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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 April, 2004, 20:23 GMT 21:23 UK
Divers seek NI's marine delights
The sights attract divers from across the British Isles
The sights attract divers from across the British Isles
Divers have been flocking to County Down to catch a glimpse of the array of marine life below the waves at Strangford Lough.

Northern Ireland's waters may not be tropical, but there is plenty to see.

Conger eels were one of the many attractions which greeted those who took the plunger over the Easter weekend.

Diver Andrew Rankin said the claws of a lobster on the seabed "were as big as my hands".

Tales like this are encouraging more and more people to dive in Strangford Lough every year - and most are impressed by what they find.

Diver Ray Finlay said: "The quality of the diving is what probably marks it out for me, compared to some of the places I have been around the UK and Europe.
David Vincent runs a dive operation in County Down
David Vincent runs a dive operation in County Down

"It is among the best I have done."

His words will come as no surprise to David Vincent - who runs a dive operation in County Down.

He has been taking divers to sites in Strangford Lough for almost 15 years.

"There is a huge abundance of marine life in this particular area, together with numerous shipwrecks from the ages," he said.

"At this time of year, divers are going to see crabs, possibly lobsters, a lot of starfish and some soft corals on the rock faces under water."

The sights attract divers from across the British Isles - and not even the cold can put them off.

So as word spreads, what are the chances of the Northern Ireland coast become a diving hotspot?

Ray Finlay says diving quality is some of the best in Europe
Ray Finlay says diving quality is some of the best in Europe
"It wouldn't be possible for us to put through as many divers as possibly the Red Sea could cater for," said David Vincent.

"Our diver sites aren't suitable for having hundreds of divers in the same place at the same time.

"But equally, for most divers part of the attraction is to get the feel for going for somewhere nobody else has been before."




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC NI's Mark Worthington:
"His words will come as no surprise to David Vincent - who runs a dive operation in County Down"




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