Croatian waters are rumoured to be among the clearest in the world. They offer scuba divers a wide range of excellent diving opportunities, and for once the rumours are true! On the best days, you might have about 25 metres of visibility under water, which is an exceptional distance, and is great news for anyone interested in scuba diving.
The reasons for the great visibility are many:
Being a very sheltered, pleasant little body of water, the tides and currents of the Adriatic Sea are very small.
The climate is quite stable, which also makes the waters clearer, since lower thermal variation in the water gives better visibility.
The bottom of the sea itself is also mostly made up of stones, and contains less sand to whirl up, which would otherwise lessen the visibility range.
Further north along the coast, though, the bottom does tend to get more sandy, and not as varied as in the south. In addition, the waters generally don't contain very much algae and plankton.
The best diving opportunities are mostly found along the southern parts of the coast, and on the many Croatian islands' sea-facing sides. These areas are also the parts that offer the most diverse diving opportunities, because the southern parts of the coast are closer to deeper waters, which makes fish types more varied and plentiful.
The Croatian coast also contains a lot of underwater caves and cave diving, in particular, is among the specialities of Croatian scuba diving. You can also do wreck diving on both ancient wrecks and more recent ones, including wrecks from both World Wars. Reef diving is also possible, although the reefs are not too plentiful and tend to be in deeper waters, making them a little more inaccessible. In the north, the depth seldom goes beyond 60 metres, making diving a bit less diverse and exciting than that on offer in the south.
Safety is also a plus when scuba diving in Croatia. With only gentle tides and few currents, and without dangerous bloodthirsty fishes, sharks or other nasties, dives here are just about as safe as they come. In many places, the worst creature you will meet is a sea eagle or a sardine with an attitude, and the maximum approved depth for diving for sport and recreation is 40 metres. So as long as you are not into shark dives or very deep dives, Croatia will suit almost anyone from the very green divers to experts. Almost everyone will find something they might like here, whether it is to, or above, their skill level. In any emergency, there is a rescue team for divers that can always be reached through the following channels1, in case of any diving hazards:
- Rescue Team phone number - 9155(DAN)
- VHP channels 16,10.74
To obtain permission for diving, you will need to obtain a diver's card that makes you eligible to dive in Croatia, which is issued by the local port authorities for a fee of 100 kunas (around £8 to £10). To get a diving card, you will also need to show your diving license. The Croatian Diving Federation recognises almost all the international diving schools. You can also go on organised dives with one of the many diving clubs that lie along the coastline.
Diving in the country's national parks is prohibited without a special permit. Information about where to obtain such a permit for various locations can be found on the Croatian Diving Federation homepage. Diving is not permitted at the following locations:
In the areas of internal sea waters encompassing harbours, accesses to harbours, anchorage and areas of heavy traffic.
In strict and special sea reserves, natural parks and other protected sea and undersea areas, except as explained above.
Near anchored warships and protected military facilities at the coastal edge at the distance of less than 100 metres.
There is also no diving in Brijuni or Krka national parks. Although diving is restricted in the Kornati and Mljet National parks, it is possible to join organised dives in both parks.
If you do not have a diving license before arriving in Croatia, do not despair! Although you do need one, the diving courses there might be a lot cheaper than in many other places. Many Croatian diving clubs will offer them to anyone prepared to pay the fee, simply check wherever you are along the coastline for the nearest diving centre or club, and they will be able to help you out.
For more online information about scuba diving in Croatia, you can visit the official website of the Croatian Diving Federation, where you will also find the rules and regulations you will have to follow while diving in the country. Diving in Croatia offers another good and informational guide, with links to all the diving centres on the Croatian coast.
Finally, the US Consular Information Sheet for Croatia states that, although fighting in Croatia ceased in 1995, not all landmines have been cleared, or even marked out. In areas where conflict took place, it is advised to keep to clearly marked safe roads.