The site of numerous battles during WWI and WWII, Croatia’s crystal clear waters are full of historic wrecks, plus Boeing aircraft, fishing trawlers and more. Steep walls covered in black corals and critters are ideal for photography, whilst caves full of pelagic fish are perfect for adventurous dives.
The Dalmatian Coast on the west coast of Croatia is a true representation of the best that the Adriatic Sea has to offer. Thrilling dive sites made up of caves, canyons and steep drop offs, combined with a collection of impressive wrecks, and all sprinkled with pops of colour in the shape of vibrant marine life.
Diving in Istria, in Croatia, means diving into a rainbow coloured underwater world of the North Adriatic Sea filled with a multitude of marine species, an interesting collection of wrecks which have been submerged for over a century and thrilling rock topography such as caves, caverns and swim throughs.
Islands and a stunning coast surrounded by sparkling waters which hold a plethora of marine life which have made their homes in the corals, caves, shipwrecks, steep wall drops offs and so much more; that is diving in Kvarner in Croatia.
Diving in Croatia
Croatia has been drawing in an increasing number of divers for many years. Its thousand plus islands are home to wrecks, reefs, caves and the kind of visibility that makes you forget you are even underwater. Much of the diving is in the Adriatic Sea where the coastline is ideal for diving and home to some beautiful sites. The coast has many cathedrals and grotto-like cave complexes for divers to explore as well as a host of wrecks. Croatia was the site of many marine confrontations during the first and second world wars, leaving divers in Croatia with a legacy of freighters, supply ships and even aircraft spread along the coastline.
Croatia’s tourist industry has been booming in recent years as visitors clamour to enjoy the historical and natural beauty of the country. In Croatia diving has been a large driving factor in tourism in and so wherever there is great diving there is usually a dive center or two. True dive resorts are rare in Croatia but many of the dive centers offer packages where they arrange accommodation and diving together for divers. There are only a few diving liveaboards in Croatia a great way to explore more of the coastline which is ideal for boat access.
Best time to dive
Croatia’s climate is Mediterranean which means long hot summers and cooler but mild winters. The high season for diving is from June to September when the water and land temperature are consistently 25 C plus. It is worth noting that although water temperatures are high the extremely calm conditions can lead to thermoclines so a wetsuit is needed even in summer. During the high season, Croatia is busy with tourists, especially divers, and it is a good idea to book both accommodation and dives well in advance to avoid missing out. The quieter season starts towards the end of September when the water is cooler. Bear in mind that some dive centers in Croatia close during this period although many remain open especially those who specialise in technical diving.
This is a great time to visit to avoid the crowds but the water conditions are still ideal. Those who prefer colder waters will find the winter season starts in October and lasts until May when you can avoid the serious heat and get the best prices on your diving and hotels.
Types of diving
Despite the calm waters around the Croatian islands, divers will find a host of wrecks of all shapes and sizes sunk due to numerous historic conflicts in the Adriatic. The islands in Dalmatia are particularly well known for wreck diving in Croatia. There is also a great variety with everything from Boeing aircraft to fishing trawlers found at the bottom of the Adriatic. Many of the islands are also fantastic for cave and cavern dives with the perfect topography for blue grottos and cathedral-sized caverns full of fish shoals. There are also steep walls covered in black coral corals and gorgonians, ideal homes for lobsters, octopus and other macro life. Conditions for scuba diving in Croatia make for gentle drift and night dives on both the wrecks and walls. These water conditions are ideal for dive courses and Croatia is a great place for technical diving and wreck speciality training.
What to see
Croatia’s waters are clear and full of marine life, the wrecks hold endless opportunities for macro photographers. Nudibranchs are an easy spot in a rainbow of colours as well as eels and huge stargazers on the sandy bottoms. Octopuses are found hiding out during the day but on night dives they and their close relatives, squid and cuttlefish, can be seen free swimming around the wrecks and walls. In the caves and caverns, huge shoals of fish like barracuda can be seen hunting for smaller prey.
Best places to dive
There are more than a dozen wrecks to be found off the coast of the small but picturesque island of Vis, impressive considering Vis is only 20 km long. Most of the sites are fairly close to shore and include several , a tank landing craft and two cargo ships. Once you are worn out on wrecks divers can visit the blue cave at Totac Biševo and deep gorgonian covered walls.
There are many caves and caverns to explore along the coast of Croatia but among them, Cave Lucice in Brac really stands out. As with many of the caverns in the area, there is an entrance just a few meters under the water, although the cave goes down to forty meters depth. What is special about Lucice is that divers can see stalagmites and stalactites which were formed when the cave was above sea level.
The Croatian government and conservationists have developed a fascinating policy of storing museum items underwater for divers to see. The Lastovo shipwreck was sunk in the first century BC but the huge piles of amphorae are on the seabed to stay giving it the nickname the underwater museum. While there are a number of more intact modern historic wrecks the chance to see something like this is far rarer even in the Mediterranean.