Sue and I visited the London Dive Show back in 2014 and I clearly remember that the one stall that stood out from all the rest was the Billy Shiels Farne Island dive trips. With only a handful of Mediterranean a sea dives under our belts, the thought of diving with seals in UK waters, seemed like it was a long long way away.
Over the next two years, with the immense help of Divemania’s instructors, and some tips from a couple of dive centres abroad, we built up the confidence to take on increasingly challenging dives here in the UK and in the Atlantic.
When Divemania announced that they were planning a trip this September, we jumped at the opportunity to join them, knowing that even if the dives seemed at the top end our abilties that we would be well looked after, as is always the case.
We joined the Divemania crew in a handful of beautiful cottages just outside Seahouses on the Friday evening before the dive and after a very enjoyable dinner we went to bed looking forward to our first dive with seals.
On the Saturday morning we all met at the end of the harbour quay to get our gear aboard the Glad Tidings VII and cast off around 08.30 for our journey out to the Farnes. The weather was really good and the sea slight to moderate, so the conditions was perfect. Upon arriving at Harcar (one of the further Islands) we were given a brief and took the plunge!
Because the seals like to spend their time between 0 and 6 metres we spent some of this dive trying to get our bouyancy right, but did have quite a few encounters. Usually the seals follow your fins and as soon as you turn to look at them they dart off and return again when you are not looking, which is a little frustrating. To be frank I was just really gald to see quite a few seals, so was more than happy with the dive.
After a surface break we started our second dive in a similar area, but with a little more weight, and the knowledge of the seals behavior in the first dive, we decided to change our dive plan. This time we planned to dive to around 10 to12 metres and see the numerous sea anenomes, dead mans fingers, fish, crabs and starfish at the lower levels before moving up to the 5 to 6 metre mark to find an open kelp bed to sit in and try to act uninterested (we had previosuly read that this usually attracts the seals interest).
Bizarrely the dive went exactly to plan and we spent a wonderful half an hour with one seal following Sue up and down, thoroughly enjoying the sea water being pushed against his face by her fins. On the odd occasion the seal had a little tug at Sue fins or broke off from the fun to have a sniff of my camera or just give me a glance. She obviously didn’t think I looked much fun as she always returned to Sue’s fins!
It was by far the best dive experience we have both had and we throughly enjoyed the dives over the weekend with lots of different seals to interact with and the great company of everyone who joined us for this wonderful experience with Divemania.
It was a lovely weekend and I can’t wait to do the same thing next year!