Diving on Brandon Reef Quilty Co Clare

On Sunday 27th May, Quilty was the location for club diving. A few of us traveled up the night before in order to make the unusually early 8.15am start from the pier at Seafield. I was pleased to arrive in time to watch the sun sink into the Atlantic Ocean. Burren SAC were heading out diving from the same location the following morning and provided lots of helpful local knowledge re dive sites and how to get to them without running aground. The water is quite shallow in areas with an abundance of barely submerged rocks. Ignore the locals navigation advice at your peril!
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Diving Brandon Reef QuiltyFor our first dive we headed out on the practically flat surface of the Atlantic to Brandon Reef. This is a long reef that runs between the outer edge of two islands, as indicated on the satellite map. The reef wall drops down to over 30m from around 10m at the top. My buddy, fabulous Fiona, and I were dropped in just at the edge of the reef and descended to 25m. There was loads of life to be seen along the reef as we glided along, with the wall on our right, peering into nooks and crannies. The wall was adorned with the aptly named Jewel Anemones. There were occasional sea fans on the sea bed under overhangs, resembling frost covered trees, although my computer gave the water temperature as 13 degrees. In crevices and on ledges various creatures looked on curiously as we passed by, crustaceans such as squat lobster, common lobster and edible crabs. Fish with names like rock bands such as Topknot and Tompot Blennies gave us the all clear to look but don’t touch.
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I always love looking at the small things and it’s always a joy to find nudibranch. It was great then when we spotted a Crystal Sea slug (whoops, sorry Fiona) Nudibranch. There were also Sea Squirts, Dead Men’s Fingers and the daisy like White Striped Anemones to name but a few of the wonderful living creatures beneath our waters. Alas, like all good things, the dive came to an end and we surfaced to catch our lift ashore.
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There was great activity further down the beach beside the pier with a number of horse jumps erected  and a large number of horses and ponies with riders taking part in some event and wading through the sea. An unusual but welcome site was the bottles of sunblock being applied liberally. Lets hope for more of the same weather for the rest of the Summer.
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For our second dive we headed back out to Brandon Reef. This time my buddy was jolly John. A seal popped his head up near the small Island and teased us for a while, would he dive with us or not? Despite the best efforts of Scuba Steve to communicate, the seal kept his (or her) distance.
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Again we dropped into the water at the edge of the reef and descended to 20m. The same wonderful array of life hadn’t gone away during the interval. We turned one corner to be met with a Dogfish (or Cat Shark depending on who you talk to) sitting on a ledge. We also spied a couple of common lobsters. I was lucky enough to also see another nudibranch, a Lined Polycera. We traveled along the wall, again keeping it on the right. Every so often I’d check around to see if the seal had come down to play while admiring the whole underwater vista. A cuckoo wrasse appeared, always a pleasant site. Here’s a fact you may not know, the female cuckoo wrasse can change sex when there are no males around.
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At one point we came to what can only be described as a sheer cliff face. Whereas the rest of the reef had oftentimes large ledges, this was practically a sheer flat cliff (crevices and natural erosion aside) from top to bottom which ran into a small inlet and came back out again resembling a canyon. I got to experience what Wile E Coyote experienced for those few moments he hovers above a canyon after the Road Runner craftily eludes capture. I always enjoy the feeling of weightlessness while diving. That experience is enhanced with good visibility and dramatic drop offs. We crossed over the canyon, matrix like (well in my mind anyhow) and continued on for a little bit before ascending to the top of the reef wall and doubling back along through the kelp before ascending to the waiting boat.
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The journey back to shore involved some seal spotting as a large group basked in the sunshine on the rocky edge of their own private pool. A glorious day with great diving. Thanks to all who helped ensure a great day.
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I went to sleep that night dreaming of anemones.

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