DiveNI is the new definitive online resource for scuba diving, snorkelling, free diving and generally exploring the underwater environment around Northern Ireland. The website was launched by the Centre for Environmental Data and Recording (CEDaR) on World Oceans Day 8th June 2020.
Growing up on the North Coast, I have always had a passion for exploring our marine environment both above and below the water. I trained as a PADI Open Water diver while on holiday in my early teens and was immediately hooked. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to dive in some amazing places around the world while volunteering on a remote island off Tanzania, working as a dive master in Malta, on Red Sea trips and travelling around Australia and New Zealand, not forgetting the south coast of England whilst at university studying Marine Biology. However, there truly is no place like home. This is where I was able to put my abilities to test, dealing with the cold in a semi-dry wetsuit, intermittent visibility and tidal currents. However, as soon as I had that all worked out, I was fully immersed, both physically and mindfully, in our underwater marine environment and all it has to offer: swaying kelp forests, the crackling of barnacles, seals unknowingly watching from afar (and occasionally having a nibble of a fin!), stand offs with tompot blennies…you know it all.
At the time I was keen on taking photos and so I invested in a basic underwater camera, which helped me to identify and record what I was seeing. Seasearch became my dive club and I was able to dive with them off the Devon and Dorset coasts while at university, off the Farne Islands while working in Northumberland and in between times at home, most memorably on the Waterfoot seagrass bed (now a designated Marine Conservation Zone) and Cushendun Maerl bed and at the Maidens.
In 2016, a medical diagnosis ruled me out of diving for the foreseeable but I was keen to keep my foot in the water and got involved with helping out coordinator Charmaine Beer. I now run the group myself and very much live my diving through seeing photos, and hearing the chat from the Seasearchers post-dive. However, having not dived here for a few years now, I find it difficult to pick new sites to explore. Much of the existing information available online is spread across various platforms and often not up-to-date and so I rely heavily on advice from others. Not only does this make make planning diving expeditions complicated and cumbersome but it also means that much of this material, which highlights our rich local marine biodiversity, is hidden from a wider audience.
I felt that there was a need for a one-stop shop online that provided all the information required for diving at all known sites around N.I. which would help to promote our natural and historical maritime heritage amongst divers as well as a much wider audience.
In my current role as Marine Data Officer at CEDaR, I am responsible for collating marine data for Northern Ireland and supporting marine recording in general. Much of this recording activity comes from recreational divers, either through Seasearch or simply through sharing their photos and experiences online. When funding from the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) Environment Fund Capital Challenge Competition became available in August 2019, I saw an opportunity to tap into this pool of information being gathered by the diving network and so, the idea for DiveNI was born..
The Launch of DiveNI
Funding for the project was secured in Autumn 2019 and since then, we have been working tirelessly to build a website that maps all known dive sites and wrecks around Northern Ireland. By ‘we’ I refer to a number of individuals and groups who have contributed to DiveNI so far, notably Pauric McAnespy, our web designer, Rory McNeary, Marine Historic Environment Adviser for the DAERA Marine & Fisheries Division, who has provided the historical information for the wrecks on the website along with information, rules and regulations for diving on wrecks, Paul Rankin (not the chef!) who helped with collating information and imagery and finally, far too many to name, but the local diving community who have shared their ideas, experiences, photos and videos throughout. In this way, the DiveNI website is truly a website built FOR the local diving community, BY the local diving community.
Continued input from divers, snorkellers, freedivers and underwater explorers alike is critical for keeping DiveNI current and ensuring its longevity and so now, I pass it into your hands. Try out the facilities on the website; search for a site, print it, save it or share it with a buddy. Submit your own photos, comments and ratings. Tell us if any information you come across is wrong. get guidance for diving on protected sites or wrecks and find out about upcoming events or dive clubs that you can get involved with.
Most importantly, allow DiveNI to grow by sending your ideas and feedback to: email@example.com