The Scuba Diver team heads south to the Lizard Peninsula in Cornwall, for a shore dive with a monster reputation. Photographs by MARK EVANS and Porthkerris Dive Centre
Drawna Rocks, or Dragon Rocks when translated from Cornish, is often cited as one of the best shore-diving sites in the UK, and it’s easy to understand why.
It is very accessible, sheltered in all but east winds, boasts an immense variety of marine life, is extremely easy to navigate and, perhaps most importantly, there is an awesome little beach café within staggering distance for aprés-shore dive coffees, teas and pasties!
The site consists of an island group of rocks some 100m from shore, with depths ranging from a maximum of 18-22m, depending on the tide, to low single digits on the shallower portions.
Marine life is prolific, with plenty of colourful jewel anemones, dead man’s fingers, snakelocks anemones, encrusting algae, myriad varieties of seaweed in all manner of colours, and even delicate sea fans.
Arrival at Porthkerris
To get to the entry-point, you need to head for Porthkerris, which is found between Porthallow and Porthoustock on the Lizard. Travelling south, you drive through Cornwall along the A30 and head towards Helston. You then pass the Culdrose helicopter base on both sides of the road and, after passing it, come to an island – turn left here, following the road to St Keverne.
At the next island turn right again towards St Keverne – travel on for 5-10 minutes (speed depending) over ’Goonhilly’ and past the telecommunications centre.
You then arrive at St Keverne, turn left into the square keeping the White Hart pub on your left, and turn left out of St Keverne past the fire station on your left. Follow the road towards Porthallow and you will pass some gates on your right with stone eagles at their entrance; shortly after this, take the next right, (signposted), then next left to Porthkerris dive centre. There is plenty of parking a short distance from the entry-point for the dive.
Dive briefing At Drawna Rocks
The best entry-point is at the northern end of the beach, where Porthkerris Dive Centre has erected a handrail to guide you safely over the steepest – and slippiest – part of the rocks. Walk into the water, don your fins and then you can either descend and head east towards Drawna Rocks, or surface-swim out before dropping down next to the most southerly pinnacle protruding from the water.
This shore dive then consists of slowly exploring all the nooks, crannies and gullies – with names such as Cauldron, Chimney Cove, Steep Corner and the Canyon – along the deeper seaward side of the rocks, before eventually making your way around the northern end and coming back along the shore-side of the rocks in shallower water. You then make a right turn onto the beach for your exit.
The scuba dive at Drawna Rocks
I have dived Drawna Rocks on a couple of different occasions, and each time I was impressed by the sheer amount of marine life that could be found. As well as the usual array of seaweeds in a rainbow mix of colours, and varying greens of encrusting algae, certain areas were adorned with vivid jewel anemones, as well as ghostly dead man’s fingers.
I even found a couple of bright pink sea fans, rising delicately from the seabed. Then there were dahlia and snakelocks anemones adding splashes of colour on the sandy bottom or on the rocks/weed.
Fish life is great – shoals of bass and pollack abound, red gurnards forage in the sand, and various species of wrasse will inquisitively follow divers as they explore the reef.
Common lobster and spider crabs can be found sheltered in the rocks, along with common and velvet swimming crabs. I even spotted a distinctive john dory, and a well-camouflaged cuttlefish.
Photographers will love this dive, because there is plenty on which macro enthusiasts can hone their skills but, equally, enough wide-angle opportunities for those wanting to capture their buddy alongside some colourful marine life.
You can easily spend a good 45-60 minutes pooling around Drawna Rocks, and as well as making a cracking dive in its own right, it is the perfect afternoon accompaniment to a morning boat-dive further down the Lizard.
Porthkerris Dive Centre
Porthkerris Dive Centre doesn’t simply boast a spectacular shore dive, but also offers boat-diving from a small hardboat and a whopping great catamaran, as well as having camping available right on site.
Porthkerris is a family run dive centre located on a private beach offering spectacular views out to sea. It has been owned by Mike and Jo Anselmi since 1991 and is a PADI 5* IDC centre, offering everything from Open Water Diver to Instructor level courses, including several specialities.
The dive shop is relatively small but well-stocked with a variety of equipment, and there is a wide range of rental equipment available for hire, including drysuits and semi-drys. The Porthkerris Galley Beach Café, right on the beach, serves up fresh pasties, paninis, burgers and even Cornish cream teas!
The Porthkerris fleet consists of the Celtic Cat, a 14me catamaran, and the 8.5m Celtic Kitten Power Cat. They are all fully licensed and coded to MCA standards; the latter has a 20-mile operating radius, while that of the larger Celtic Cat is 60 miles.
Drawna Rocks – what to expect
Type of dive: Easy-entry shore dive
Depth: 18-22m possible on high tides, but usually 12-15m
Marine life: Wrasse, gurnard, john dory, lobster, crabs, pollack, bass
Visibility: Varies, but can be 6-8m or more
Seabed: Sand, small rocks and pebbles
Hazards: Infrequent boat traffic
Look out for: Cuttlefish, spider crabs, common lobster, sea fans, jewel anemones, corkwing and cuckoo wrasse, red gurnard, john dory