The southwest of England has a varied landscape, and is particularly popular for its rugged beaches. On both the north and south coast of Cornwall, there are some great opportunities for scuba diving, surfing and other water sports. One of the most fascinating places is The Manacles, located on the Lizard Peninsula. The Manacles offer some amazing reefs, as well as virtually intact shipwrecks only a mile offshore, presenting the perfect opportunity for divers.
The Manacles are named from the Cornish “Maen Eglos,” which means “Church Rocks.” This may be due to the number of local gravestones of drowned sailors. There are more than 100 shipwrecks in the area, including the Wreck of the SS Mohegan from 1898, which claimed 106 lives. The Manacles has a reputation for extreme tidal conditions, particularly in spring, when you will find water swirls more than 5 knots. This is why it is important for you to check the tidal conditions before you dive. The waves, however, attract a lot of surfers to the area. Many of the top competition surfers visit, such as the UK’s Martin Potter, winner of the Newquay Surf Masters, who was born in Cornwall.
There are some spectacular reefs at The Manacles that you can see when you’re diving. You will find natural sea walls between 5 and 40m long, and sheer-sided pinnacles that are encrusted with jewel anemones. Swimming in the reefs are also plenty of fish life and crustaceans, including the spiny lobster. The seabed is packed with hydroids, soft corals and large plumose anemones. The Manacles is also home to the delicate marine maerl seaweed and the tiny stalked jellyfish, so look out for these while you’re diving.
With more than 100 wrecks, there are plenty to choose from when you are diving in The Manacles area. On your trip, it is worth visiting Lady Dalhousie, an 86m long steamship that hit The Manacles in April 1884. She now sits in the shallows and is abundant with life. The SS Mohegan went down in 1898, carrying over 1,000 tons of spirits and beer. She is now 30m under the water and teeming with fish.
The Manacles should be on every scuba diver’s bucket list. The area is rich in wildlife, and there is much history to the numerous shipwrecks that you can visit.