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Croatia - Croatia trip 1 - 8 July 2006 Print

Croatia trip, 1-8 July 2006

It was last year at Sanchia's and Piney's big summer barbecue when Gary said to Jens and me: "Well, if we'd asked you if you'd come along for a dive trip with us, would you do so?"

Our answer last year was: "If you can guarantee to be entertaining company, we will!"

And so we did. The first Saturday in July, a group of 15 (some of them former) members of Guildford BSAC took off from Gatwick for 5 days of diving in the Mediterranean. A flight of approximately 3.5 hrs took us to Split, the capital of Croatia, where we stayed overnight. In the evening, we went out for dinner, and the first thing that happened was that Jens' red cap a precious gift from his beloved was blown into the bay, and Jens had to walk into the water to retrieve it. Luckily enough, the waiters at the restaurant we chose didn't seem to mind Jens' wet trousers, and readily admitted him. We had a great first evening out, with seafood starters, Pizzas and Steaks, plus local beers and wines.

early birds: Detail of Diocletian's palace
Detail of Diocletian's palace

The next morning, we had some hours to spend at Split before it was time to board a ferry to Vela Luka on the island of Korçula, where our dive centre Croatia Divers was based. We split up into groups and explored Split's oldest part, which is built around the ancient palace of Diocletian , the Roman Emperor who, after abdication, spent the last years of his life at this palace.

In the late afternoon, we boarded the ferry to Vela Luka, and were met by Bobby, the boss of the dive centre, and his wife Marjolein. Marjolein had brought a van to collect our luggage, while Bobby showed us the water taxi across the bay. Croatia Divers is based directly next to the Hotel Poseidon, where we were to stay. This was very convenient: Just after having checked in at the hotel, we also checked in at the dive centre and got our kit ready in boxes for the next morning.

Our hard boat
Our hard boat

The next day, we met at an ungodly hour at the dive centre, assorted all the kit and tanks on the mole and were met by our hard boat for the week, an ancient darling that had been amply chosen: It once served in the local wine trade.

The diving off Korçula provided us with some surprises: We had known that this part of the Mediterranean is chalk carst, and thus bound to be full of caves, but we hadn't really thought that there would be so many formations with holes in them. The first site we dived is even named "Emmenthal" so this gives you an idea about what sub-surface rock formations look like in Croatia.

Loading the boat
Loading the boat

The first day of diving started easily enough: The plan was to do 2 dives per day, with our group having the captain and hard boat, plus 2 dive guides all to ourselves. To add to the luxury, the captain's assistant was going to prepare hot lunches for us on a boat barbie.

We split up into 2 groups that followed the dive guides. The first thing that struck us as we were descending was a sudden blur of vision: Thermoclines. They were so marked that where two layers of water met, you could actually see it. Plus you could stick your hand from one temperature level through the blurred bit down to the next level and check whether you really wanted to venture further down - brrr.

The seas treated us well: on the first dive we spotted a slip lobster - a rare find, plus there were nudibranchs, fireworms, octopus and some scorpionfish, and we had an excellent lunch of grilled ribs and fish to reward us.

On Tuesday, our dive guide Billy was unavailable, so Bobby asked us if we'd be happy to have one group diving without a guide from the centre. Duncan as DO and Wally, the marshal for the trip, agreed that Duncan could do the dive-leading for one group, and we set off for 2 dives of caving (though I doubt that the dives we did would qualify as 'cave diving' in the strictest sense, since one could always see the entry points/exits).

Looking around in Cathedral
Looking around in Cathedral

One cave we dived that day was called Cathedral. At the end of a pitch-black swim-through, for which I wished I had brought my big torch. We had to ascend to a dome that was full of air and closed to the surface. Some of us checked breathing in there according to them, the air was fine, but I wonder where it came from.

Hermit crab
Hermit crab

The remaining three days of diving took us to a variety of walls and overhangs, a beautiful forest of deep purple gorgonia, a plethora of octopus on most of the dives, and a wreck graveyard that apparently is the result of various insurance frauds. Just outside the small bays, at the edges of a plateau in the colder, more open water, we found a gang of blue Moray eels with yellow dots, and people spotted several John Dory's on a night dive. Altogether, we did 5 days of 2 dives per day plus one night dive, the deepest dives being between 30-45 meters, depending on divers' preferences and qualifications and experience.

Towards the Blue Hole
Towards the Blue Hole

We thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and this was due to several facts: The trip was very well organised, we had a boat that was spacious and convenient for kitting up, for having lunch, and for sunbathing. What's more, the boat barbies were excellent besides grilled sardines, tuna steaks, lamb cutlet, and the like, we even had daily servings of grilled veggies in batter (which the greedier one of the two vegetarians did not easily share). In short: we were very well treated and had a great time on the boat.

Postprandial chill-out
Postprandial chill-out

Most important, though: Bobby and his crew managed to find the right balance between looking after us and letting us have our own way in the water. This is not easy with a group of a few Sports Divers and many very experienced divers, some of who dive in kit that would grace every historical diving society. Yet Croatia Divers managed well: The dive guides would always be there, but unless asked otherwise, they would tend to accompany the dives rather than to lead them. That gave people the feeling that they could explore in their own time and speed, and it gave the centre the necessary amount of supervision of the people who dived with them.

Thanks go to Wally for organising the trip, to Pete for sorting out the hotel in Split, to Duncan for dive-leading for some of us, to all the avid photographers for all the images provided here and on the web gallery, to Bobby, Marjolein and the dive centre crew for a warm welcome and great days of diving, to the captain and the cook for a great boat and lovely food, and most important thanks to everyone for being great company!

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