Alabama adventures: Scuba diving at Dive Alabama

By Sydney Cromwell

When life is feeling stale and you need a break in your routine, the Magic City delivers. From 14,000 feet in the air to hundreds of feet under ground, we found the best adventures in the Birmingham area. This is part six in a six-part series.

Divers prepare for a swim at the Dive Alabama quarry.
Divers prepare for a swim at the Dive Alabama quarry.

Scuba Diving
Dive Alabama
100 Industrial Park Drive, Pelham
Entry: $27 ($24 for student divers)
Diver certification: $450
(205) 663-7428
divealabama.com

You don’t need a set of gills to experience life under the water’s surface. Learn to scuba dive and the world’s oceans are yours to explore.

Dive Alabama is situated on a former mining quarry for I-65. Miners hit a spring in 1973, which filled the 26-acre quarry with water that ranges from four to 140 feet in depth. The dive shop is the only one in the Birmingham area that offers on-site open diving instead of pool diving.

Stefanie Combs, the manager of Dive Alabama, said different quarry owners over the decades have sunk cars, sailboats and a school bus into the water to give divers obstacles to traverse. The water is also full of turtles, tiny freshwater jellyfish and fish, which will swim right up to divers – especially if food is involved.

“You get to see a lot underwater that you wouldn’t normally see, even snorkeling or swimming,” Combs said.

Through an online course and two weekends of diving with an instructor, anyone can become a certified scuba diver. That certification never expires and enables you to dive anywhere in the world, from the Caribbean to China’s underwater city. Combs said already-certified divers can dive freely at the quarry, rent equipment and take more advanced courses, including rescue and instructor training.

In October, an experienced diver died during a solo dive at the quarry. Despite this, Combs said scuba diving is very safe as long as divers know their limits and follow safe practices, such as diving with a buddy. So strap on a mask, tank and fins, and take the plunge.
“It’s just a different world. It’s very unique,” Combs said. “There’s nothing like it that I can think of.”