While the dive sites along the WAOH Route are popular with experienced divers, there are plenty of opportunities for those with no previous diving experience to give it a go or to engage in a course to acquire the required skills and confidence to start exploring the marine realm.
Divers new to the sport may be surprised by the fact that the eastern Atlantic offers year-round diving. Portimão - at Europe’s far southwest tip in the Algarve region of Portugal - has the winning formula for scuba divers of being bathed in Mediterranean sunshine for most of the year while overlooking calm and clear Atlantic waters. The waters off Portimão are between 14 and 22 degrees Celsius and are abundant with marine life. Further north, the coastlines of Sesimbra and Cascais are prized for their south-facing aspects, with sheltered turquoise and emerald waters. Year-round diving and night dives are popular, including in Sesimbra, a New Year’s Eve dive at midnight. In Galicia, its magnificent “rias” (estuaries) provide excellent conditions for novel divers all throughout the year. The warmest part of Great Britain is the Isles of Scilly, Cornwall because of the effect of the warm current driven by the Gulf Stream. The sea temperature here ranges from 9 to 18 degrees celsius around the county. Drysuits are still advised for much of the year but July to October offers the warmest conditions, as well as the widest variety of sea life.
Photo: SSI Try Scuba Diving with Anthia in Sesimbra (c) Anthia Diving
Try Dives & Discover Scuba Diving
All along the WAOH! Route, there are several ‘Try Dive’ experiences for those wishing to get a first, safe taste of breathing under water, as well as more formal Discover Scuba Diving experiences, which combine a lesson in a pool with a dive in the open sea with a professional instructor to discover the fascinating marine realm.
Medusa Diving Center runs a half day ‘Discover Scuba Diving’ course in the sheltered inlets throughout the Ria de Arousa estuary that combines an introduction to scuba diving with an appreciation of the abundant and diverse marine life of this sheltered spot. It also runs a similar course off Sálvora, one of the groups of islands that make up Galicia's Atlantic Islands National Park. Known for its pale sandy beaches and clear waters, it’s a great place to learn to dive and appreciate the abundant marine environment, including octopus, cuttlefish and conger eels.
Palmira Scuba also runs a 3-hour ‘try dive’ in Ria de Arousa where you’ll be given a 30-minute theory class to learn the basics of diving and then a 50-minute guided dive at sea from the shore of Cabio Beach.
Further south on the Iberian coastline, Anthia offers novice divers the chance to gain an SSI Try Scuba Diving certificate in the Baleeira and Baia da Armação areas off Sesimbra in Portugal -known for its vast colonies of sea anemones, sea squirts and sponges.
In the Algarve, EasyDivers runs a ‘Discover Scuba Diving in Albufeira’, including a theory class, pool practice and dive at sea. After successful completion of the dive you will receive a dive certificate valid for one year, allowing you to dive up to a maximum of 12 meters with an instructor.
In the UK, Atlantic Scuba runs a ‘Try Dive’ in Falmouth – a 4-hour introduction to diving where you’ll become familiar with diving equipment and gear, be given a lesson in the important safety aspects of diving and then enjoy a 40-minute dive in the open sea with a qualified instructor.
Photo: SSI Open Water Course in Sesimbra (c) Vertente Natural/Arrabida Diving
Diving Courses & Certification
If you’re looking to gain the entry level diving qualification, there are several great scuba diving courses offered in Galicia, in northern Spain and in Sesimbra in Portugal.
Buceo Wayuu runs a five-day PADI Open Water Diver Course in Sanxenxo, Galicia where you will learn all the basic skills and theory to dive at a maximum depth of 18 metres. At the end of the course, you will get the internationally recognized diving certificate PADI Open Water Diver.
In Sesimbra, Vertente Natural runs a 4-day SSI Open Water Diving Course where a team of local professional divers will guide you through the process while introducing you to the gorgeous habitats and marine wildlife of Arrabida Natural Park. Both courses include all diving equipment and gear, materials and insurance.
Many newly qualified divers start with a shore dive, rather than launching from a boat, as it’s easier to enter the sea from the shore rather than cope with the additional challenges of kitting up out at sea.
DivinDec runs a full day’s guided diving at Massmount Reef in the protected waters south of the wild and beautiful Fanad Peninsula in County Donegal – it’s a great shore dive (depth 7-20m) that provides novice divers with the chance to experience reefs, caves, forests of kelp and many fish including goby and blenny species.
In the UK, Atlantic Scuba also run shore dives in the Falmouth Bay area of Cornwall, including Castle Beach, Silver Steps, Gyllyngvase Beach and Swanpool Beach, which are some of the most popular shore dive sites in South West of the United Kingdom where you can see a range of marine life, including dogfish, pollack, goldsinny wrasse and conger eels.
Photo: Family Dive & Beach Adventure in Sesimbra (c) Portugal Dive
Several diving operators along the WAOH Route offer multi-activity trips for divers and non-divers travelling together. In Sesimbra, on Portugal’s Atlantic coast, Portugal Dive runs a ‘Family Dive & Beach Adventure’ for divers and non-divers alike where you’ll enjoy a shore dive while your non-diving family or friends engage in other fun, active activities such as snorkelling, beach games and activities such as coasteering, all in close proximity, so that groups can share their experiences of the crystal Atlantic waters, marine life and dramatic coastal scenery without necessarily having dived together.
Click here for a full range of diving and other coastal & marine adventures offered along the WAOH! Route.