“My athletic prowess consists of being able to float and sink. And that’s it really! Even when I was a little kid I could dive in the deep end for pennies. My dad taught me to snorkel in the 70’s but it wasn’t until I was 28 (1994) that I learnt to dive with Hampstead BSAC. Inland dive site, Gildenburgh Water was my first dive, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. Being able to ‘fly’ around in 3 dimensions up the stairs of a double decker bus was just surreal! I was hooked.

I upgraded to a drysuit after a year or so and would do about 50 club dives a year anywhere from Scillies – (seals and soft corals) to the wrecks of Scapa. Can’t say I was there for the history so much as the carpets of stripy pouting silhouetted in the gaps in the hulls. It was so theatrical! 3 years later I was a BSAC instructor and shared the girly love as much as I could.

The BSAC was still quite laddish back in the day and even in my pink and purple drysuit I wanted to be one of the boys. We’d climb over rocks and up lifeboat ramp-ways just to get to dive sites. I dived Dungeness 40 metres in near zero vis and did a 50m dive just to say I could. Nowadays its all about being warm, the people I dive with and capturing some memories to draw for the log book.

I moved to Hampshire and had 10 years of just being a mum and only holiday diving. It wasn’t until the kids were old enough to do a scuba party at Andark that I finally rehydrated. I was hooked again and persuaded cross over to PADI Instructor and have been running the Aquanauts Andark’s own kid’s course for 9-12 year olds at the weekends for the last decade. It’s all in the pool, we’ve done a wreck dive, Halloween night dive with spooky spiders and an Eco dive where the kids learn about how they can make a difference with simple underwater teaching aids.

Fave kit: Still love my tribal ‘Funky Fins’ 25 years on, but close second is my Beuchat snorkel. It’s all one piece, squishy, no bits to lose (KISS!) & it does the job admirably.

My bucket list: Diving with sea otters, I know they are protected but I love a kelp dive so hopefully I’d spot one passing by and diving Mexican Cenotes. The light in some of those caverns is AWESOME. Free diving definitely need to get that under my belt. And the Red Sea always a big draw. Took my baby 4 month old son on a live aboard 22 years ago, and I’m heading there next week for the 5th time.”

Top 10 highlights.

Ice diving in Tignes lake while on a skiing holiday

Finding fake pieces of 8 in the Scillies (victim of a practical joke!)

Being a scuba mermaid in a shopping centre fishtank

Diving on Roman Ruins in Naples with my 12 year old daughter

Diving with a basking shark the size of a bus on a Red Sea drop off

Sinking down through the Blue Hole in Gozo

Gin clear Salcombe dive with dogfish and kelp

Bio luminescence on a night dive in Turkey

Mantas in the Maldives

Diving with seals in Lundy


When not underwater Alison is a free lance illustrator under the brand name @PingSweetie and a Graphic Designer at Marwell Zoo.





2022, is my 20th year as a working PADI Divemaster with Andark. Although my love of diving started well over 40 years ago with a try dive in the South of France, like many, life got in the way; work, family and other commitments limited my diving until the late 1990’s. It was then I started on the path to the DM professional qualification which I completed as an internship with Andark in 2001/2002.

A Divemaster qualification is not just a step on the ladder to Instructor, it is a worthwhile destination in itself. Taking a group of divers on a tour as Dive Guide is both rewarding and enjoyable; introducing potential new divers to the underwater world during a Discover Scuba Diving experience can be exhilarating & fulfilling; bringing divers back into the sport, through running a comprehensive Refresher programme keeps you both sharp and engaged.

Acting as a certified assistant, the role of a DM is to reduce the workload on the instructors, by undertaking the general organisation & logistics; equipment management & safety support which enables them to concentrate on the overall planning, detailed diving programmes, course training requirements & assessment of the candidates. A vital & valued team member.

It can also provide a “soft edge” to communications between Students & Instructor, ensuring a pleasurable & effective learning environment is created.

