The scuba diving in Ireland is relatively unknown to the international community. Those who are diving in the U.K. usually don’t consider the Emerald Isle, choosing instead spots like Scapa Flow in Scotland and the Farne Islands in England. However, don’t discount the diving Ireland, because the underwater world holds riches such as giant, plankton-feeding basking shark and wrecks that were scuttled on their Atlantic voyages. Over 10,000 wrecks litter the ocean floor around the Irish peninsula, whether German U-boats from World War II or galleons from the Spanish Armada. Whether you’re interested in these wrecks or the marine life, here’s a bit of the best scuba diving in Ireland.
Killary Harbor is a natural fjord. At its brilliant best, with visibility ranging from nine to 160 feet (3 to 50 m), it’s one of Britain’s best dive sites. In a stunning location between the mountains of Connemara, dense kelp forests and abundant marine life occupy the harbor’s clear waters. Dense aggregations of conger eels, wrasse, lobsters and pollock frequently visit the sheltered bay as well. Temperatures fluctuate from 42 F (5 C) to 60 F (15 C) from winter to summer. Typical visibility is 33 to 65 feet (10 to 20 m). During the late summer, watch for grey seals that love to interact with divers. Be careful though — they also like to bite fins.
About 10 miles (16 km) south of Dublin is the uninhabited Dalky Island, where you’ll find the Muglins, a small spit of rock measuring only 300 by 60 feet (100 by 17 m). Only accessible by boat, this granite, seabird-infested rock represents perhaps the very best scuba diving in Ireland. There are strong rip tides here, so beware and mind the tide tables before entering the water. At a maximum depth of 90 feet (26 m), you’ll find walls covered in plumose anemones, velvet crabs and dead man’s fingers taking full advantage of the current. Tube anemones and brittle stars litter the ocean floor. Dogfish and scorpionfish dwell in the kelp forests of the southwest tip of the Muglins as well.
MV Kowloon Bridge
A vast wreck near Bantry Bay, the MV Kowloon Bridge sank with a full cargo of iron ore in 1986. The 965-foot (295 m) ship developed deck cracking in one of its frames after an Atlantic crossing and sank in 100 feet (36 m) of water. At the time, the ship caused extensive environmental damage due to its oil spill. Years later, the wreck is one of the most impressive dives in all of Europe. The flora and fauna on the ship is extensive, and divers can see various anemones and crustaceans such as Irish lobsters. However, the most interesting sight is the $2.6 million dollars of iron ore that divers can still see on the ocean floor today.
The waters off West Cork, West Kerry, Mayo, Silgo and Donegal
In the late spring and early summer, a plankton bloom begins off the shores of Ireland. Exactly where is difficult to predict, but search the emerald waters for the tell-tale dorsal fin of a basking shark as it breaks the surface. The second largest fish in the world is a filter feeder, just as its slightly larger cousin, the whale shark. Basking sharks congregate especially in the south of the country, where large plankton blooms occur. Various companies offer safari excursions to snorkel and see basking sharks from the surface.
The U-260 wreck
Its captain reportedly scuttled this World War II German submarine because it was damaged and he didn’t want to leak covert information to the enemy. Now, nearly 80 years later, this 200-foot (67 m) U-boat lies at a depth of 131 to 148 feet (40 to 45 m), encrusted with barnacles and anemones. On a day with good visibility divers can take in the submarine’s impressive shape, with its intact twin propellers, aft guns and torpedoes that are still in the tubes. Lucky divers might also see free-swimming dogfish and conger eels that have made homes in holes and cracks, such as the periscope. Because of the wreck’s depth, it’s best to conduct this dive with twin tanks or as a technical dive. Only very experienced divers should visit the site.