Under the waves: Exploring the ocean in and around Oban

It’s no secret that Oban is teeming with wildlife and landmarks.

Wherever you look, there’s something to admire and thanks to Catriona Hoon’s underwater photograph, we can see that under the waves is no different.

Catriona has been documenting her underwater adventures and sharing the results with her social media followers.

When we got in touch, she was more than happy to share her experiences with you as well. Here’s what Catriona had to say:


I was fortunate to grow up in the Oban area, and always knew this place was beautiful, but it wasn’t until I moved away to go to university and then came back to live, that I realised just how special a place it actually is. 

When I returned, I brought a new skill: the ability to scuba dive. Diving has enabled me to view the world differently, that feeling of being weightless, and being able to explore places usually unseen. However I had no idea lifting the grey lid of the sea would reveal such vibrant colour and beauty.

The underwater world is not a dark and empty place, quite the opposite! It is teeming with fish-life, sea-mammals, and gardens of corals, weeds and anemones. The West Coast of Scotland is world- famous for its spectacular diving, and I’m thrilled to be able to share some of the things I am lucky enough to have seen under the water. Whether you dive, snorkel, swim or rockpool, these sights are here for all of us to enjoy, you just have to take the plunge and have a look!

Dunollie Octopus

Recently Ollie the Otter has become a bit of a local celebrity, but one of my absolute favourite creatures to see under the sea is the octopus, and they seem to be another Dunollie local. On the dive this photo was taken we saw two different octopuses at Dunollie Point. Usually they are rarely seen in Scotland because of their shyness and ability to camouflage in almost anything, and they are always an exciting spot! 

This one was hiding in some kelp before it popped out to say hello, and then shot off to a new, deeper, hiding place! Octopuses are highly intelligent and have been shown to have problem-solving abilities similar to a human three-year-old!

Plane

This was my first time diving any of the wrecked World War Two planes off the island of Kerrera. This Sunderland plane lies off the west coast of the island, in quite deep water. We rolled into the sea and headed down through the murky waters of the Firth of Lorne. Out of the gloom a shape appeared, and my heartbeat picked up pace with excitement. It is really interesting to see a piece of history frozen in place on the seabed where it landed all those years ago. 

We glided over the top of it at a respectful distance; we’re only observers of this museum-piece, and then slowly headed back to the surface, to re-join the present day. There are many more time-capsules under the sea just waiting to be discovered.

Falls of Lora

Growing up in North Connel and going to school in Oban meant I drove over the Connel Bridge at least twice a day for many years, however during all that time I had no idea what lay under the water! 

Huge tidal pulls draw gallons of water through the narrows and back every day, and the spectacular sight of the waves and currents attracts kayakers and spectators from all over. But at exactly the right time when the tide is small, conditions are right for divers to jump in and take a look at what’s underneath. 

The first time I dived the Falls I was completely blown away by the stunning colours and sheer amount of life here! The seabed is not flat; it is gullies and walls and ‘cathedral like’ caves. Water has carved out patterns and smoothed rocks, and then the nutrients brought by the tides have bloomed anemones and seaweeds of all colours, covering every surface of the walls.

It is utterly spectacular. I have also (once) seen a spurdog shark here! Just a note of caution though, the tide changes quickly here so divers must always be sure they know what the waters are doing.

Sea-lochs

A local spot where we can nearly always dive whatever the weather is Loch Creran, north of Oban.

Steep mountains often topped with snow provide one of the most picturesque settings, and the calm waters hide reefs covered in sea-loch anemones, starfish and wiry brittle-stars; hermit crabs, big brown crabs and squat lobsters retreat from our torch-light. We also often see thornback rays and catsharks here. Turning from the reef and heading out over the sandy sediment can also reveal hidden treasures; Firework Anemones explode out of the darkness, a foot or more across, shifting gently in the current. Lochs Melfort and Fyne also have similar stunning reefs covered in anemones.

Seapens

These beautiful seapens, known in Latin as Funiculina quadrangularis, can be up to two metres in height! I have seen them in Appin, and further north near Ballachulish. 

Some are not particularly deep at all, but they live on seabeds with very fine sand. The tall ones are often surrounded by smaller seapens. 

Wafting slightly in the current, they gleam out of the greeny water’s hue, looking like some big exotic plant. They are rare, very susceptible to damage from boats’ propellers or anchors, and live for a long time. Living treasures of the seas.

Breda

Oban’s ‘local shipwreck’ is the Breda, which sank during World War Two and lies on the sandy seabed of Ardmucknish Bay, out from Tralee Beach. 

At 122 metres long it is hard to see the whole boat in one dive. The boat is covered in life, plumose anemones and orange and white sponges known as ‘Dead Men’s Fingers’ grow on the hull, a carpet of living things. Fish are attracted too and pollack and cod are a common sight flitting about the deck and through portholes. This is a piece of history, but also a great place to see underwater creatures of all shapes and sizes.

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