Diving Oban & Inner Hebrides

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Oban & Inner Hebrides, United Kingdom

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Country: United Kingdom  Area: United Kingdom

Water Temp: 6 - 18°C (43 - 64°F)

Visibility: 2 - 30m (7 - 98 ft)

Depth Range: 3 - 50m (10 - 164 ft)

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Oban is known as one of Scotland's main diving areas.  The landscape is mountainous and the archipelago of islands offers many areas of sheltered water.  There are  large wrecks to explore from 5m-50m in sheltered conditions, and  variety of marine life.  The area is also a special area of conservation and marine reserve. The reefs are covered in soft corals and anemones, and are home to crustaceans and nudibranchs.

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Reef and muck diving are available further out in the Sea of the Hebrides.  There is a good spot to see basking sharks, and large seasonal populations of minke whale, common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and porpoises. Occasional high summer mola mola (sunfish) can be spotted along with orca.

 

Scotland has the biggest populations of grey & harbour seals. The area also has the biggest UK population of white-tailed sea eagles and these can be seen on most trips, along with other seabirds such as gannet, puffin, skua, fulmar, gulliemot and sherwaters.

Flabellina lineata, Credit

Climate

Scotland’s weather is never as bad as its reputation. The summer months are the best season for diving. May is usually a quiet month for diving & tourism but generally has settled weather.

Water temperatures will range from 10-14°C over the summer when a 2 piece wetsuit can be used for short trips.  For serious divers, a drysuit is recommended. There is good quality snorkelling and in high-summer and during influxes of the Atlantic gulf stream, water temperatures of up to 18°C have been recorded.

 
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Wildlife Calendar

                           
                         
                           
                                 

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The Diving

Reefs

The temperate reefs are bathed by the gulf stream and covered in marine life. Rock surfaces are covered in soft corals, sponge and anemones, topped with kelp forests. There are many species of fish such as wrasse, pollack, blennies and scorpion fish, crayfish, lobsters, squat.

Lobsters and crabs compete for space with many species of nudibranch, keeping photographers occupied.  Scotland also has the highest numbers of grey and harbour seal and the Oban area has a number of colonies of ‘haul outs’. Underwater interaction with these mammals is possible and visibility in the outer areas is over 20m. 

A diver in Oban,Credit

Drift Diving

Some areas have big tidal currents that offer drift dives, especially at the Falls of Lora where the tide squeezes between two land masses. About one hour south lies the Corryvreckan whirlpool but only a handful of divers have attempted to dive the 29m pinnacle in the centre at slack water. With only a few minutes of slack water then a down current pulling divers down to over 200m, this is rumoured to be the most advanced dive in tthe UK.

Muck Diving

The area is well known for muck diving, something that was done here long before it began in tropical destinations. One sea loch ( an inlet connected to the sea) has a large concentration of biogenic Serpulid reefs. These are tube building worms which create large aggregations of reefs, much akin to deep sea vents. Their feeding appendages are bright red and the reefs are home to all sorts of marine life. On the muddy seabed, the largest anemone in the UK can be found. The fireworks anemone can be 30cm across with large wavy tentacles and there are  3 species of sea pen.Catsharks and thornback rays are also spotted. 

Basking Sharks

These filter feeding gentle giants make their way round the UK coast from their winter migration.  According to scientific studies, they come to the Hebridean Islands to breed. Surveys detect over 900 sharks in one dayShark season is from May-Sept and peaks around May and July/August.  It's around 2 hours from Oban so specialist trips with accredited wildlife operators are recommended.  

Wreck Diving

Close to Oban lies the SS Breda, a large steamship. It lies upright and intact full of cargo from WW2.  The Sound of Mull (the passage of water between the Island of Mull and Morvern Peninsula) is a main wreck diving spot, with wrecks such as the Thesis, Rondo and Shuna  between 5 and 50m. The SS Hispania lies  in an area of tide flow and must be dived at slack water. It sits upright at an angle and is covered in soft corals and anemones. Visibility averages 5-15m but further out the wrecks of SS Tapti and SS Meldon have 10-20m visibility and are suitable to dive in when the weather is calm. 

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Getting There

Edinburgh or Glasgow are the nearest international airports. Oban is around 2.5-3hr drive through the highlands. Alternatively there are 6 trains departing daily from Glasgow.

Oban Scotland, Credit

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Going Out

Oban has numerous cafes, restaurants, street stalls and pubs. Being the ‘gateway to the Hebridean isles,’ it is famous for fresh seafood.  Cuan Mor & EE-usk & Piazza are in the centre of town and the nightclub Skippinish, a does an early Ceilidh night (Scottish dancing).  The Oban distillery offers tours to sample to usque-baugh, or the water of life.

Food, Credit

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Other Activities

Oban is a popular tourist destination and centre for outdoor activities. There are lots of walking opportunities ranging from gentle loch and river strolls to munro level hiking (mountain above 3000ft). Non-divers can visit the local sea-life centre and there is lots of history with castles and bronze age remains at Kilmartin Glen.

Macraigs Tower, Credit

Family Friendly

Lots to explore in the local area with walking, or looking for wildlife. There is a leisure centre & swimming pool and a cinema on the main street, as well as a fund marine centre at SAMS marine centre a few miles east, next to Dunstaffnage Castle.

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Tips

The midge is a small sandfly which can be annoying near water or when there is no wind.  Insect repellant is useful. 

Boats Sailing ,Credit

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