Take the plunge and don't wait for summer

You won't see coral reefs, shoals of colourful fish or glamorous film stars but you will learn to dive at a fraction of the cost. By Rupert Isaacson

WEATHER getting you down? Need something to remind you of the tropics, of beaches and bikinis? Why not learn to scuba dive?

It's not as daft, nor as far-fetched, as it sounds. Nor as expensive. And come next summer you'll have your diving certificate - the coveted bit of paper that says you can swim underwater with heavy metal accessories on your back. More importantly, it tells a dive operator that he can legally rent you equipment and take you down into the reefs. Think of the coral, the darting shoals of iridescent fish, the diving instructors, the hunks, the babes...

Seriously though, learning to scuba dive is a good indoor activity to take you through the winter. You can do it through evening classes with a local club - almost every public swimming pool in Britain has a resident sub-aqua Club (BSAC, Tel: 0500 947202 will tell you the nearest centre to your area). However, it is much more fun to make a holiday of it.

Several places in the UK now offer short but intensive residential dive courses, usually lasting five days, or spread over several weekends. These will get you through either the BSAC Novice Diver standard, or the Professional Association of Diving Instructor's (PADI) Open Water certificate. The PADI qualification is generally regarded as less demanding, while the more intense BSAC course is a better grounding for those who want to go for the more advanced qualifications. But either certificate will let you take a diving holiday abroad with a licensed operator.

Of the various UK dive schools offering residential courses, my first choice would be The Diver Training College, situated (ironically) far from the coast in the village of Appleton Roebuck just south of York. Staying B&B nearby, you attend daily or weekend pool-based classes, then have a lot of time off to explore the city of York, the Moors, the Dales, and the rest of that beautiful county.

If you would prefer to be by the sea, Divers Down, which operates from the pier in the pretty Dorset seaside town of Swanage, offers similar pool-based courses (sea-based ones in the summer) with, again, a lot of time off for clifftop walks and other trips through the surrounding county. Again, you can take an intensive course or break it up over several weekends.

Both schools offer the basic BSAC and PADI courses. But they can also take you to higher levels - if you find that, having attained your initial certificate the winter months are still looming long and cold, you could start climbing the next few rungs of the diving ladder: Novice Diver II, Sport Diver and Dive Leader. There is a specific course for each qualification, covering dive theory, the basic physics of air pressure and the human body and the functioning of equipment - from aqua lungs and air-compressors to the different types of wet and dry suits. The more advanced stages offer training in use of sea-charts, and understanding currents and tides.

However, before taking the plunge (pun intended), you should be aware that sub-aqua diving has certain physiological requirements. Before you can register for a course you will have to pass a medical examination. As a rule, people with epilepsy, diabetes, acute asthma or other respiratory problems may not dive. However, these rules are not hard-and-fast, it depends on the nature of your ailment, If you are unsure, ring the dive school and talk it over with them.

Come next year, when you're diving in the Red Sea, the Great Barrier Reef or even the wrecks off Scotland, you'll pat yourself on the back for having spent the winter doing something so useful. Unless you decide to take off before then, of course. There are many great winter dive spots: Egypt, Kenya, the Indian Ocean, the Caribbean... All you need is that piece of paper.

diving fact box

Addresses

The Diver Training College, Ashley House, Malt Kiln Lane, Appleton Roebuck, York, N.Yorks, tel (01904) 744424

Portland Dive Centre, Portland, Dorset, tel: (01305) 820870

Season

Both schools open all year.

Accommodation

Neither school actually provides on-site accommodation, but both will book you in somewhere locally, mindful of your budgetary constraints.

Food

Not provided - you take your meals elsewhere.

Children

Minimum age 14, anyone under 18 needs consent of parent or guardian.

Disabled Facilities

None.

Insurance

BSAC/PADI cover included in course tariff.

Safety

All instructors trained in first aid and sub-aqua rescue.

Affiliations

British Sub Aqua Club; Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

Tariffs

Prices include all tuition and equipment hire. BSAC Novice Diver I & II four-day course costs pounds 280. BSAC Sports Diver five-day course costs between pounds 300 and pounds 400. Advanced courses by arrangement; contact centre for price details.

Booking

Booking normally made in advance, but late bookings accepted if space available. Payment by cash, cheque or credit card.

Access

Diver Training College: if arriving by car, Appleton Roebuck lies about three miles southeast of the main A64 between Tadcaster and York. Those arriving by train or bus should go to York, from where they can arrange for a lift with the centre. A small fee to cover petrol will be charged.

Portland Dive Centre: Portland is located on the island south of Dorchester. There is a railway station at Weymouth, about a 20-minute drive away.

Property
pets
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Technical Supervisor

    £24800 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As one of London's leading Muse...

    Recruitment Genius: Centre Manager

    £14000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Guru Careers: Accountant

    £28 - 45k (DOE): Guru Careers: An Accountant is needed to take control of the ...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel Assistant Manager

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This hotel in Chadderton is a p...

    Day In a Page

    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
    Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

    The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

    A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    Welcome to the world of Megagames

    300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
    'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

    Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

    Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

    The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
    Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

    Vince Cable exclusive interview

    Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
    Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

    Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

    Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
    Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

    Everyone is talking about The Trews

    Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
    Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

    It's time for my close-up

    Meet the man who films great whites for a living
    Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

    Homeless people keep mobile phones

    A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
    'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

    'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

    British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
    Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

    Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

    Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
    14 best kids' hoodies

    14 best kids' hoodies

    Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
    Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

    The acceptable face of the Emirates

    Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk