Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Diving Loch Creran Marine Conservation Area

A couple of weekends ago The Boy was scheduled to perform PADI Dive Master duties for the Aquatron Diving School.  As they were going to be diving in Loch Creran, which is a conservation area, I decided I'd tag along.  Loch Creran is a bit of a trek for us and would normally mean getting up at 5:30am to arrive in time for a 9:00am dive.  This time, The Boy suggested a nice, leisurely drive up on Saturday, a night dive and a stay in a B&B so that we could stay in bed longer on Sunday morning.  I couldn't begin to describe how happy I was at the thought of someone else cooking breakfast and making packed lunches for a change.  The Boy found The Loch Creran View B&B and I booked us a room.

On Saturday we drove to Glasgow to fill our air tanks at Aquatron's shop then we headed up the road to Loch Creran.  The sat nav took us straight to the door of the B&B even though it was pretty much in the middle of nowhere overlooking the Loch.  I was well  impressed at how clean and fresh everything was, especially the en-suite. We got ourselves settled into the room then changed into our thermals and headed off to the dive site.

It was starting to get dark when we arrived and the tide was out so we had a slightly longer walk than normal to reach the water.  Look how calm it was:

The water was perfectly clear once we got in and, unsurprisingly, we had the place to ourselves.  Loch Creran isn't too deep so we had a nice, long, fluffy dive taking photos of the assortment of aquatic life along the wall next to the shore.  As usual The Boy kept possession of the camera so the credit for any decent photos on here is his and his alone.

First we came across this pretty normal looking harbour crab sitting on the bottom.  I couldn't say whether it was responsible for all the shells around it being empty or not:

A little further on we met this velvet crab sporting what looks like a pretty, pink fascinator:

The wall was alive with Leachs Spider Crabs from teeny ones to fairly big ones.  Some of them were very hard to see until you got up close with a torch.  Here are a few:

You can see how they can blend in with the plant life, the way they are covered in pieces of sponge, etc....

Then there were gorgeous Sealoch Anemones like these ones:

Not sure if this humpty looking harbour crab, covered in barnacles is The Bad or The Ugly.  What do you think?

We were amazed to see a couple of these worms.  Normally, at the slightest hint of movement they suck all their flower-like tentacles into the tube below and hide so we must have been doing something right:

Ok, so if the barnacled harbour crab was The Ugly (I think it was) then these must be The Bad - a pair of moody looking, double decker crabs perched next to a Sea Orange.  The mood was provided by uplighting from The Boy's torch:

And here is a Long-Legged Spider Crab sitting above a Sealoch Anemone:

This little bloke here (a Spiny Squat Lobster) looked like he had furry legs and claws through my mask.  Isn't he a colourful wee chap?

There were also tons of scallops skipping about, opening and closing like wind-up false teeth and lots of little fish, ordinary squat lobsters, hermit crabs and Scampi.  I haven't mentioned all of the sea squirts and other marine life we saw as well.

After 45 minutes of diving we ended the dive with loads of air left and headed back to the Loch Creran View.  We changed back into our clothes and drove to the Hawthorn Restaurant in Benderloch, as recommended by our host, where we had a lovely evening meal to round off the night.

In the morning, we had the luxury of sleeping in until 7:30 (I used to think that was the middle of the night).  Our hostess, Edith, made us a full cooked breakfast and a huge packed lunch then we headed off to the loch again to dive with the school and experience more of the same stuff as the night before.

Towards the end of the day, these two swans appeared and came up to see what was going on.  I finally had control of the camera but, sadly, this was the only photo I managed to take before the batteries in the camera died.

Oh, I nearly forgot.  On the way back to shore after his last school dive (without a camera to record it because I was using it to photograph swans) a Thornback Ray swam underneath The Boy and his buddies.  Everyone except me seems to manage to see Thornback Rays.  One of these days.....

We had a great weekend, bliss for me as it involved no cooking whatsoever.  Will we be back? Yes I think so.