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St Brides Bay

St. Bride’s Bay is the area that runs south of St. David’s to Wooltack point (Martin’s Haven). Within that area you’ll find a couple of fantastic shore dives along with some great boat dives. As per usual with our descriptions, we’ve listed the better ones, going for quality of dive site instead of quantity!

Martin’s Haven

This shore dive is well known to all that travel down to Pembrokeshire to dive, and is one of the deepest shore dives off the UK, as you can actually reach 30 metres on a good high tide. You can access two totally different dives from shore depending on what your after, and although it can be slippery over the pebbles to get wet, it is certainly worth the effort.

Martin’s Haven is part of the marine reserve so there is a no take policy strictly enforced in this area. There are heavy fines imposed on anyone that takes certain species from this site.

If you choose to dive the left hand side of the bay (West), which is against what the signs tell you to due to the boat traffic and Skomer Island boat ferry, then make sure you swim out on the surface, past the jetty, and across to the cliff face before dropping down. Follow the kelp line out and around. Along the way, you’ll find all manner of inhabitants, but one of my favourites at this site is the numerous species of sea slugs and nudibranchs. You’ll find lots of these on huge boulder that you’ll come across providing you stay to the kelp line meeting the sand. You should come across this after about 15 minutes, at about 10-12m. Another 40-50m swim will take you to the point, where you’ll notice a definitive left turn. Three different ledges can be explored here but be mindful of the current as it can pick up here. On the first ledge, which is 12-15m, look at the bottom of the rock face as you find squat lobsters, lobsters and families of common shrimp. If you delve to the bottom ledge, which meets the sand at about 24m, you’ll find scallops and big lobsters. Swim due north for 2-3 minutes if the current isn’t strong, and you’ll come across a brittle star bed with thousands of them. As you come back into the bay, look over the sand areas you’ll find patches with hundreds of dahlias. As I said previously, lots to see here……………….

The right hand side of the bay is shallower, and only reaches about 15m maximum, which makes the area a good second dive. It’s totally different to the contour of the other side in that it has a shallow reef wall you can follow around to the point in about 5-10 minutes. Because of this, you can explore further out of the bay, but again be wary of the current. Here on this side you’ll find some big boulders and rocks in the sand just away from the mainland area. Lots of fan worms, and sponges. Again lots to see, and watch out for squatties, as there are literally tonnes (!) of the little critters around here, with their red colouration and iridescent blue stripes. Octopus are often documented as being found on the right hand side, so keep your eyes peeled for them, as well as cuttlefish.

The site has seen us host many a good summer BBQ there, and special thanks should go to Jean, as whenever she’s down with her daughter who dives, she always brings enough food/soup/BBQ stuffs for 5000!

TIPS: Always use some form of SMB here, as there will be other boat traffic around, and this dive site is a popular one with divers. Don’t try to navigate all the way back to the shore, as if the ferry is coming in and you’re near the jetty, you’ll have a rude awakening! You can unload your car at the bottom of the hill but please make sure you return it to the car park. This shows some common courtesy to other divers and the Skomer Marine Biologists that have their offices behind the toilets. Visit the marine display areas prior to diving to educate yourself more on what you’ll see before diving in.

High Point

This dive site is located to the east of Martin’s Haven and is a fantastic second dive. With a maximum depth of 18m depending on the state of the tide, you can dive High point all day long as it’s slack pretty much most of the time here. High point is a dive site that runs along the mainland heading back towards Martin’s Haven. It starts about 500m from the entrance to Martin’s Haven, in the last Bay along. Drop divers on the protrusion just down from the campsite. You’ll come across walls, boulders, and shale, kelp that makes this an interesting dive. You’ll find the usual array of lobsters and crustaceans, but remember; you’re still in the marine reserve here, so no taking. You can easily cruise along this dive for an hour finding everything from nudibranchs to congers. Not good to dive this when the wind is blowing hard from the north!

