VITALISING OCEAN CURRENTS
THE LOCALS SAY
about our Gulfstream climate
a spectacular diving location | no queues on the shot line | the dive site is yours alone to explore | dramatic and diverse underwater scenery | excellent visibility and clean waters | unspoiled reefs | a unique and diverse blend of marine life | fantastic photography | sheltered diving
The diving on the Isle of Skye is temperate water diving, where vitalising ocean currents from different regions mix to give a distinctive underwater experience. Lying on the same latitude as Hudson Bay and Labrador where seas are frozen for many months each year, Skye is favourably influenced by Gulf Stream currents originating in the Gulf of Mexico, keeping the western coastal seas warmer than the eastern seaboard of Britain.
The Hebridean Minch is a therefore a mixing pot for a rich variety of oceanic currents. The warm Gulf Stream waters reach their Northern extremity bringing warmer water species to our coast, while cooler currents from the Arctic and Greenland Sea bring species to their Southern extremity. The resulting blend of marine species is exceptional, with a dynamic diversity and abundance of life which the clear and clean waters help to sustain. Underwater visibility is often spectacular, reaching up to 30 metres at certain times of year. Even during the worst sun induced plankton bloom, it rarely drops below 8-10 metres within the sea lochs.
These warm gulfstream currents and island geography combine to bring dramatic variability in our climate and weather patterns, while at the same time those same elements combine to offer great sheltered diving. Days of mist, rain and storm are followed at all times of year by sun and days of perfect visibility both above and below the water, and in the Hebrides they say: ‘if you don’t like the weather, just wait 5 mins.’ In one day, you may witness a tranquil morning sunrise burst over the mountains, followed by a weather front of misty rain that appears to draw ultramarine water in sheets from the sea. Abating by lunchtime with the sun back out, evening witnesses an enormous red fiery sun, slide into an oily calm purple sea on the north westerly horizon. It’s magic!
If the weather pattern is unsettled bringing island ‘weather days’, the geography of the island, and the nature of its coastline with long deep sided peninsulas and protective barrier islands, means that there is always somewhere sheltered and safe to dive.
So what is the water temperature, we hear you ask? The coldest time of year is March at around 6-7°C rising slowly to reach 13-14°C by end of May and 15-16°C by the end of July, occasionally peaking at 17 or 18°C in more extreme years. Then the sea temperature stabilises and doesn’t start to drop again until late October and falling slowly to about 10°C by January. Cooling is more rapid after that until it reaches its low in March.
Our underwater visibility is often spectacular, reaching up to 30 metres when sea temperatures are at their coldest. Visibility rarely drops below 8m-10m in the confined sea-lochs during a plankton bloom, usually induced by temperature and sunlight. Visibility on the exposed tidal shores is most often 15m and above.
Typical diving depths range mostly between 15-35m although there are opportunities to dive deeper if required and this can be discussed with the skipper.
Many of the sites are non-tidal, although there are a couple of wrecks where slack tide is required, is reasonably reliable with local knowledge and managed by most divers with a little care. We do have a number of dives that can be dived either on slack or as a gentle drift if preferred.
Dive confidently. There is NEVER any pressure to dive any site. The skipper will advise of the dive conditions, but the ultimate choice to dive or not, lies with the individuals and collective group. It is ALWAYS possible to offer a different site with conditions that are in the groups ‘comfort zone’. It is NEVER an inconvenience or too late to reassess the dive plan. (maybe tab these into grid view)