‘Doorstep Scuba’

With the recent great weather, our thoughts naturally turn to planning that precious annual fortnight’s holiday abroad, and to ‘getting away from it all’. We may live in the best part of the UK, but there are still times when life, work, or even the mother-in-law, get you down.

Indeed we all have our own ways to escape, but there is one true getaway that’s right on our doorstep, and so underused. I’m talking about the English Channel, and the benefits of spending time below its surface.

It’s so simple, learn to scuba-dive. I took my first dive of the year in our local waters a couple of weeks ago and it was absolutely fantastic. Together with a few other divers (of varied experience), my dive-buddy Nick and I entered the water from the beach (known as a shore-dive) just by the Marina; and neither of us could have predicted the sheer amount and variety of life we both encountered in the next fifty minutes.

As well as massive crabs, lobster, shrimp, snails, mermaids purses, giant starfish, flounders and an impressive eel, were probably the most numerous and comical of all fish down there, the Tompot Blenny (see below). These medium-sized deep brown-orange characters live commonly in our shallow rocky waters, and can easily be identified by a pair of ‘lappets’ over their eyes. With hundreds of beautifully ornate heads popping out of every nook and cranny, they proudly guarded their territories from the strange dark rubber human being shapes carrying big ugly tanks on their backs swimming overhead!

A typical dive either beside the Marina or under the Palace Pier averages only 8-10 metres – perfect for beginners to experience the thrill of a dive and also shallow enough to let ample sunlight through, encouraging maximum life and activity on the ocean floor.

Our underwater adventure was finally crowned by coming face-to-face (literally!) with a fairly large cuttlefish. This highly intelligent creature began to communicate with us by raising its tentacles whilst displaying aggressive colour changes using its millions of chromophores along its body, before giving in and swimming off. It was then time to surface, and we finned back to shore on our backs in the calm water under the setting sun. And all this right next to the Marina wall!

And please don’t let the temperature and cleanliness of the water put you off diving here. The visibility of our coastline in fair weather is pretty good, and with the right equipment and conditions, you too will enjoy spending quality time with Sussex’s aquatic flora and fauna – the ideal way to relax, explore and be fascinated by our local sea’s incredible treasures.

For more info on learning to dive contact The Brighton Dive Centre on 01273 606068 or visit www.thebrightondivecentre.co.uk

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