Over the last few months Lochaline Dive Centre (LDC) has been expanding itself and what it offers in terms of marine based outdoor activities, specifically in the world-renowned Sound of Mull, a body of water home to historic shipwrecks, diverse wildlife, and stunning scenery above and below the surface. Traditionally focused on providing SCUBA divers with the best possible experience diving here in the Sound, LDC is now offering the same high standard of service and expertise in a broader range of activities.
The introduction of one activity in particular which has garnered a lot of interest is snorkelling. Snorkelling is a great activity and allows people of all ages to dive in and enjoy the marine enviroment in a safe and accessible way. The new Snorkel Safaris being offered at LDC this summer give participants the chance to explore the amazing underwater world of the Sound, get up close with the wildlife that lives beneath the surface, the reefs and sea bed environments that are home to a whole host of animals and plants, and even catch a glimpse of ancient ship wrecks that lie on the seabed. In addition to the Snorkel Safaris LDC is also offering a Snorkel Experience try-dive and the BSAC (British Sub Aqua Club) Dolphin Snorkeler and Snorkel Diver courses, all to give perspective snorkelers the knowledge and technique in the water to really get out and explore with confidence.
However, the journey to becoming a snorkel centre is not without its own hurdles. Already being affiliated with BSAC and offering many of the BSAC qualification and training for divers, it was obvious that having our snorkel services affiliated and qualified with BSAC was the way to go.
First on the agenda for LDC was to host the BSAC SITCA (Snorkel Instructor Training Course and Assessment) training course. The course was held by BSAC instructor and author of the Snorkel Diver and Advanced Snorkeller manual Lizzie Bird, and Paul Burden who runs snorkel trips and sessions for Highland Council. The course provided the perfect training and coaching for existing staff at LDC as well as new recruits from the University of Highlands and Islands in becoming effective and qualified snorkel instructors. The two-day course was filled with lectures on the theoretical aspects of being a snorkel instructor, as well as extensive pool based practical sessions covering all aspects of water safety and rescue techniques. When the course finished LDC had a group of enthusiastic and qualified BSAC Snorkel Instructors, but that was only the beginning.
Next on the agenda was getting the chosen snorkel instructors through all the protocols and courses needed for working with children and young people. As snorkelling is a great activity for all age groups, it was of the highest importance to LDC that the instructors were fully trained up and aware of the best ways to train and work with young people in order for them to have the best experience possible. All snorkel instructors at LDC attended the Highland and Islands council child protection course, and have joined Disclosure Scotland’s PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) Scheme.
Next step in the process was deciding where the best sites for all the various potential snorkel safaris and snorkel experiences to take place. As LDC has many years experience diving in the Sound of Mull, our staff and instructors already have in depth knowledge of the area. This is particularly important when it comes to knowing where the best marine life can be found, and when the tides will allow snorkellers to have the most enjoyable experience while still being safe in the water. LDC’s Snorkel Officer Catriona Hoon – avid snorkeler and diver – was tasked with mapping out all the incredible snorkel sites in the Sound of Mull and finding the best times to go out and explore them according to the tides.
As you can see becoming a snorkel centre is not a straightforward process, but one which LDC saw as necessary for getting people out into the water in the most enjoyable and safest way while having their own marine adventure. LDC would also like to thank Highlands and Islands Enterprise for their help and support necessary to the success of the venture.