Poole and Swanage are excellent starting points for some of the best UK diving on the numerous wrecks and scenic reefs along the Dorset and Hampshire coastline. The extremely popular diving around Poole & Swanage caters for all grades of diver, from the novice to the experienced technical/tri-mix diver. Water temperatures in summer can reach 18°C and visibility can be >15m. However, planning dives in the Poole/Isle of Wight area must take into account the extremely complex tides, particularly to get slack water on the many wrecks in strong tidal areas.
Peter Gough , the skipper of "Beowulf" based in Poole, records the visibility and dive conditions in Poole Bay and further afield, while Martin Jones of Swanage Boat Charters records conditions near Swanage and the Kyarra.
Beowulf is available for charter by groups to dive around the Poole /Dorset coast, and for occasional trips further afield. See further details on his website or click here for availability.
Contact details: Peter Gough, Beowulf, 47 Blyth Road, Corfe Mullen, Wimbourne, Dorset BH21 3LP.
Tel. Boat/Mobile: 07836 548554. Office: 01202 697844. Fax: 01202 697844. E-mail: info@BeowulfPoole.co.uk
Swanage Boat Charters have two boats - Sidewinder is available for daily charter by groups of up to 12 divers to dive around the Swanage /Dorset coast, and also Mary Jo can be booked for individual spaces for shuttle runs to dives close to Swanage. See further details on the website or click here for availability.
Contact details: Martin & Patricia Jones, Larks Rise, 279B High Street, Swanage, Dorset BH19 2NH
Tel. Martin's Mobile: 07770 478771. Bookings (Patricia): 01929 427064. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The wide range of dive sites accessible out of Poole and Swanage offer a good mix of scenic and wreck diving. See also sites from Weymouth, further west along the Dorset coast. Information below is mainly from "Dive Dorset" by John and Vicki Hinchcliffe. Click here here for local information and sites near Swanage. See links on the visibility and dive conditions page for local tide times and weather forecasts.
Bournemouth Rocks (about 11m, 5m high; Position: 50 42.4N 001 53.2W) An interesting dive on rocks rising from sandy seabed, with mixture of typical marine life, parts of fossilised trees visible in rock. Weak currents. Vis usually about 5m, poor in southerly winds.
Christchurch Ledge (Position: 50 42.0N 01 44.1W) A reef extends about 3miles offshore from Hengisbury Head with good diving all along its length, though vis is usually 1-3m, occasionally up to 10m. Good for diverse marine life, drift dives, or dive at slack (about 1/2 hour before LW or 6 hrs after LW Christchurch).
Durley Rocks (9m about 3m high; Position: 50 42.5N 01 53.0W) Rocks about a quarter mile offshore from the mouth of Durley Chine and mainly stubs of fossilised trees to eastern end, including trunks about 3ft diameter. Lots of crabs, lobsters and marine life. Easy to navigate as surrounded by sand. Vis usually about 5m, poor in southerly winds.
Kimmeridge Bay and Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve (click links PMWR1 or PMWR2). The bay is wide and shallow (up to about 7m) without currents, with black shale reefs running out from shore, covered in weed and fish. To the west, the seabed is more gravelly with other rock strata and can reach about 25m about a quarter mile offshore, and is good for crabs and scallops. The ledges to the east of the bay are shallow. The site generally has a lot of interesting marine life, particularly in the voluntary marine reserve to the west of the bay.
Poole Patches - (Outer Position: 50 35.8N 01 43.4W; Middle 13m, about 9m high at highest point, 50 41.1N 01 53.7W) Rocks! This collection of reefs rise out of a plain sandy seabed and include fossilised trees which are particularly noticeable at the middle patch, where stone anchors have also been found. Viz typically 3-5m but can be up to about 10m. weak currents.
The Pinnacle (16m, 4m high; Position: 50 40.9N 01 56.8W) Big rock at the entrance of Poole harbour, with a cave, many holes and ledges and lobsters, but gloomy viz. Beware chain ferry (pinnacle is just to side of the route) and all harbour traffic and strong currents - diving is safe at slack water only when there is no boat traffic!
Peveril Ledge (about 10-23m; Position: 50 36.4N 001 56.0W) A rocky reef extending about half a mile out from Peveril Point at the west end of Swanage Bay. Several parallel rock walls rise above sand across the tidal flow, causing standing waves on the surface particularly on the ebb tide. Sheltered hollows between vertical rock sections are home to diverse marine life. Viz can be good, best on HW slack. Slack water 1hr before HW Dover and 6hrs later; beware on Springs ebb current picks up fast after HW slack. Diving is better at seaward end of ledges.