TIPS: Always carry a delayed SMB with you, as when you’re doing your safety stops, there could be other boat traffic around. The only current you’re likely to encounter is during spring tides, and it still tends to be away from the cliff faces. Make sure you carry a dive knife. Fishing is still permitted of these cliff faces, and there’s lots of monofilament line down below. Plus keep an eye out when you surface.

St. Bride’s Haven

This site is a fantastic shallow shore dive, popular for training dives and novices alike. It has a sandy bottom, with a narrow mouth to the bay, with kelp starting at the mouth of the bay, which is normally where you’ll swim to in order to begin the dive. Lots of stuff to see here, although generally, the species tend to be smaller here than in Martin’s Haven, possibly due to the fact that this are is outside the marine area, and people take from here. Nonetheless, follow the left hand side around and out of the bay if you want to explore the kelp beds. Maximum depth is about 12-14m if you’re prepared to swim a distance out! The right hand side is a little shallower but has some cracking swim throughs and one or two interesting tunnels to explore (for the thinner divers amongst you!). This site is only 5 minutes from the dive shop, so easy to run your tanks back to be filled.

TIPS: Again, use some form of SMB here, as there can be other boat traffic around especially from one club that launches from here and tends to come into the bay still at speed! The currents are next to nothing, although you will get some surge and surf at the mouth of the bay on a low or changing tide.

Stack Rocks

Located approximately 5 minutes out of St. Bride’s Beach by boat, or 10 minutes from Little Haven and Broad Haven, this site is well liked by all that dive it. Easy to get to, near to the coast, with plenty to see make this ideal for novice’s and experienced divers alike. Here, you’ll often see ‘Butterfish’, colourful ‘Wrasse’, ‘Pollack’, ‘Mackerel’, ‘Dogfish’ to name but a few fish species. Lots of crustaceans to see and many of the rocks you’ll find are abundant with Dead Mans Fingers, Sea Urchins, and Plumose Anemones of all colours.

The better area (only my opinion!) to dive is the area to the North and West of the island. ‘Camel humps’ which is the dive site to the north has lots of alleys and gullies, some of which are cut into the bedrock to a depth of 10m. The dive bottoms out at 22m although the majority of your dive will be in the 10m-18m range. Best to get in on the western side and follow a course that takes you in a big arc swinging around to the east. The other course to follow if the weather is against you is to drop in the same place but head S-SE back towards the mainland. You’ll find huge boulders of rock scattered around which hide all kinds of species. As you hit the southern area, you’ll notice it getting a little less interesting. Go east to hit the shallow wall area and head back N-NW. You’ll find some interesting swim throughs at about 5m-8m.

TIPS: Always carry a delayed SMB with you, as when you’re doing your safety stops, there could be other boat traffic around as this dive site is a popular one with local dive clubs. There’s usually not much current around Stacks but if there is, then generally the tide tends to flow east an hour after Low Water for 2 to 3 hours and then west 2 hours before High Water for 8 or 9 hours.

Hens & Chicks

Another great second dive location or novice dive, as this dive site doesn’t get any deeper than 10-12m. You’ll find this site due south of Stacks, a bunch of rocks sticking out from the mainland that generally get smaller before disappearing into the sea. You can actually dive in between the rocks to the other side, with a few large gullies to swim through, although the usually dive profile is to follow the rocks out towards Stacks before following them back into the mainland. You can start on either side (East or West) depending on what the wind is doing If you follow a course taking you back towards stacks, you’ll find another little reef that is covered with lots of orange ‘dead mans fingers’. This site shows the benefit of having the North Atlantic as Triggerfish come and spend the summer months in and around hens and chicks and you will sometimes find them on Stacks too.

TIPS: Always carry a delayed SMB with you, and don’t use a permanent SMB here, as you’ll easily get it snagged on the reef and boulders as you swing around from one side to the other. I had an argument regarding this with one club at this site one day. A woman from the un-named club purported that all divers should use a permanent blobs at Hens & Chicks. She got in the water with her SMB in tow, and within 20 minutes had been dragged back to the surface again with the line to the SMB caught amongst some rocks! Once again, there’s usually not much current around here but if there is, then the tide tends to flow similar to stacks.