Our scuba diving adventure in Slovenia was the perfect balance between organization and spontaneity. We knew we wanted to hit the water during our short six-day stay in the small town of Isola, but we had a hard time finding a dive center that was open on the only Sunday we had open for diving. We were pretty pumped when Sharkey Dive Center in Piran came through!
Sharkey Diving Center is attached to the Fiesa Hotel. Once you arrive at the hotel, finding the shipping container turned dive shop is pretty easy. If you’re a heavy packer, like us with our camera equipment and cooler, head to the shop and borrow their dolly to ease the gear transportation. The dive shop is about 200 meters from the road and has everything you could need for diving on site.
Joey and I arrived bright and early for a day of underwater adventures. After renting and assembling all our gear, we suited up eager to get in the water. The shop owner showed us a very detailed map of the area (right down to the compass reading and number of fin kicks). There were wrecks, reefs, seagrass beds, statues and even a sunken car. I was so excited to see this underwater playground.
We decided to start our dive by heading out towards the reef and find the sunken car. Alternatively, you can begin your dive by heading left and searching out the barren seagrass bed that is sometimes home to the ever elusive Long Snouted Seahorse (Hippocampus ramulosus).
Like most of the places we have dove in the Adriatic Sea thus far, we expected to see much of the same marine flora and fauna on Fiesa Reef. As we swam over the reef I caught sight of a cuttlefish out of the corner of my eye. It was hard but I finally managed to get Joey’s attention and signaled my spotting to him. I readied my camera and crept closer and closer to the little guy that was about the size of my hand. I had never seen a cuttlefish in the wild but after having worked with them at an aquarium I have come to know them as pretty skittish cephalopods. The species we found was a European cuttlefish (Sepia officinalis) and his behaviour was definitely not what I expected. He was positively fearless and came right up to the camera for a closeup. At one point I had my hand out and he was inches away from grabbing ahold of one of my fingers. We spent easily over half of the dive just swimming around with this friendly and curious cuttle until we decided to head onward to the other attractions. So far our dive day was brimming with good fortune.
As we arrived at the edge of the reef, the depth dropped off several feet and turned to sand. We followed the sandy bottom with the rocky ridge on our right until we arrived at a maze of clams that we had to swim through. This maze was essentially gigantic one-foot-long clams anchored vertically in the water and semi-buried in the sandy bottom. Their appearance reminded me so much of tombstones that I christened them “The Clam Graveyard.” On a lot of the clams, Joey and I found ravenous crabs picking away at the clam shells’ exterior.
It wasn’t long after we left the Clam Graveyard in our wake, that the cutest little sunken car materialized out of the blue. The car looked very odd amid the watery backdrop. As we swam closer to the automobile, I could see the years of marine growth etched on the car’s frame, giving it an artificial reef like appearance. It wouldn’t be long before nature had completely claimed this vehicle as its own.
Joey and I bottomed out our dive at 11 meters (32 feet) as we check out some small sailboat wrecks at the bottom of the cove. As cool as it was to see these sunken boats, nothing compared to the underwater car. We scoured the wrecks for any cryptic critters, hoping to find a seahorse or two but came up empty-handed.
In spite of not seeing a seahorse on our first dive of the day, some of Slovenia’s permanent inhabitants we spotted included cuttlefish, damselfish, gobies, wrasses, congers and sea perch.
After some of the neat sightings on our first dive, I hardly expected to have the same luck. I was very wrong! Dives two and three were even more successful regarding animal sightings. On top of the regulars we had seen we also got to look at some nudibranchs and a huge predatory sea slug (Tethys fimbria) that was slightly bigger than my hand. I felt downright spoiled!
Interesting Fact: Tethys fimibria may look like nothing more than a dead jellyfish or slimy plastic bag, but they are in fact the largest sea slug in the Mediterranean growing as large as 30 centimeters.
At the very end of our dive, it finally happened. We found the small patch of seagrass with not one but two seahorses that I had been, so hell-bent on finding. It was a grinning from ear to ear kind of moment!
We didn’t get the chance to do a night dive while in Slovenia. If you are a creature of the dark and want to do some night diving in this country; lobsters, squid, octopus and conger eels frequent the Fiesa Reef area when the sun goes down.
Whether you’re finning around in the shallows dancing with the curious cuttlefish or heading out in deeper waters on the hunt for some sunken treasures, it is without question that Slovenia is indeed a scuba diver’s playground!
Cost: Diving in Slovenia is cheap as chips in comparison to the rest of Europe! If you bring your own equipment, a shore dive costs merely €25.00 for a guide, tank, and weights. On the other hand at €35.00 for a guide, full gear and a tank, you can’t go wrong with trying a dive or two in this country. Moreover, if you are a creature of the dark, night dives range from €40.00 to €50.00, depending on your equipment.
Seasonality: Slovenia is a country that you can theoretically dive in all year round. However, the high season is in the summer months when the air and water temperature peaks (July and August are the months with the highest recorded water temperatures). Be wary in June and October as these last have the most rain and with high amounts of rain come less than ideal visibility. Due to the accessibility and popularity of Fiesa Reef, if you are planning on diving this site aim to do it during the week for fewer divers.
Restrictions: Diving Slovenia is pretty relaxed. Most of the typical dive sites are relatively shallow. Having only your Open Water scuba certification should be enough to allow you to dive with most if not all diving centers. One thing to be careful of is depending on the company you decide to go with you have the option of exploring the reefs on your own or with a guide. We did two of three dives on our own and loved every second of it. If you are a novice diver, make sure to take a look at the map and follow compass readings, so you don’t get lost in an unfamiliar dive environment.
Companies: The coastline of Slovenia may be short, but there are still a fair few dive centers to be found. Because of their flexible schedule and competitive prices, Sharkey Dive Center was our shop of choice during our stay in Slovenia.
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