Swanage Pier (About 7m max at seaward end) A great shallow dive site with diverse marine life and interest, particularly good for training dives and photography. Easy access, sheltered except from easterly winds, good viz in settled periods, weak currents, rarely undiveable. However, also crowded and parking an issue at the pier.
There are too many Wreck dives to list them all. A small selection, with approximate positions include:
Black Hawk (about 12m, 3m high; 7191 ton, Position: 50 32.4N 002 16.0W) A US Liberty ship torpedoed in 1944 and towed and run aground in Worbarrow Bay. The superstructure remained above water until she was blown up by the Royal Navy; the wreck was later blown in two to lay a pipeline across the middle. The wreck is now mainly steel plates and sections lying up to 3m high on rocky reef and gravel ridges. Currents can be strong but do not prevent diving. The area is within the Purbeck Marine Wildlife Reserve and the Lulworth Gunnery Ranges - be aware of live ammunition on the seabed and note firing times.
Valentine Tanks (about 9m; Position: 50 39.5N 01 53.4W) About seven experimental tanks designed to float with propellers at the rear, that sank during trials when they were being developed in Poole Bay. They now lie spread out in the sandy Poole Bay, and in May 2006 a rope was still attached for to swim between them. The tanks attract fish, congers, lobsters and crabs and make for an interesting second dive.
Aeolean Sky - (30m, 12m high; 14385 ton, Position: 50 30.5N 002 08.4W) The Sky, a Greek container vessel, collided with another vessel in the middle of the English Channel in 1979 and tried to make it to shore but took on water and sank off St Albans Head. The Sky is a very large wreck and is still recognisable after much salvage work and being cleared by explosives to 18m depth. The wreck lies on her port side, decks facing east, relatively intact stern and rear accommodation to north, and the bows to south, about 4m from the main hull. Cargo visible within wreck and strewn across the chalk/limestone rock seabed. Strong tides outside slack water: 2.5hrs before and 3.5hrs after Weymouth HW (LW slack lasts about 30min on springs, 1.5hrs neaps).
Alex van Opstal (about 27m, 7m high; 5965 ton, Position: 50 32.4N 002 16.0W) A Belgian passenger liner build in 1937 and sunk by a mine near the Shambles bank in 1939 en route from New York to Antwerp. A large wreck lying SW/bows NE with intact forward end but damaged salvaged stern on a shifting sand and gravel seabed. Strong currents - essential to dive at slack water.
Carantan (about 30-32m; 400 ton, 120ft x 20ft, approx. Position: 50 34.9N 001 56.2W) A French gunboat based at Brixham, operating as an escort and support vessel to British Submarine "Rorqual" when she capsized and sank in a southwesterly storm in 1943 with the loss of 17 lives. She is well broken now but a very interesting dive with lots to see. Ammunition boxes and depth charges can still sometimes be found and there seems to large lobsters in every crevice. Lying very close to the Kyarra this wreck is often neglected, which could make it an attractive dive on a busy weekend.
Empire Crusader (about 27m, 5m high; 1042 ton, Position: 50 34.5N 001 38.0W) A steamship bombed by a German aircraft in 1940. Wreck has now sunk well into sandy gravel seabed and lies about 7miles SW of the needles light.
Kyarra (about 30m, 18m high; 4383 ton, 415ft x 52ft, Position: 50 34.9N 001 56.6W) One of the most popular Dorset ship wrecks, often covered with divers in summer and swarming with dive boats at the surface. However, it is still an exciting and interesting advanced dive. The Kyarra was built on the Clyde in 1903 with brass fittings throughout and was torpedoed by a German submarine off Purbeck in 1918 when she was bound for Sydney. She was laden with mixed cargo, a lot of which still remains in the numerous holds, including gold watches, fine perfume, champagne bottles and medical equipment. The Kyarra can only be dived at slack water, due to the fierce tides in the area. Slack water for the Kyarra is about Plymouth/Devonport -1 hour ( Low water slack ) and Plymouth/Devonport +5 hours ( High water slack - see Plymouth tide link on dive conditions page for tide times). Diving is best at High water slack. Depth to the seabed is 30m, but most of the dive can be conducted at 25m on the wreckage.
Avanti (about 37m; 2128 ton, 273ft x 40ft, Position: 50 29.9N 001 55.1W) An ex-Danish steamship carrying iron ore was torpedoed by a German submarine in 1918. 21 men of the 24 crew were killed. Now lying on rocky reef outcrops.
The boatlaunch website has details of most launching sites around the country. Zoom in to find slipways in the area where you plan to dive.