandycove gave food for thought on the comparison between the two activities. The ease at which you can get in for a snorkel is offset by the brief time spent free diving underwater. It does not provide the time to spot the smaller animals like the sticklebacks and cowrys. There are pros and cons to both but it was the careful washing and storing of the dive gear afterwards made me want to have a more even split between the two activities this summer.