In return, being an active DM enables you to remain “current”, aware of changes to best practice, new equipment, and training opportunities. Working and mixing with a wide range of diving enthusiasts it allows you to apply all your acquired skill & knowledge whilst often gaining new ones. It often creates opportunities for wide ranging social activities, encourages good levels of fitness, and certainly provides plenty of mental stimulus

I have been fortunate to have dived all over the world, from Bali to Bognor, Horsea to Hawaii, most of the Mediterranean Islands, Northern Red Sea, Canaries, Florida & California. UK diving is often underrated but on a good day can compete with the world’s best especially in variety and range of sites available.

Age is not a limiting factor and for many of us “Retirement” was just the beginning.

Becoming a Commercial Diver



This two week course was one of the best diving courses I’ve ever done. It was very hard work but each day was different and exciting. The courses included dives at Andark Lake, Vobster Quay and in the River Hamble, as well as classroom work and theory.

Firstly, we were taught diving theory and different Deco Tables, which were explained well and gave me a much better understanding of the science behind diving. I will find this useful in general diving, as well as in future commercial diving.

I also found learning line signals and using underwater communication very interesting- being able to talk to the surface added another level to the dives and getting instructions whilst under water added another challenge and more excitement.

The days diving in the Hamble river were particularly enjoyable and where I felt like I could put all that I had learnt to good use- changing nuts and bolts underwater and inspecting piles and chains.

Overall, the course taught me a lot about diving, but also lots about how a commercial dive site works, risk management and working as part of a dive team. The instructors were great to work with and made the course entertaining whilst sharing some of their knowledge and experience.





A nice 0745 start for our Sunday morning dive trip to Wraysbury. After making sure cylinders are were nice and full, everyone accounted for and set up with equipment we were off.

Though quite a dreary start to the day … it didn’t get much better. We set off into teams of 2 or 3 buddy pairs, and briefed the dive. As the visibility wasn’t great, which is nothing new for UK diving, we decided to take a few bearings and see what we found. This presented a great opportunity to test out our gear, and get comfortable with our set ups. Especially for newer divers, who may not know what works for them, there were some common themes that came up after the dives that were causing just a bit of discomfortable or making the dive that little bit frustrating;


This is vital. A bad fitting mask means a foggy mask, which means a disorientated and possibly panicked diver. If the seal around your face isn’t fully flat, whether that’s because your mask just might not fit your face properly (very common), your hood or a tear, it can be a real pain during a dive when you’re constantly clearing it. To make sure the mask fits your face properly, you want the mask to stay in place when breathing in and not loosen around any part of your face. For you guys rocking the moustache, Vaseline should work a treat. Another thing, if a mask is too tight before going down for a dive, the pressure will just make it worse, so make sure the seal is tight around the face, but the strap isn’t too tight around your head before diving down.


Nobody likes cramp. This part of your dive kit, I might say is the most important. This is because fins are very much a personal preference, and it takes time to test out what works for you. Today we had a diver who got toe crap, wearing her dad’s borrowed XL fins … and she did not have XL feet. Wearing fins too big or too heavy for you often gives you crap and it can take a while for it to go away. There are many different variations of fins on the market, many different colours too, but if its possible it’s great to test them out in a pool before buying to see if they fit your feet, and way of diving.


Weight can decide whether you come up gasping for air feeling like you’ve run a marathon or whether you struggle to keep your feet down. Weight checks are really important to get this right, along with logging your dives. Logging your dives means you can see how much weight you used on one dive to help advise what weight you need when using different types of equipment (i.e. wetsuit or drysuit) or in different environments (i.e. freshwater vs saltwater). Another thing is where you put your weight. Some people prefer to have all their weight at the back and around the cylinder, other prefer it all the way around their body. You’ve got to figure out and find what’s comfortable for you, and what is the easier for you to dive down and stay down.

These elements take time to get right, and even experienced divers will test out a new piece of kit to figure out how it will work in their set up and adjust accordingly before taking them on more advanced dives. We often don’t get everything right first time, but its worth the trial and errors to get that comfortable, go to dive kit set up, ready for your next Sunday dive.


