Oban and the surrounding area are a club favourite. The diving here is excellent and accessible to all qualified divers. The scenery is stunning, the local people could not be more welcoming and friendly. Therefore, when I had the idea of doing a trip to Oban in the icy climes of Easter 2018 I found six other club members stupid enough to join me.
We had travelled to Scotland on Thursday, and we had a slow start to the day as we were waiting for Dave and Mark to join us having stopped for the night in Glasgow. We stayed in the lodges at Tralee Bay, widely considered far too luxurious and spacious for the likes of us. For our first dive we headed down to Puffin Divers where the bay provides an ideal site for a checkout dive. As one of my first dives in a drysuit I was very pleased this was an easy (if a bit dull) dive. But we saw plenty of crabs and some (small) scallops.
We returned, had lunch and launched the boat ready for the next dive. Our second dive was on the slopes of Heather Island, an island in the Sound of Kerrera just over a mile away from Puffin. This was a wall dive to a max depth of 20m, we saw plenty of marine life and overall was a nice dive but very very cold.
As we were using the slipway at Tralee we could have a slow start to the day. By around 9:30 we had finished our breakfast and were making the 1-minute drive to our base for the day.
Our first dive was a bit of an explore to sites we had not dived before, a look at the charts the previous evening had shown a handful of islands in the Lynn of Lorn, south-east of Lismore. We headed out towards the islands and drove the boats around, keeping a careful eye on the sounder to find a good wall to dive on. The dive itself was not particularly eventful, we had found a rocky slope (not quite a wall), we saw the usual crabs and a lobster but it was not worth the cold until I found a pristine sea urchin shell (a sign not many divers make it out here).
Once back at the shore we realised we had gone to the wrong island and another island further up the Sound was a more promising site. This confusion was possibly due to two islands being named Eilean Dubh (translates as ‘Black Island’ in Gaelic, very unimaginative name). I drove the boat on the second wave and found the ‘proper’ island, and sure enough the sounder showed a steeper, longer wall for the second wave to enjoy. I was able to appreciate some of the best scenery Scotland has to offer. A rocky shore line set against the background of snow-capped mountains, on a silent crisp day made for a beautiful wait for the divers. On the return we found what little wind we had was calming and Ardmucknish Bay had turned to a mill pond. Perfect as we were diving the Breda in the afternoon.
The Breda was my favourite dive the last time I was in Oban and was confident it would be again. The Breda was a 6941-ton Dutch Cargo ship awaiting a convoy. It was attacked by German Heinkel bombers on 23rd December 1940, while none made a direct hit, the ship was seriously damaged, she was towed to be beached in Ardmucknish Bay, an action that saved her crew. For more information on the wreck see here.
The Breda is a huge ship with cargo holds still full of aircraft parts, jeeps and cement. There is a lot of life on the wreck including dead man’s fingers and sponges. This made the dive quite vibrant and interesting. I like to swim a little off the bow which really gives a sense of the scale of the ship. However, it was very cold at depth and after ten minutes my fingers were numb. This made our dive shorter than we would have liked.
Once we had packed away our kit we set about the jobs to be done in the evening, filling cylinders, cooking dinner, planning tomorrows diving and picking up some food and petrol from Tesco. But as almost everyone on the trip had done a few summer trips this was all done surprisingly quickly and efficiently. Something we continually mentioned as we ate dinner (efficiency is a rarity within this club).
This was our last full day diving. We headed out to Creran Narrows a drift dive along the narrows in the Loch under the bridge, moving along with the tide. The location was again spectacular, we were lucky with the weather every day, blue skies and little wind (but really cold). The drift dives through the Creran Narrows are fantastic. There is a lot of marine life here, from crabs and lobsters, to brittlestars eating sea urchins. The water is clear and relatively warm (5°C not 4°C). Drift diving itself is wonderful, the sensation of hovering above the floor without any effort or exertion moving along is truly like flying.
That evening we headed into Oban for a drink and the end of trip curry. We went to the Spice World Curry house. On the first floor over the shops in Oban’s high street we had outstanding views over the bay as the sun set, as well as being able to watch the Cal Mac ferries come and go.
This was our leaving day so had a smaller breakfast than usual and cleared up our lodges. We had time for one last dive so decided to have a look at a shore dive nearby Dunstaffnage Castle. I was not in the mood for diving after the night before and wanted to look around the castle. But Will and Dave headed in and reported it was a very good dive with lots of life and great vis.
The drive back was long and made unpleasant by the fact that all the good weather we had enjoyed in Oban suddenly came to an end, upon reaching Loch Lomand we were subjected to high winds, rain, sleet, snow and fog all the way back to Nottingham.
Overall it was a great trip. Oban is always a fantastic place to dive, my only comment is that it was freezing, I’m looking forward to a return on a summer trip. Thanks to everyone who came on the trip, for all the effort people put in with kit, especially with Max and making the trip so fantastic.
Written by Peter Dix. Photos: Amanda Chang, Dave Humphreys and Will Pimblett
Ross Brisk, Amanda Chang, Peter Dix, Dave Humphreys, Mark Jennings, Will Pimblett, Ben Prestwich, Tom Price