The thing I love most about ocean diving is the sheer fact that as soon as you sink below the surface you can see so much animal and plant life dancing around in front of you, waltzing back and forth to the rhythm of the sea.
On our way up the coast from Greece, Joey and I stopped for a week in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Often called the Pearl of the Adriatic, the coastline of this popular city boasted some of the bluest and clearest waters I had seen to date. I could hardly wait to get underwater.
The city of Dubrovnik is located along the rugged Dalmatian coast, a narrow belt of mountainous land that stretches from Croatia’s northern island of Rab all the way to the Bay of Kotor in the south. Lined with the dramatic Dinaric Alp Mountains plunging into deep underwater cliffs, to drive this coastline is to truly top off your road trip through Europe’s Balkan countries.
Blue Planet Dive Center was our dive shop of choice for our two day underwater adventure. They were a really busy little shop that worked out of the luxurious hotel, Dubrovnik Palace. It was so busy in fact that we had a hard time finding an open dive day that accommodated our work schedule.
The morning of our dive we were two of the first people to arrive at the shop. Once we’d collected our gear from the staff, we found a small corner to call our own and began the tedious set up of our equipment. By the time I had my tank and regulators assembled, other divers slowly began to trickle in. Old divers, new divers, divers from Brazil, from the USA – there was a huge variety of people that made up the group that would go diving today.
Nothing with diving ever goes quickly, it takes time to make sure you grabbed all the proper equipment sizes, check and double check that your gear is setup correctly and finally squeeze into that wet suit that sticks to every one of your sweaty limbs. As anticipated it took us a good chunk of time before our large group was packed onto the zodiac and speeding towards Lokrum island, the first dive site.
Lokrum island dive site is located 600 meters from Old Town Dubrovnik. The name comes from the Latin word acrumen, meaning sour fruit, referring to the exotic plants cultivated on the island.
If you’re a fan of legends and intrigue, the island Lokrum has got that covered. According to legend, Richard the Lionheart (yes, the famous King from the legend of Robinhood) was shipwrecked and cast ashore on this landmass in 1192 on his way home from the crusades.
Peering down from the edge of the zodiac, past the surface of the water I could see the dark blue depths below. The ability to see the bottom 30 feet under the water from the surface meant that the visibility would be really good. I could hardly contain my excitement. Dives with good visibility are my favorite kind.
Of our large group, Joey and I were two of the first in the water. It felt great to roll into the sea before everyone else and tinker with my camera before we descended beneath the Adriatic chop. Once everyone was ready to go, our divemaster gave the signal and we sunk beneath the sea.
Enormous rock walls carpeted with plants and creatures of all shapes and sizes were the first thing I laid my eyes on as we began the dive. The sheer size of this underwater cliff made me feel so small and insignificant. Our group followed the rock wall around the extremity of the island into a cave. It wasn’t long before Joey and I fell to the back of the group. Since I have gotten my underwater camera I have become the slowest scuba diver on the planet. As we played catch up through the cave, I stumbled across an old missile casing scattered on the bottom.
We entered through the cave and surfaced in what is called Mrtvo More (the Dead Sea). This island lake is less than 10 meters deep, super salty and has only one small connecting tunnel to the open ocean. I thoroughly enjoyed spooking some unsuspecting swimmers with my bubbles as we ascended to the surface. Following a super short surface interval it was back underwater and out the cave.
Retracing our steps, we swam back towards the zodiac and this time, to my delight, at a much slower pace so I wasn’t rushed in taking pictures.
If you love wall dives Lokrum dive site is certainly a good one for you.
Dubrovnik dive site number two was a located little closer to the Blue Planet home base. Otočić Grebeni island was a stone throw away from the Dubrovnik Palace hotel. Much like the first dive Joey and I were one of the first couples off the boat and when everyone was prepared we started the dive.
Because this was our second dive of the day, this one was done a little shallower. Some of the interesting marine life we saw included; nudibranchs, damselfish, combers, gobies and tube worms. Again I was blown away by the great visibility and massive rock walls that just seemed to descend for miles.
After giving ourselves a few days to recoup and recharge our camera equipment, Joey and I returned to Blue Planet Dive Center for one last morning of scuba diving – this time from shore. Located literally in the Blue Planet’s back yard, “Little Africa” gets its name because the diversity of things you can see. Diving this site make you feel like you are on an African safari.