We offer the best service & advice in getting the right equipment suited for your level of scuba diving. Come and visit us at our Andark store to speak to one of our friendly team or trial your new equipment out in a safe enclosed space at our Lake.



PADI Advanced open water Course – A fun filled weekend




On the weekend of the 10th July, I completed my Advanced Open Water course. Before starting on the Saturday, I read through my PADI manual and filled out all the knowledge review questions. Reading through all this was getting me really excited for the weekend to come. As part of your AOW you have to do five different adventure dives. The two compulsory dives are navigation and deep, and for the three other dives we did were wreck, search and recovery, and peak buoyancy.

When we arrived at Andark Saturday morning, we collected all our kit and equipment that we needed for the course and headed down to Andark Lake. Once we got there, we unloaded the van and put together our gear. Then we sat down and went over our knowledge reviews. Bryn, our instructor, was really helpful when explaining some of the points that we weren’t quite sure about and made sure we understood everything properly before going on the dives. After we finished going over the knowledge reviews, Bryn gave us briefs on the first two dives, explaining everything we need to do during the dives. Then we put on all our gear, did our buddy checks, and got into the lake.


Our first dive was peak buoyancy, so we descended to the 3-metre platform and practiced hovering off the end of it, making sure we were neutrally buoyant and perfectly trim. We then went for a 20-minute dive around the lake. Once the dive was over, we ascended and exited to water, had our briefing for our second dive and got back in the lake.


Our second dive was navigation. For this dive, we descended to the 3-metre platform again and, with the help of my buddy to make sure I was staying at the same depth, I used to compass to swim off the platform and then turned around to end up back where we started. Once we all completed that navigation skill, we had to navigate a square pattern in the lake. This was actually quite difficult as after 10 kick cycles in each direction, I had to turn 90 degrees to the right and hope that I finished at the same corner I started at. This was the end of our navigation dive, so we exited the water.


After lunch, we changed over our cylinders and began with the briefing for our last dive of the day, search and recovery. For this dive, Bryn went and hid certain objects around the lake, and after discussing where and what he had dropped, we went to search for them. First, he dropped a weight belt at the bottom of one of the ascent lines, so Cam (the other scholar/student) and I attempted a circular search pattern to find it, however the visibility was so low that Bryn called it off and re-hid the belt on the 3-metre platform where the visibility was a lot better. Once we completed this, we then had to do a u-shape pattern to find a bunch of clips and then used a lift bag to ascend with the lost items to the surface. After existing the water, we took apart all our gear, put it in the van, and went home for the day. I really enjoyed the first day of our course as it gave me an insight into some of the specialities that PADI offer.


On the Sunday we arrived at Andark nice and early at 6:30am. As we had kept all our equipment in the van from the previous day, all we needed to do was wait for everyone to arrive and head off on our journey to Vobster Quay. Including the stop at McDonalds for breakfast, it took us roughly an hour and a half to get there. When we arrived,Graeme (our other instructor) was waiting for us.


Once we arrived, we set up all our equipment at our station, looked at the quarry map, and discussed what we will be doing in our deep dive. We did a giant stride into the water and surface swam over to the buoy we were descending down. For this dive, I borrowed Bryn’s Suunto D5 dive computer to keep an eye on as we descended to 23 metres. This is the deepest I have ever been and even though it was a little intimidating, it was also very rewarding. We explored a shipwrecked boat and looked at a red Lego brick to see the difference in colour at depth. We then ascended slowly and did a safety stop on the way up.


We then got out the water and prepared for our wreck dive. Once we were all briefed, we then did another giant stride into another part of the quay and descended to 12 metres onto part of a shipwrecked place. The aim of this dive is to swim around the outside of a wreck and point out any potential hazards if anyone were to penetrate the wreck. The plane was separated into three sections, the cockpit being the most interesting. The plane was really cool and has made me want to dive more shipwrecks in the future. Before we ascended, we did another safety stop and then exited the water.

