A trial dive off Pembrokeshire made TV presenter Iolo Williams realise he had only ever seen half of Wales. He says the wildlife and colour just off the Welsh coastline would astound anyone who takes the plunge.
I got into diving through wildlife. I’d always snorkelled and about ten years ago I thought, "Hang on, there’s a whole underwater world out there to explore." So I had a taster dive at Pwll Deri just below Strumble Head and I was just stunned by the sheer variety of colour down there. That’s what hit me. It opened my eyes to this other world that I’d never really explored properly before. And I came out of the water and I thought: "For 40 years I’ve been going around Wales with one eye shut."
After that I did my PADI Open Water, then began to present underwater, so did my Dive Master as well, all in Wales – I think you should appreciate what is on your own doorstep before you venture further afield. Now I’ve dived all over – Ireland, Scotland and in warm seas elsewhere in the world – but I still come back to Wales. We’ve got bits of Wales that can compare to anywhere.
We’ve got this combination of warm water species with the gulf stream meeting the cold water species as well. So, you can see triggerfish and seafans here, but you can also see your lobster, your edible crabs, conger eels. And it’s that meeting of two very very different wildlife groups which makes it special.
And also that this amazing world is just here – so close to normal life. I have this incredible peace of mind, this tranquillity, come over me whenever I dive. Especially when I’m filming. You have a full facemask on and everyone’s fiddling with gear and making sure all the cameras work and everything’s turned on. There’s a little controlled panic among everyone. Then you get underwater and all of a sudden all the worries leave. You can hear yourself breathing and it’s very calming. I once very very nearly fell asleep while diving off Holyhead. Honestly!
It’s odd. So many people now dive on holiday and they don’t realise what we have here at home. I know very keen divers who dive the Red Sea or the Maldives and they never never go here. I understand the attraction of diving abroad but if they only took the time to dive here, even if only in summer, I guarantee they would be amazed.
My favourite dive sites are around Anglesey and Pembrokeshire but there’s also one near Aberaeron [Ceredigion] I love. You’ve got so many nutrients in the water you get this incredible array of wildlife: snakelock anemones, bead anemones, jewel anemones, a huge variety of lobster and crayfish. It’s the next best thing in UK waters to diving in an aquarium. Just amazing. It’s a dive that really brings home to me how lucky we are to live where we do.