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  • Writer's pictureShaun Yeo

Diving in the North Sea with Seals

Updated: Dec 30, 2021

Surprisingly enough, although I had travelled to the UK many times over the past 15 years, I had never dived in the UK before, till a week ago.

I have a bucket list of dive sites to explore in the UK. One of the places on my list was to dive the Farne Islands, and to encounter the seal colonies there. I have looked at doing this for a number of years, but I have always been put off by the fact that I have not found a dive centre near the location, rather boat charters only, which provide you with tank fills during dives. This was obviously not ideal for me, traveling from Gibraltar, I would have to take my own tanks and weights with me.

Earlier this year, doing another search to diving at the Farne Islands, I found a Dive Centre down at the South of England, which was arranging a 3 day trip to the Farnes. I got in contact with them, and was able to put my name down for this trip, as well as hire tanks and weights from them, which they very kindly brought from me in their car.

We stayed in a small fishing village called Seahouses, which is just a few minutes boats trip away from the Farne Islands. Accommodation was in a traditional English B&B.

On the first day of diving, we met at the local pier, as I eagerly awaited the charted boat to arrive. I was so excited to dive in the cold North Sea for the first time! I have owned a drysuit for quite some time now, but never really used it to dive in cold sea conditions.

Diving is planned differently in UK due to the large tides and currents there, unlike I’ve seen anywhere else I’ve dived at before. So the first dive is on some wreckage, off one of the Islands. The Farne Islands is not only famous for its large seal colonies, but also to the large amount of wrecks around the Islands.

As I jumped off the boat, I quickly noticed the difference in sea temperature, having been diving in a warm 29’c a few days prior to that in Spain, I was now in a cold 12’c. To the English, this was “warm” compared to how low it gets in the winter months! I start by photographing kelp. My buddies must have been wondering what on earth I was doing! As the marine life in completely new to me, everything was of interest to me, even some seaweed! Some seals were swimming close to the Island during our dive, but I didn’t see any up close whilst diving. Instead I photographed parts of the wreck and marine life.

Our second dive that day was off another Island with a large seal colony. Unfortunately they were a bit timid and did not want to interact with us underwater, so instead the dive became a scenic one, taking wide angle shots of the landscapes below.

I ended the first day of diving without seeing the seals, but I was happy to experience diving in the UK for the first time and seeing marine life that was new to me.

The next day, was the second and last day of my diving on this short trip to the UK. I hoped to see some seals this time. Our first dive was at the same dive spot we had dived on the day before for our second dive, where a large colony of seals where. There were mixed feelings on board about diving here, but some of us gave it a try. The seals were in fact timid and did not want to come up close, although I did get to see some underwater this time!

The second dive, which was the first for some, as some did not want to try the first dive, was a wall dive, I switched to my macro lens for this dive, and I was not disappointed. I got many shots of UK marine life here.

A third dive took place, to compensate for the ones who missed out on the first one. There was a bit of a debate going on about deciding where to dive. Some wanted to try diving with the seals again, at a different location, and others wanted a wreck. At the end, I think the skipper choose to try the seals again, when he had heard I had come all the way from Gibraltar, just to see them!

Just when I had come to terms that I would not see any seals this time round, we managed to get some seals interact with us, and I managed to take some close shots on my final dive at the Farne Islands.

With the Farne Islands and Seals, now ticked off my UK Diving bucket list, we will see what comes next!

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