As this was the last dive of the day, we packed up our equipment, spoke about our dives and filled in our logbooks. We then took a group picture with our certificates in front of Vobster. I loved my time there and really want to go back to explore some of the other attractions at the bottom of the water. I also really loved doing this course, especially with my instructors, Bryn and Graeme as they made it a really fun weekend. Lastly, we headed back to Andark, unpacked the van, and headed home. 




Day 1:

Peak Performance Buoyancy, Underwater Navigation & Search and Recovery at Andark Lake

The day started off with getting all required diving equipment to the lake and setting up. Then it was onto all the essential paperwork – and knowledge reviews of course – where anything not completely understood was clarified by awesome instructor Bryn. Then onto the dive briefing: the first two dives we would be doing were explained in detail so that we understood what the objective was (the primary objective always being of course to finish the dive safely!). Peak Performance Buoyancy consisted of getting a good trim, and practising to hover/simulating safety stops which are super important if going deeper; we also had to challenge to swim through a hoop, and then finished the dive with an exploration of the lake. After surfacing we went straight into the navigation dive – using compasses! We had practiced out of the water with these but the visibility conditions in the lake that day added to make it extra challenging, however it was good fun and very satisfying to find our way back to the platform from which we started. Finally, after a surface interval, we went onto Search & Recovery. During the surface interval we made sure to practise tying bow lines and how to operate a lift bag. I was apprehensive of tying the bowline underwater with my 5mm gloves however was pleasantly surprised when I found I could do it (but very glad I did all that practice on the surface). 

Day 2:

Deep Dive & Wreck Dive @ Vobster Quay (+3rd extra dive once qualified!)

Day 2 of the AOW commenced with a very early start (thankfully we had packed up the van the day before), to travel to Vobster Quay in Somerset! After an essential Mcdonald’s breakfast stop, we arrived ready and excited to tackle both Deep and Wreck dive. Especially exciting (if not slightly nerve-racking) was the idea of finally getting to dive considerably deeper than the 8m I had only been so far. After signing in, unpacking the van and kitting up, we were ready to go (after the incredibly important pre-dive and buddy safety checks of course)! Hoping for better visibility than the day before, we did our giant stride in and surface swam to our descent line, which would bring us onto the hull of the Jacquin II boat wreck at about 16m. I was prepared to be cold, but hitting the thermocline at about 12m was definitely still a shock! With the water temperature at about 8 degrees at our bottom depth (22m), it was the coldest dive I had ever experienced, and being susceptible to the cold, one I would definitely want to repeat in a dry suit once certified. After a surface interval (warming up again!), we re-entered to do our wreck dive on an aircraft which was split into three parts at about 12m, where we identified any potential hazards. Finally, after briefly surfacing, I decided I was up for another dive (also aware I needed to get my dive count up to start the divemaster course), and as I was now qualified I could take my underwater camera to get some pictures! This last dive was a good opportunity to relax and take in the surroundings whilst getting to see a bit more of Vobster Quay  (such as the Crushing Works from when it was a functional quarry), and overall a great way to round off the day. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole AOW experience, helped especially by the amazing facilities we got to use – both at Andark & Vobster – and also the incredible instructors (Bryn and Graeme) who explained everything clearly and made the whole process extra interesting, safe, and of course fun!

Season 2 Ep2: Emma, PADI Regional Mgr on The Community Spirit of Scuba Diving – All In this TOGETHER

We chat to Emma Samuelsson about the rise of female scuba divers, the need for community & the incredible scuba spirit that keeps us pining to dive deeper and for longer.

Scuba Diving is for everyone and anyone who is curious of what lies beneath the waves and loves a new challenge.

It feels like summer is finally here & more of us are coming out of our lockdown bubbles and throwing ourselves into new exciting adventures. With UK diving on the rise since we can not trek far this year due to Covid-19 regulations on travel, it’s not surprising that the scuba community is booming with lots of friendly faces excited to share stories and discover what we have on offer in our very own coastlines from sea kelp forests, shipwrecks to cold water reefs.