Joey and I started our dive in “Little Africa” near the buoyed off area attached to the Dubrovnik Palace hotel. We frolicked with the fearless fish that came to feed and hangout in the warm shallow waters. On this dive I decided to get some practice with my macro lense. We followed the rectangular buoy line out to sea. Our depth increased as we made our way further and further from the dive shop.
While diving Joey and I we super lucky to spot an an elusive sea turtle feasting on some seagrasses in the distance. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to snap any pictures because he only hung around for a split second before taking off into the deep blue.
For those who don’t know, it’s really hard to smile with a regulator in your mouth,but I somehow managed to grin from ear to ear. As I smiled, the edge of my my eyes crinkled I could feel water slowly starting to flood my mask. What’s a little salt water burning your eyes when you have just had your first ever sea turtle sighting while scuba diving?! This is just living proof that when scuba diving, you never know what you are going to see, so keep that head on a swivel.
Coming off of our high Joey and I reached the drop off at the edge of the buoyed off area. Looking down into the depths we prepared for the chilly descent beneath the thermocline. Along the wall I busied myself with hunting my favorite two inch critters: nudibranchs!
We didn’t linger too long at depth. Joey and I were both a little chilly and more inclined to spend our dive blowing bubbles in the warmer shallows with the schools of fish coming to graze.
Of the three dive sites we hopped into off the coast of Dubrovnik, diving Little Africa was without question my favorite. I dive for the marine life and at this site the animals were bountiful and fearless. We were able to spend several hours exploring and of course photographing. My descriptions certainly don’t do this spot justice.
If you are more inclined to do your dive at depth and venture into some caves, take your diving instead to Lokrum Island. The landscape, visibility and cave entering into the island’s “dead sea” with keep you more than entertained.
Don’t Miss: The underwater winery of Edivo Vina about an hour outside of Dubrovnik. Visitors are invited to dive into the underwater wine cellar close to Žuljana and check out the ocean aging process firsthand.
Diving in this area of Croatia was certainly one for the memory books. Despite the wide skill level of divers that arrive to dive with Blue Planet Dive Center, the staff handled the different experience levels in our group pretty effortlessly. I was truly impressed by how flawlessly things flowed and how welcoming everybody was. We may have only dove three of Blue Planets 12 dive sites but that was enough to get a taste of the brilliant diving in the waters off Dubrovnik.
Cost: Set your cost expectations high for scuba diving in and around Dubrovnik, this is one of the more touristic places in Croatia which means everything is expensive. One ½ day boat dive (2 dives returning at 12PM) can cost as much as €65.00 per person and in addition to the dive, the daily equipment fee is €30.00. Shore dives are not as pricey costing around €30.00 for a guided tour.
If you are looking to dive when the sun goes down dives range in price from €60.00 to €70.00 depending on if you are diving from shore or from the boat.
Seasonality: The European country of Croatia can be dove all year round but the best time is during the summer months (June to September) when the temperature is warm both above and below the water. This time of year also happens to be the high tourist season for this country.
Regardless of when you dive in Croatia expect to wear gloves and a hood to keep warm, the water temperature is still chilly and there can be a pretty substantial thermocline.
Restrictions: The dive shops around this part of Croatia are good at catering their dive trips to all levels of experience so make sure you have your dive license on hand. One thing to note is that during the high season the dives fill up quickly so make sure to reach out to a dive shop well in advance to reserve your place. Because shops offer dive adventures that are usually filled at maximum capacity, make sure you are diving within your certification limits and have proper buoyancy, the divemaster and instructors will not be able to give you their undivided attention.
If you are planning on diving on your own, Croatia does require a permit issued by the Croatian Diving Federation. This permit is only issued to certified divers, costs about €15.00 and is good for one year. Divers will need to show their certification card and passport in order to receive their permit.
Companies: There are plenty of dive shops to choose from along the Adriatic coast of Croatia. In the Dubrovnik region, Diving Center Blue Planet is the most well known company working out of Hotel Dubrovnik Palace. This is the shop that we used to dive. Their gear was very good quality and they had a nice comfortable waters edge area to prepare for our dives.
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