Mevagissey shore dive

Undersea Cornwall lives up to expectations

Author: Pat
7th May 2014

The ancient picture-postcard fishing village of Mevagissey provided the landing and departure point for divers during 2014’s Cornwall Scubafest.

This was a town built before cars: tiny stone cottages line the streets, barely wide enough for a vehicle to pass down, single file…and doubly so on a bank holiday weekend with tourists ambling aimlessly the other way. Eventually we reach the harbour, where cars are forced to precariously edge along a causeway to the outer breakwater car park.

Our chosen dive site is a small cove to the north of the harbour entrance, with steps hewn into the rock downwards and a washing machine effect going on in the water. After quickly kitting up with my two buds – Simon from Typhoon International and Justin of Atomic Aquatics – we’re clambering into the sea. Aaron and Tom of Apeks aren’t far behind.

a diverse explosion of marine life

The water depth goes from almost zero cm down to about 7-8m here, depending on the state of the tide. At low water it’ll be more like 3 metres. But under the water, large rock strata run at 45 degrees to the shoreline and shoot skywards, like rows of serrated teeth. Simon is lead man and navigator and we amble this way and that, first swimming between the rocks and gullies and then up and over them.

Cornish diving is absolutely fantastic: this is not wreck diving, it’s not deep, it’s not dark, it’s not extended range. But it is beautiful, and teeming. In short order we see plenty of large spider crabs, tame pipefish, wrasse, velvet swimmer and edible crabs, plus an awful lot more of very small critters. Particularly interesting is the snail that seems to have mutated into a walking blob instead, yet is still lugging his shell behind. The rock formations and kelp fronds provide a perfect habitat for a diverse explosion of marine life and we see a variety of reds, greens and yellows everywhere we look.

It’s still early in the season and the water is only 12 degrees Celsius, but we’re in shallows with plenty of light and don’t really feel the cold. Besides, I’m diving with two stalwarts of the dive industry who brought along the latest hi-tech suits and undersuits, so were always going to remain dry.

In turn, each of us twists left and right across the sandy and rocky bottom, occasionally easing ourselves past kelp-lined swimthroughs. At one point, Simon motions for us to take the lead through a steep sided passageway, with high walls either side covered in Dead Man’s Fingers. When you naturally float facing the seabed, it’s always a good idea to rotate round and look up, so I do – and am rewarded with the amazing site of sunlight streaming down through the water from behind the reef wall.

Our navigator proves himself worthy to hold compass and we surface not far from the entry point. Watch out for overshooting here because the harbourmaster doesn’t take too kindly to divers swimming across the harbour entrance. It’s an otherwise easy exit, and particularly on the day of our visit, with scarcely any wind and unbroken blue skies. This may only be shore diving in less than ten metres, but we’ve seen plenty and are buzzing enthusiastically like three speedboats under moderate throttle. If this is merely the beginning of my Cornish diving education, sign me up for a PhD.

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