Andy Torbet is in a contemplative mood as lockdown restrictions ease and he begins planning this year’s snorkelling adventures.
Let’s leave 2020 behind and look forward because if last year taught us anything it is how unpredictable the world can be. But it has also taught us to appreciate, and make the best use of what we have. Things are starting to get better and we will have the capacity to enter the blue world again. However, there is no way of predicting how much time we’ll have and therefore every moment, and every dive, should be precious.
Perhaps this should always have been the case, but I confess to taking certain things for granted until they are taken away. So, ask yourself – if you were given one day, one dive, in the UK what would you do with it. Let this be the basis of your first plan as restrictions ease and, hopefully, the launching point for many more. And, by way of suggestions, here are mine.
Perceptive readers will have noted that I’ve mentioned focussing on one single day and then listed three below. Ever the optimist, I’m hoping for more than one day. So, if I only have one day then it’ll be Day 1. If I get a second day to snorkel it’ll be Day 2…I’m sure you’ve caught up by now.
On the list...
Perhaps not the start everyone would have predicted. Possibly something more remote or adventurous would seem more fitting. But I spent a couple of weeks down here just after the first lockdown and just before the second. So for me, it represents the happier times of 2020: a chance to hang out with friends, sit outside by the sea and – a genuine rarity for me last year – get underwater. This association with human contact, regular diving and outdoor freedom is probably why it has come to represent the best of my time last year. A return here means things are once again getting better with the world. Of course, I am also swayed by the availability of easy access snorkelling and wildlife in a secluded little cove with nothing but a café, campsite and dive shop. Yes, that might also have something to do with it.
Basking Sharks, Oban
Okay, now for something spectacular. It’s been quite a few years since I last laid eyes on the second biggest fish in the sea and this would seem a fittingly high bar to kick off a good year of underwater adventures. If I wasn’t lucky enough to see them off Porthkerris, then I’ll head to the world’s best hot spot off the coasts of Oban, Mull, Coll and Tiree in west Scotland.
Loch Coirre an Lochan, East Highland
…in winter. I first dived the highest loch in Scotland (and therefore the highest body of water in the UK) back in 2008, when I came up with The Three Lakes Challenge. I returned to snorkel it in 2011 for my Britain By Snorkel project. I have always hankered, some would say idiotically so, to return with a snorkel in hand (or in a rucksack in reality) to dive in winter. The water in both November and July, the time of year I made my previous visits, was a startlingly bright, electric blue and I think that it will only be clearer and more vibrant in freezing conditions.
I’ll stop at three. Although my list of ideas already runs the dozens. There are so many sites I want to return to after a decade since Britain By Snorkel and 10 years of snorkelling the length and breadth of the country. Added to this is the huge number of sites I’ve not visited and the near-infinite potential for new sites around the tens of thousands of miles of coast of Britain, not to mention the lakes and rivers. Which means, no matter where you are, no matter how long you have, we can make this year the year we returned to what we love. So start planning!
BSAC has released guidance to help members and the wider diving and snorkelling community prepare for a safe return to the water. Check it out.
If any of you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them. Drop a note to me through the editor’s email at SCUBA or on my social media below:
Article by Andy Torbet for SCUBA magazine, Issue #110 January 2021. For more membership benefits, visit bsac.com/benefits.