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A Welsh Scuba Diving Adventure

Published on: 22/06/23

By Ilona Cabral

As fans of adventures and adventuring, we try to talk the talk AND walk the walk at Go Ape. We're dedicated to ensuring that every person has a great day at Go Ape, but we also want to support our team and help them keep adventuring!

Every year our co-owners have access to an "Adventure Fund", which employees can use to fund their own expeditions. Everyone can send an application for their proposed adventure, and funding is allocated.

Go Ape tribe member Ilona used the Adventure Fund to set her own challenge and tick learning to scuba dive off her bucket list. 

“It’s a gorgeous, sunny June day (25C), but you couldn’t tell from my point of view. I’m 12m below the surface of a duck pond in Wales, bundled up in thermals, a fluffy under-suit, a dry suit, hood, gloves and scuba gear. Visibility is about 1m today and, if I squint, I can just about see some minnows flitting between the pond weeds: but I’m grinning behind my regulator. What a way to spend a Sunday morning!”

Working in the Marketing team at Go Ape, my job is all about sharing the value of living life adventurously. Every day I encourage people to step outside of their comfort zones and get to tell the stories of our incredible tribe members. Writing about Ultra-Marathons through the Wadi Desert, Cycling Adventures around Italy and Skiing in the Cairngorms you can’t help but get inspired!

A little while ago I decided to tick something off my bucket list… learning to Scuba Dive. I’m not quite sure when the idea entered my brain: perhaps whilst staring out at tropical azure waters; listening to my dad’s stories about diving on the Great Barrier Reef; or watching countless ocean documentaries. Well, an application to the Go Ape Adventure Fund was the perfect excuse to finally learn.

Go Ape Tribe Member wearing scuba diving dry suit

First time in a dry suit and feeling like the Michelin man 

Many people discover diving in tropical destinations abroad, filled with vibrant coral and swarms of sea creatures. British diving isn’t quite like that. Much like above the surface, you need to be hardy, well-padded and prepared. That’s why I chose to take on the BSAC Ocean Diver qualification: an entry-level open water qualification which equips you with the core skills to dive to a maximum of 20m in open water. I joined my local BSAC Branch in Cardiff, and I was away.

Throughout the course, I’ve learnt far more than I imagined. In the theory sessions I learnt all about the physics involved in diving and the impact it has on our bodies. Floating alongside other trainees in the pool, I discovered the significance our breath can have on our buoyancy. And, chatting in the pub with club members, I heard about the incredible places that exist beneath the water: from freezing Icelandic fjords to hulking wrecks in the Red Sea.

Spot the fishes in Cromhall Quarry 

Photo Credit: Craig Hale

Then, there were the outdoor dives! To certify as an Ocean Diver you need to complete at least 4 outdoor dives. My first dives took place at Cromhall Quarry near Bristol, a flooded limestone quarry and diving training site. Just off the motorway it includes such delights as a submerged helicopter, van and, if you’re lucky, some fishes.

Descending the buoy line for the first time, the world shifted from bright sunlight to dark green waters. Some small part of me wanted to panic as the pressure built and my ears popped but, the larger part was too absorbed in the surroundings.

Despite my layers, the cold water snuck in through my hood and my suit tightened with the pressure. The kilos of weight on my back, which had felt so heavy on land, became comfortable.

Descending to the first platform in Cromhall Quarry 

Photo Credit: Craig Hale  

Then, there was so much to think about as I moved through the water: kicking straight, breathing steadily and maintaining my buoyancy.  Initially we all bobbed up and down as we tried to stabilise ourselves, but we soon got the knack. During the dives we also completed the skills we had practiced in the pool, like Controlled Buoyancy Lifts: how to rescue ‘unconscious casualties’, bring them to the surface safely and tow them. Towing was knackering but great fun.

The day was a success all around with 2 dives completed, and only a few rosy faces from those who underestimated the British sun. Plus, one of the club divers managed to recover his phone from the quarry floor (15m), which had slipped out of an open dry-suit pocket the day before. The phone even came back to life after a day or two in rice!

Exploring around the submerged car in Cosmeston Lake 

Photo Credit: Craig Hale 

With just 2 dives left, I completed them both closer to home at a local lake. While families went on leisurely Sunday morning wanders, Cardiff BSAC put our skills to the test and explored the silty world below the waggling feet of ducks and swans.

With each dive we all became more confident and tried our hand at other skills, like compass navigation. It’s incredible how completely you can lose your sense of direction underwater. As sand swirls around you, left becomes right and only the colour of the water tells you how close you are to the surface.

Cosmeston Lake above the surface 

Photo Credit: Craig Hale 

Now I’ve completed my Ocean Diver course I’m looking forwards to lots more diving this summer, including some sea dives - as well as planning for more exotic spots! Thanks to Go Ape for helping to fund this adventure and spark a love for a new sport.

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