By Susie Hall de Silva & Preeda Harish Kumar
Arriving at Porthkerris is one of those truly jaw dropping moments. Crossing the moors and winding through verdant country lanes, a crest of a hill and…the ‘wow’ moment. High on the cliff top, opening up before you a huge vista of sparkling blue sea… with (whoop!) bobbing dive boats, and at the bottom of a track hugging the hillside, a fully equipped dive centre situated right on a private bay.
In the rolling green fields either side of the track, tents and motor homes were pitched…smiling people with grinning dogs relaxing next to smoking fires enjoying a cold beer in the still-hot evening sunshine. It was like the outside world and all it’s cares just vanished in an instant.
Crunching down the track, a sign ahead ‘Welcome to Porthkerris Divers’.. Welcome indeed! Warmth and professionalism were to be the watchwords for a very special few days in a very special place.
The dive centre itself is fully equipped with everything you could need, and an excellent large shop for anything you might have forgotten (plus that new torch you didn’t know you needed until you saw it, of course!). The staff are friendly, full of expert local knowledge on everything from dive sites and sea conditions to the flora, fauna and, happily, walks to local pubs. And the non-human residents add to the fun – wherever we walked or sat we were likely to be joined by one or other of the sociable dogs, and a pair of escape artist ponies livened up the camping in the morning!
Our boat – the Kitten – was skippered by the superb Dave, who deserves a special mention not just for his excellent sense of humour and endless patience in getting the Clidivers actually off the beach and onto the boat (!), but great seamanship – we really felt in safe hands.
The perfect spot for shallow-water training, and very sheltered from the winds. The life around these rocks was incredible – lobsters, crabs, jewel anemones, sea cucumbers, sponges, corkwing wrasse, red gurnard, cuckoo wrasse, pollack and bass. The rock inlets have wonderful names such as Cauldron, Small Cauldron, Chimney Cove, Steep Corner and The Canyon.
…is a wreck that sank in 1914 in 20m of water. The great visibility meant we could see the many conger eels that have made this wreck their home. A lovely serene dive with stunning shoals of fish.
A marine conservation zone, the Manacles are a set of rocks that anchor a wealth of corals, anemones, fish and sea creatures with hard shells to this paradise. Carpeted walls of rainbow jewel anemones and gulleys of soft coral and seaweed gardens make this some of the most spectacular diving in the UK. Basking sharks frequent this area but we only managed to see some seals… The Manacles offer a number of different sites.
The wreckage of the Mohegan has been subjected to over 100 years of Manacles weather, meaning that the boilers are about the only part of this wreck that isn’t flattened against the seabed. There was a lot of life on the boilers: lobsters, crabs and conger eels made every hole their home.
This is the most popular of the Manacles reef dives . It is a pinnacle covered with a thick blanket of many different species of anemone. Life was prolific, with ballan wrasse, cuckoo wrasse, corkwing wrasse and goldsinny making up the vast majority of the fish life. Lying on the many ledges at 20 metres were ling, dogfish, striped mullet, an anglerfish and even a john dory!!
Vase Rock is wedding cake-shaped with three tiers at varying depths. The rocks are covered in kelp, sea fans, sponges and beautiful jewel anemones of all colours imaginable, coating the granite on the north-east corner. There are sandy gullies and coves that provide shelter from the current, and are home to numerous sea urchins, starfish, crabs, pollack and wrasse.
Another highlight! Well equipped, spotless modern apartments with a large outdoor seating area up at the main house for those who like the comfort of a ‘real’ bed. For the rest, a campers dream.. good hot showers, a beachside cafe for bacon butties, large, flat, grass pitches with parking, and an ocean view. This was 5-star camping, particulalry for Susie with her campervan literally on the beach – a sunrise skinny dipping paradise!
…and the socialising
Evenings inevitably started with the cracking open of a couple of bottles, sitting on the pebbles, watching glorious sunsets over the sea, with an equally cracking group of people.
Friendships were made and cemented in this unique, secluded bubble. Away from the world, strangers from all over the UK and Europe were invited to BBQs and onto night fishing expeditions. Non-diving Hat produced endless warming pizza for our first lunch, and our other breaks turned into socials in the sunshine as morning dives were discussed at the long wooden tables, whilst refuelling with cheesy chips and burgers from the cafe.
Saturday’s BBQ turned into a truly memorable outdoor party – a huge and varied spread; Pippa and Cathy shopped with skill and cooked up a storm. Everyone took their turn flipping steaks and halloumi at the large in situ grill, as the sun and the drinks went down and the dancing on the tables started. The Fishing Guys sizzled their catch and Dwayne and the boys from another dive club joined us, bearing gifts of sausages and bacon.
They joined us again for the traditional Sunday pub jaunt. To round off the trip, a breath-taking, adventurous hike along the high hillsides, through field and forest brought us to the pretty little village of Porthallow, where the Five Pilchards pub nestles cosily in a picturesque fishing port. Superb food and company under the ample bosom of a ships’ figurehead, followed by high jinks rolling giant bales and Dwayne’s spirited rendition of the Titanic theme from the prow of an ancient ship marooned on the cliff top nicely captured the mood of this idyllic late summer weekend diving. A special place, with special people.