In this episode we talk to Emma, PADI’s Regional Manager for the UK & Europe about her bug for scuba diving; How she got into it, where it’s taken her on her career and how it opened up a world of travel, building confidence beneath the waves, meeting new people and concludes that it’s essentially that scuba community that excites her. No matter where you are in the world you can find common ground amongst divers. Emma highlights some of the most popular specialty courses globally and the importance of the Drysuit & DSMB for safety and comfort whilst diving in the UK.

Enjoy and LISTEN to the podcast clip below or You can access the podcast on iTunes click here. Or press the play button at the bottom of this post .

Season 2 Ep 1: The importance of the correct equipment for comfort and most of all safety.

What winter watersports are you doing? Have you got everything you need to stay warm & safe? Why not enhance your diving and first aid knowledge during lockdown…

Welcome back to Season 2, Episode 1! We start this season off fresh on a cold, blistery winter morning admiring the watersport junkies who brave the cold, rain and wind crashing against the waves to enjoy their activity. Here Miriam expresses her care and passion for safety at sea or where ever you may be enjoying time in the water. Have you got all the right equipment and do you take your mobile with you in a waterproof case to be safe.

We chat about lockdown and how to keep your diving knowledge up whilst being part of a community and getting the most of your learning experience. Why not sign up to one of our lockdown lessons on Zoom, we are running first aid courses including Airbourne Pathogen, that couldn’t be more appropriate for the times. Keep you home and workplace safe and be prepared for any emergency circumstance.

Most of all we are here to connect with our Andark friends to keep the community alive during these unprecedented times and want you guys to share your knowledge, stories and ask us any questions Andark/equipment related to better your experience. So please comment below or email us at admin@andark.co.uk

Enjoy and LISTEN to the podcast clip below or You can access the podcast on iTunes click here. Or press the play button at the bottom of this post .


Epiosode 8: Reflecting on 2020 – All the positives & sailing into 2021 with a new attitude to life at Andark!

We chat about how the world turned upside down due to Covid19 and how Miriam adapted to the changes at Andark, focusing her plans on sharing knowledge and building a diving & watersports community.

We understand this year has been an emotional whirlwind for most; Grinding us to a halt all of a sudden made us reflect and reset, being separated from loved ones has made us feel isolated at times and look to other comforts such as nature. One thing that has stuck out for us at Andark is the importance of our health and the feeling of being part of a community. After all it surely highlighted how connected we are, as Covid19 struck us on a global level.

This is why Miriam has found new ways to connect with our extended Andark family and friends all across the world. You can tune into our Andark Podcast and Youtube channel and ALWAYS be a part of our hub.

Miriam discusses the positives of adapting to the change and how it has accelerated the movement of her vision and goal where she plans to take Andark in 2021… Tune in to find out.

LISTEN to the podcast clip below or You can access the podcast on iTunes click here. Or press the play button at the bottom of this post .


Episode7: An inspirational talk about open water swimming and diving at Andark Lake with Mike.

Having joined Andark on a scholarship, Mike now manages Andark Lake and is joining many in the open water movement that seems to have really taken off during 2020.

Mike came to Andark with no diving experience or knowledge but has become an integral member of our family having completed his divemaster and Tec 40 diver training he can advise and assist you on diving products and trialling new diving equipment at our Andark Lake. We chta to Mike about the popular increase in open water ssimming since March lockdown, as so many want to get in touch with nature whilst pools closed and how we can offer a safe space to practise any swimming or diving trails the lake before venturing off into the sea.

LISTEN to the podcast clip below or You can access the podcast on iTunes click here. Or press the play button at the bottom of this post .

Check out our Andark Lake site where you can hire it out for a social or sporting swimming event for the afternoon or evening with great soup being served at the cafe to warm you up afterwards.