Fantastic news if you are a scuba diver, the landlocked country of Macedonia has some pretty neat diving opportunities in Lake Ohrid.
Macedonia’s Bay of Bones is a cultural landmark of reconstructed pile dwelling settlements dating back to the Bronze and Iron Age, 1200 – 700 BC. This museum on the water is located on Lake Ohrid, one of the oldest and deepest lakes in Europe. The Bay of Bones gets it name for the massive amounts of animal bones found buried in the lake bed after the underwater archeological sites discovery in 1997. Since then, this one of a kind archaeological complex has been rebuilt as authentically as possible with a massive wood supported platform anchored to the lake bed and real fur added to the huts.
Not only does the Bay of Bones have a lot going on at the surface but under the city is pretty exciting too. With the Amfora Dive Center, scuba divers can swim through the huge wooden columns that support the city and visit Plocha Michov Grad, an ongoing underwater excavation site in the flesh. Even after all these years there you can find pottery shards, stone and flint objects and animal bones, some of which were used as tools.
Our stay in Macedonia was a short one. We had to be organized to make sure we got to dive the Bay of Bones. The weather worked in our favour. We had clear blue skies all week during our stay.
Joey contacted the Amfora Dive Center that operates on this UNESCO Heritage site well in advance. He had scheduled us in for a 10 AM Monday start. We were slightly nervous when we arrived in the parking lot for the Bay of Bones museum only to find it closed on Monday’s. Our nervousness was short lived however because as promised the owner of the shop and our divemaster for the day arrived promptly on schedule.
Once the guard let us in the gate the realization slowly dawned on us that we had the entire museum to ourselves! No crowds to compete with, no crazy tourists photobombing our pictures, we had seriously lucked out.
Our friendly divemaster was a very interesting and knowledgeable dude. He had done some diving in quite a few different places around the world. Right from the get go he was very honest with us saying that if we expected amazing visibility and crazy colorful animals we had come to the wrong place. Lake Ohrid was no Carribean reef – the only thing this site had in common with the Caribbean was its waves.
Of course the water in Lake Ohrid was not at a tropical temperature at the beginning of April but since we had dove in much colder waters, that didn’t stop us.
Sporting the thickest neoprene suits in the shop we waded into Lake Ohrid with chilly reluctance. Mask on, fins on, regulator in and dive! The worst part of the dive was plunging my head underwater. The cold sneaky lake water found its way into every nook and cranny of my suit. It leaked into my neck and trickled down my shoulder and back. It took me a good minute to get my wits about me.
Once I figured out my legs were still functional, Joey and I followed the divemaster just below the choppy surface. Slowly shapes began to take form around me as I saw plant life and the occasional fish dart by. Up ahead an ancient underwater wonderland materialized from the shadows.
We approached the large wooden pillars of the UNESCO Bay of Bones Heritage site. Their gigantic form seemed to drop from the sky and sink into the muddy benthics. As to be expected it was dark in the shadows of the city. All around me were columns placed here and there in a grid like orderly fashion. The blue waters of the lake and sunrays played peek-a-boo with us as we weaved through the columns and came out the other side, it was almost blinding.
Plocha Michov Grad is the name given to the underwater archeological site found beside the Bay of Bones landmark. Here we could see laid out grids sectioning out the lake bed for ongoing scientific diving and excavation. We poked around the site, finding some pottery and an old decaying jaw, being careful not to disturb any ongoing work. As a past science geek, it felt pretty cool to see Macedonian history freshly being discovered.
All in all, we ended the dive when we started to shiver not because we ran out of air. April was a little too early to stay underwater for an extended amount of time. For any prospective scuba divers looking to plunge into this spot, the most extraordinary part about diving the Bay of Bones is not the aquatic life but the rich history. Old and ancient jaws, pottery shards and historic discoveries are just waiting to be found on one of Europe’s deepest lake beds.
Cost: One dive at the Bay of Bones costs €40.00. This price includes all equipment rental, entrance to the UNESCO World Heritage and a guided dive.
Seasonality: You can be crazy like us and dive the Bay of Bones in April when we water is still freezing and the fish are few and far between OR you wait for the typical Lake Ohrid dive season during the summer months (May-September). During the summer the water is comfortably warm and the shallows around the base of the UNESCO Heritage structure just fills up with little silver fish.
Restrictions: Diving the Bay of Bones is a pretty simplistic dive the most important thing you need to make sure you have on hand is your Open Water scuba certification.
Companies: Trying to find a Macedonian scuba diving company to dive the Bay of Bones on Lake Ohrid is easy. The one and only company that has permission to dive the UNESCO World Heritage site is Diving Center Amfora.
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