Next morning I had a date with the local scuba diving shop, so I was up and out by nine. Eric runs a friendly dive shop, helped by two English girls. I kitted myself out and chatted to the other divers. Padraig was a young local lad who had just qualified as a teacher, and was off bungee jumping the following week.
May (second from right) was a Cork woman about my own age, who had learned to dive with her three children the previous year, and they were all there for the dive: Matthew who was working as an intern in the shop, Caoimhe, a chatty young teenage girl, and Ruairi, the youngest at twelve. What a great thing to do as a family. Two of Eric’s friends from Belgium made up the boatload.
We hopped in the rubber dinghy and set off at alarming speed out of the harbour and into the bay. I was sat up the bow, hanging on for dear life like it was an episode of Miami Vice. It was sensational. We sped along the rugged coastline as if on a roller-coaster for what seems like ages until we stopped at a small headland called Parkmore Point. We broke up into smaller groups and backflipped into the water.
Sadly, visibility was not great, but I had an enjoyable dive with Padraig and Sophie our dive master. No great marine life to speak of, but a good wall and lots of sea grasses. And after all my worry about the cold, I was a lot warmer in my double wetsuit than I had been in the dry suit in Melbourne!
The second dive was back in Dingle Harbour itself, an incredibly shallow dive but worth it nonetheless. We anchored up and the first person to backflip in simply stood up to talk to us – we were in about five feet of water. Then almost immediately, Fungie, the local dolphin, arched up out of the water not twenty feet away. We all squealed with delight, and those in the water tried snorkelling to catch a better glimpse.
I don’t think I could have done a better dive in such shallow waters. The official name for the area was the Gravelly, but it was better known locally as Thornback Alley. I soon found out why. I must have seen over fifty thornback ray on that dive. They were simply everywhere – floating past one minute, rising suddenly out of the sand below you the next. They were all sizes, up to about a metre wingspan, with the long, thorny tail that gives them their name. Between that and the forest of seagrass we found ourselves in, it was one of the most fun dives I have ever done.
Turns out that despite the overcast day, I got seriously sunburnt on my face! So much for Australian education on the dangers of the sun.
Back at shore I was so uplifted and excited by my dives. The rest of the family was at the harbour to welcome us home, and as soon as the paperwork and chores were done we headed off to explore the rest of the peninsula. By this time the sun was out and it was a really lovely day.