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Diving in Northern Ireland

Posted on July 3, 2013 @ 2:38 PM in AdventureBeaches

OutdoorNI’s Sarah Nelson recently headed to the North Coast to spend the morning Scuba Diving with Aquaholics Dive Centre. Here’s how she got on…

Spectacular landscapes, seaweed covered wrecks, amazing marine wildlife…no I’m not describing some tropical climes, all of this can be found in the waters surrounding Northern Ireland.  Contrary to popular belief you don’t need to travel half way around the world to experience breathing underwater - the North Coast has it all! So off I went on a gloriously sunny day to the headquarters of  Aquaholics in Portstewart very excited to give diving a go for the first time. A PADI Five Star Dive Centre I knew I would be in safe hands and it was here I met my friendly instructor for the morning – Dave.  After taking time to go through all the necessary health and safety forms we had a quick chat in the shop about what to expect during the session.   We covered the very basic, but important principles of diving including how to communicate when under water using the various hand signals, equalizing (a method used to equalize the pressure in your ears when descending) and how to ascend slowly as well as the golden rule; don’t touch anything no matter how pretty, shiny and inviting it looks!

 Diving Northern Ireland

A two minute drive from the shop we arrived at our spot; Portnahapple, a naturally formed old swimming cove. Having taught and dived all over the world Dave had recently moved to the North Coast from the Caribbean and was adamant that the diving in our ‘wee’ country was just as good.  After admiring the view it was wetsuit time - the hardest thing I would do all day according to Dave.  Ready for the neoprene challenge, thankfully it wasn’t quite the ordeal I was braced for and I was suited and booted in no time.  We then chatted through all the kit (there was a lot!) from the snorkel mask and fins to buoyancy control device, oxygen canister and weight belt before having a few dry runs with the regulator until I felt confident using it.  Gloves and hood on - now I really felt like I looked the part even if by default I looked ridiculous! One thing was for sure though; at least I wouldn’t be feeling the cold sea temperatures.  Once on, I won’t lie the kit was pretty heavy but it wasn't long before it became weightless once in the water.

 Diving Northern Ireland

Fins in hand we made our way down to the shore. Waddling into the water - no cool backwards dives into the sea for us that is reserved for the open water course and those who know what they’re doing.  We sat in the shallows for a bit of practice using the regulator, removing and replacing it and clearing the mask from any leakages all whilst underwater. As it was my first time Dave looked after my oxygen levels and buoyancy so all I had to concentrate on was breathing underwater which took a little while to get used to.

It was then time to get a bit of depth and go exploring. As my instructor elegantly glided along beside me I was far less graceful in the water flapping all over the place but apparently moving through the water effortlessly comes with practice and thankfully Dave was there to manoeuvre me round and get me back on track.  Our first encounter was with some giant green stuff which I had been forewarned was not in fact a giant sea monster but kelp and lots of it. There were plenty of interesting rocks and it wasn’t long before we came across our first crab scuttling along the sea bed.  The visibility was a lot better than I had expected as we descended to around 8 metres.  It really was another world at the bottom - so quiet and peaceful and looking up above to see the current of the water on the surface above was amazing.  Dave was quick to point out all the things I would have probably missed as I was trying to take everything in including the highlight of the day, an absolutely massive crab.

Hands down the best thing about the whole experience was that it didn’t take place in a swimming pool which meant I not only got to properly dive in the sea on my first go but it was also certainly a lot more interesting than staring at some tiles at the bottom of a pool.  Granted we didn’t find nemo or any other tropical fish for that matter but there were still quite a lot of pretty cool things to see that I didn’t think would be down there.

Time flies when you’re having fun so it wasn’t long until it was time to head in.  Wading out of the waters like creatures from the deep we took one man and his dog casually sitting on the rocks by surprise as we emerged apparently out of no where from the water. As soon as we got back on dry land I was already enquiring about the next steps to continue diving.  Dave had warned me that once I tried scuba diving there would be no going back…and he was right! 

Activity Provider:

Aquaholics Dive Centre
14 Portmore Rd
Northern Ireland
BT55 7BE

028 70832584


Sarah attended theTry a Divecourse with Aquaholics. A three hour taster session suitable for all ages from 10 years. No experience of diving needed.

Diving lessons take place all year round with March to October providing the best conditions. Simply contact Aquaholics to book a date that suits you. 


£80 for the Try a Dive Experience

Gift Vouchers for this experience are also available to buy online at


Sarah Nelson
Sarah Nelson  Marketing Officer

Sarah joined the marketing team of Outdoor Recreation NI in 2011. A firm believer in giving anything a go at least once (unless it involves jumping out of a plane at 6,000ft!) she is always looking for new adventures in the outdoors and can often be found wandering the Mournes or Glens of Antrim attempting not to get lost!

1 comment has been posted in reply to this article

Posted by Melissa on March 13, 2018 @ 11:56 AM

Scuba diving is one of my biggest passions. The main reason I love diving is the adventure, because you never know what you will found below the water surface. I use the map to find new diving spots and the logbook to keep track of my dive adventures.

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