Thursday, 28 March 2013

Dive Guide: The Caves (Loch Long)

Site Summary
The Caves is a very cool little site in Loch Long which is essentially a steep slope of large boulders with the gaps between them forming 'caves' for marine life, and there are loads of big plumose anemones  and other filter feeding animals all over the rocks. There are quite a lot of fish around this area too though, which makes it a popular fishing spot so fishing line is unfortunately a danger here and carrying a knife or pair of shears is a must. 

Type: Shore dive (rocky reef)
Depth: 0m-33m
Tides: None
Suitable for: Experienced ocean divers+ Good buoyancy required.
Notable hazards: Fishing line (entanglement) / awkward entry & exit.

Getting there and getting in
From Google Maps. Click to enlarge.

There's space for 2 cars to park here, then it's a bit of a scramble down to the water's edge. 

The Caves dive site is about 2 miles south of Arrochar on the A814. There's a small parking place by the side of the road which has enough room for two cars or a minibus to park in, so space is pretty limited. It's a very popular site for sea anglers as well, and they tend to arrive early, so unless you get lucky it would be worthwhile having a Plan B just in case you can't get in here.

Site Access
From the parking place, you have two options to get down to the water's edge, but both are pretty awkward. The first option (1) is to scramble down through the culvert that runs under the road and down that way. The second (2) is to follow the little, narrow path that runs down to the shore from the other side of the bridge. Both options are steep and can be very slippery if it's been raining!

A lot of the shoreline along this part of the loch does look rather similar from the water, so it's definitely worth leaving a marker on the shore if you're not sure if you'll be able to find your way back to the right spot again to get out. The only way out is the way you went in (the rest of the shore here is too steep to climb) so you need to get back to where you started!

Approximate underwater map of The Caves dive sites.

Underwater, the site is comprised largely of a steep boulder slope leading down in steps from the surface to a flat, muddy seabed at around 30m-33m depth. It's nice all the way down though, so you can just pick your depth. If you get a day with decent visibility though, there is a stunning view from the bottom of the reef looking back up it towards the surface!

The site is relatively easy to navigate - just keep the slope on your left as you head out and down, then work your way back keeping the slope on your right.

WARNING: There is a LOT of loose fishing tangled in the rocks here so a decent torch and a pair of line cutters are absolutely essential. I know a lot of people who've got snagged here before and it can be extremely dangerous.

Recommended Equipment
Torch (essential)
Line cutters (essential)
Glow stick / flag to mark exit point

Things to See
I've not been to this site in a while, but there used to be lots of fish here, including pollock and other white fish, and it was a good site for dragonets and gurnards too. There are loads of filter-feeding animals too which take advantage of the elevation from the rocks to feed in the current including big plumose anemones, dead-mens fingers and the ubiquitous (for Loch Long!) sealochs anemone. It's also a cool place to see some different starfish like the Bloody Henry

There are a LOT of filter feeders here, making this a beautiful scenic dive site. 

Looking for more? Check out the Dive Guides page!