The Bear Gryll’s Adventure at the NEC – Diving with Sharks

Last year, the Bear Grylls Adventure opened at the NEC. It offers a range of activities such as iFly, diving, high ropes, maze and assault course. Its open to everyone but obviously aimed largely at youngsters.

Inside the attraction is a large aquarium tank with sharks, rays and a number of tropical fish. They offer an experience where you can dive inside this tank whether you are a qualified diver or not.

You book a date/time slot and buy your ticket online on their website and I quickly found the dive option which includes archery and an assault course for about £110.  I only wanted to do the dive so phoned them and asked if this was possible. They emailed a link to book the dive option only (not on their website) for about £85. They provide all equipment and training. I need quite a large wetsuit and checked they had a range of sizes. They said they had everything from extra small to 4XL. We booked and got a confirmation email within minutes.

It took us about an 1hour and 45 minutes to drive the 100 miles to the NEC which is located just off junction 6 on the M42 and is well sign posted. As you enter the NEC site, there were electronic signs directing you to a particular car park for the bear grylls experience. You go through a barrier, park and then it takes a couple of minutes to walk across the road from the car park, around a lake and up to attraction.

IMG_4479

 

As we walked through the door, there is a small reception area, where we were welcomed by an enthusiastic member of staff who then barked at me that I need to get my trainers ready. I replied I had none, she looked worried and then I confirmed I was only doing the dive activity. She looked relieved and directed us to another member of staff who took our details and gave us some instructions and a ticket.

We arrived quite early so decided to get snack and drink. They have a bar and restaurant inside the venue. Unfortunately on our visit, they had run our of snacks and only had a very limited menu whilst they were waiting for new supplies to arrive. We ordered some nachos. They were tasty, if a barely warm. One of the nachos turned up without chicken and the staff had to return them to the kitchen to add the chicken.

After this we had to wait for our time slot so made our way to the tank to look at the fish. There was a young staff member there who was very friendly and gave us information on the experience and the fish in the tank. You are given a wrist watch that vibrates when your activity is ready. Mine started to vibrate and I made my way upstairs to the dive area. After a few minutes we were met by Kate, the dive instructor. She gathered the six participants into a briefing room where we ran through some basic dive skills, safety and information on the activity. The whole areas is made to look like you are in a ship or submarine.

After the briefing we made our way to the changing room where we were each allocated a shower with a website and boots already laid out for us. Their wetsuits only go up to size XXL, not 4XL as I was told on the phone. We had to shower to remove any deodorants, makeup etc and donned our wetsuits and boots.

We were then led into a small training tank adjacent to the tropical fish tank. Here we spent about half an hour practising basic dive skills such as mask clear and using a regulator. Then one by one we were led down some steps an into the main tank. You do not use fins in the tank and instead walk at the bottom of the tank as the dive instructor and safety diver lead us through the tank and some underwater photo activities. We spent about 20 minutes under the water and it was a great experience to be amongst the sharks, rays and inquisitive fish.

At the end, we were led back up the steps, removed our gear and were given PADI discovery dive certificates. Katie and Rachel the dive instructors were very warm, friendly and supportive to guests who were nervous. One lad who could not even manage to put her head under water before this activity, managed to complete the dive with help from the staff.

As you exit the event, you pass through the gift shop where you also get a discount token for the car park.  On the way back to the car park, we passed the resort centre where there are some shops, bars and restaurant and stopped at Nandos which overlooks the lake. When we got back to the car park pay station, we had to pay £7 for about five and a half hours parking. Overall a fantastic experience and worth the £85.

 

 

Scuba Dive No 2 Wraysbury Dive Centre

See the source image

Tuesday night was my second dive at the wraysbury Dive centre. I took advantage of their new diver package (£50 including equipment hire) to continue my diving practice.

I used my own BCD, regs, boots and this time my own weight belt with 12Kg. Felt more trim in the water than the last dive. Only used the dive centres wetsuit, mask and fins.

Met a very helpful diver, Les, who took me on a tour of the lake. Water temperature was about 20 degress and visibility was about 3 metres. Les assures me that at other times of the year/different weather the visibility is very good. Max depth was 6.7M according to my Suunto Vyper Dive computer. Used quite alot of air. Went from 220 PSi to about 75 in a short time but put this down to a little anxiety, the poor visibility and some poor finning.

Next step, may be some more practice dives at Wraysbury and then the advanced open water course including a deep dive.

I’m still alive!

See the source image

Its been a couple of weeksnow since I’ve done any real activities during the school holidays. Did some Kayaking on Wednesday but nothing else after I injured myself playing squash. Still got some knee, neck and arm pain.

I haven’t been SCUBA diving for quite a few years now and decided this summer was time to get back in the water again or I probably never would. Today was the day. I had some concerns:

Would my recent injuries prevent me from diving? No.

Would they have a wetsuit big enough for me as I’ve put on a lot of weight since my last dive? Yes thankfully and bigger!

Could I still use my own equipment, bought a while ago, but hardly ever used? Yes, but need to get some kit serviced.

Would I bottle it entirely? No, but I nearly turned the car around and went home.

Would I make a complete twat of myself? Not quite although I certainly need lots more practice in the water.

Arrived at Wraysbury Dive Centre at about 9.30 and was met with a couple of younger guys called Andrew and Jimmy who would be my instructors for the morning. Throughout the morning they helped to put me at ease and were very patient with me. They quickly found me a wetsuit that fitted fine. I tried my gear on. The BCD just fits me. Any more weight and it wont! We used a mix of my equipment and theirs. In total, I was there for about 3 hours during which they demonstrated and then tested my ability to practice basic SCUBA skills such as buoyancy control, mask clear, buddy breathing, regulator retrieval, assembly of gear etc. After this they gave me short tour of part of the lake to practice my diving and then back to dry land. Really enjoyed it. Wasn’t particularly graceful in the water and need lots of practice to get comfortable again. Not sure if I’ve got my weights properly sorted/balance yet just for me.

See the source image

Dive time was about 32 minutes and it was nice to get a recent entry in my dive log book. The lake is quite murky with visibility of 5-6M. There are some sunken vehicles to explore at various points, fish and American red crayfish everywhere. The instructor tried to get me to hold one of them. I managed to touch its shell but had no intention of getting up close and personal with anything that has more legs than me and pincers to boot.

The guys were very patient with me. I had one to one attention and no else was diving at the time so made me a little less self conscious than I might have been otherwise. Have left my Suunto dive computer with them for a service and booked a new diver package for the 21st for some more practice with a buddy for hire (cost £50).

One of the problems for me to dive is that you need a buddy and all my family and friends cant dive, are not interested in diving and/or cant swim and don’t like water. Hopefully I can find a more permanent buddy at Wraysbury and continue diving through the year. I would also like to take one of my underwater cameras with me and try to get some footage next time perhaps?

The SCUBA review cost £65 and for 3 hours of tuition, equipment and patience, I think this is great value for money. Looking forward to the 21st now and some more practice.