Scuba divers I meet during my trips in exotic countries usually ask me the same questions: “How many dives do you do a year?”, “Do you dive back home?”, “Often?” And the most popular ones: “What can you see?”, “Is it interesting?” These persons are always very surprised to know I dive in France, in Switzerland, in Belgium, even diving in Spain is surprising for some people… and Guess what? I do it even during winter time!!!
If I could live in a tropical area all year-long it would be really nice to go diving in 30°C water on every single day. Unfortunately, even though I manage to travel quite extensively as soon as I can all over the year, I still need to be in Europe for the moment. Based on the fact Europe is not exactly what we can call an exotic place, so what does make me keep diving back home?
The love of being underwater : a weightless & relaxing sensation
The first answer I give is the scuba sensation: Beyond the fact of being on holiday in the sunshine, diving in warm water and observing colorful tropical marine life, the real pleasure of scuba diving is in the fantastic sensation of flying over submarine landscape and feeling completely weightless! This is actually why astronauts train in a giant pool to experiment lack of gravity. To be able to completely enjoy this feeling you will have to develop your buoyancy skills. Neutral buoyancy is found when you just stay at the same level in the water, not going deeper, not ascending either. It takes a bit of experience to achieve it, but once you got it, you get the real pleasure of flying underwater and not struggling while maintaining your position.
The other side of the scuba sensation is the real deep relaxing feeling you got while exploring the sea : I think it’s the silence around you, the rhythm of the sound of your exhausting bubbles and the way we are breathing underwater, some kind of smooth, calm and deep breath. Thanks to the regulator mechanism and difference of pressure the air is going to your lungs very easily almost without any effort, which has a calming effect. If you’re a beginner, the excitement of the first dives might not make you realize it but quickly with some experience you can feel and be addicted to it!
So, why just waiting for the next holidays to enjoy it again?
I’m not crazy, a dry suit helps!
“But the water should be so cold!!!”…
Indeed it can be very cold sometimes especially in North Atlantic around British Islands or Scandinavia. But without going far, In Europe you can go to the Mediterranean Sea and find 25/29°C water in summertime. Depending on the time of the year and the place your going to, you can always adapt your body protection: From a full suit 5mm for mild temperature waters to the dry suits which will allow you to dive even below ice.
Dry suits are the key equipment for anyone wanting to dive in water colder than 14/12°C, depending on your resistance to cold (it might be below 18°C for some people or it might be below 10°C for some others). Yes some people will tell you that you can always dive with a wet suit in any condition but honestly my point is to enjoy my dives, and if you are struggling because you’re cold, you’re not going to enjoy anything, and moreover comfort brings safety!
Dry suits require some specific training to be used with total safety as they are a secondary source of buoyancy with your BCD (you need to inflate them as well). The advantage is if you decide to do your dry suit specialty, if will bring you more know-how about your buoyancy control and as a result more pleasure underwater!
Cold Water: There’s life here too!
If your thing is looking at the little fishes… Then expect to be as well amazed in colder areas… You can find amazing submarine fauna in colder ocean. For example, have you thought about all the variety of seashells, crabs and lobsters you can find in the Atlantic Ocean? You like colors? All the anemones, tube worms and nudibranchs of cold oceans offer you as well beautiful colors. For divers who like the big ones, they won’t be disappointed by all the encounters they can make with sharks, dolphins and rays. I still love meeting octopus, squid and cuttlefish everywhere I dive in warmer like colder seas. In love with coral? Catalonia, Corsica and Croatia have incredible spots with the famous red coral of Mediterranean Sea.
My biggest surprise was when I discover that we could also see mola mola (sunfish) in Europe! Yes sunfish also come in colder waters. I’ve been lucky enough to dive in early June in North of Spain when they were around. You can also find them in September along South West coast of France and in October along the coast of Portugal, close to Lisbon.
What about diving with whales and sea lions? I’ve just been whales watching in Canada before I was a scuba diver but this is certainly the experience of a lifetime!
Some of the best spots for whales diving: Canada (Vancouver Island), Norway (Lofoten islands), South Africa (Cape Town area), and New Zealand (South island).
The most incredible expedition to watch cold water fauna would be to go diving in Antarctica… Of course not yet done, as this is one could be really an expensive adventure but who knows, one day I’ll find the way to do it!
Want to know more…?
- about Scuba diving in Mediterranean Sea ? Read my article about scuba diving in Marseille, France or Kas, Turkey
- about Extreme cold diving ? Read my article about scuba diving in Ushuaia, Argentina or Lioson, Switzerland
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