Croatia has 142 diving centres. Croatia’s eventful past and the natural beauty of its undersea world lure many divers.
Diving is subject to set rules and regulations and the Statute of the Croatian Diving Association. Appropriate permits need to be obtained (annual diving passes 100 KN / around 13,5 EUR) and annual individual permits for independent diving activities (2400 KN / around 320 EUR). For recreational diving purposes at registered diving centres, it is sufficient to obtain a pass and valid brevet.
Dives at certain zones are prohibited, unless organised through registered diving centres with diving guides as they are sites protected by the Ministry of Culture.
Diving is banned in the Brijuni and Krka National Parks, in the vicinity of harbours, and within Nature Parks and wildlife reservations, e.g. Lim Fjord, Mali Ston Bay and the Telascica Nature Park. Diving is also prohibited around/near (under 100 m) military vessels at anchor and protected military facilities along the coast.
Diving within the zones of Kornati and Mljet National Parks is limited; permits are issued by the park management. For diving around the Islands of Vis, Bisevo, Svetac, Brusnik, Susak, Lastovo, Palagruza, and within a 300 m perimeter around the sunken ships Szent Istvan, Coriolanus, Baron Gautsch, S-57 and sites at Zirje and Cavtat permits need to be obtained from Local Offices of the Ministry of Culture.
Fines for prohibited diving may be up to 15,000 KN (around 2,000 EUR).
Perhaps one of the greatest nautical tragedies on the Adriatic was the sinking of the Baron GAUTSCH. Once a modern ship and pride of the Austrian commercial passenger fleet, it sailed the sea from Kotor to Trieste. On 11 August 1914 it sailed out from Kotor for the last time. The ship hit a mine on the open sea near Rovinj and sank within minutes, taking passengers with it. War ships came to the aid, but 274 (or even twice as many) people died.
The two small islands of Veli and Mali Cutin lie in front of the east coast of the Island of Cres adjacent to Galboka Bay. Their beauty and diversity are stunning for both divers and researchers. This area is protected.
The undersea world is a rich multi-coloured, visually appealing diversity of flora and fauna. The most dazzling are the brilliant red gorgonians which appear at 28 m, followed by yellow gorgonians beyond 38 m.
Premuda is the most western island in the Zadar archipelago and is situated southwest of Silba and northwest of Skarda. Its waters conceal an exceptionally beautiful cave, in fact, a complex of small caves, called Katedrala (Cathedral), which received its name due to its huge cupola-shaped hall with a porous ceiling. Light penetrating the cave from various openings lends the sea a turquoise hue.
The Kampanel diving site is an underwater bank lying off the west coast of the Island Sali and is not readily accessible. Like its name, it resembles a bell-tower. It is an impressive sight with its eruption of colours and life and is one of the most beautiful diving sites in Croatia.
Numerous diving sites are found around the Island of Hvar, and most of them are located around the Paklina Isles archipelago. The name of these isles derives from the Croatian word for resin – paklina, however, over time, it has been changed to pakleni (devilish), a term that could also be used to describe them as they are devilishly beautiful. Those who have visited this part of the Adriatic will agree that it is truly one of the most beautiful destinations, one that offers numerous sites, on land and at sea, and notably around the Island of Vodnjak, as well as an attractive underwater crag, which resembles a bell- tower and which the locals appropriately call Kampanel (bell-tower).
Part of the River Cetina will reach the sea as a subterraneous river, ending its journey under the underground karst depths at Dubaci in Vrulja where the Mosor and Bikovo mountain ranges meet. In numerous diving guides this site is marked as one of the best in Europe – a cliff that drops into the sea to 100 m and waters mixing vertically with columns of fresh water rising up from underwater springs.
Unlike other wider estuaries where contributing rivers bring sand and silt, the Cetina Estuary has a rocky seabed, but one abounding in life. Strong currents and the constant pressure of freshwater sources enable the growth of plankton and a food chain founded on filtrators.
The Island of Bijelac, the cleft oyster of the Adriatic, lies near the Island of Lastovo. On the surface, it looks like a small island, but at a depth of 10 metres it divides into two columns that drop to 60 m.
Starfish adorn the ceiling resembling stars on a night sky, or the ornamented arched ceiling of a cathedral, and gorgonians on the drop are like candles. They create one of the most beautiful fields found on the Adriatic frequented by the most beautiful fish – the marine goldfish.
The southern shores of Mljet offer numerous diving sites; one of the most beautiful is the sea around Lenga, which drops into the depths, joining the wall that connects it to the small Island of Vanji Skoj.
Diving in the resplendent waters around Mljet and viewing its abundant marine life is an unforgettable experience and, irrespective of how deep you choose to dive, an experience worth recounting to others. Lenga also abounds in marine life; perhaps the most interesting organisms here are the colonies of red coral; however, as it grows at greater depths, this experience is reserved for more experienced divers.
Beauty often lies beneath a dull exterior. This can be said of Mrkanjac, the smallest in the group of islands (Mrkan and Bobara) lying at the entrance to Cavtat harbour. Mrkanjac has a rich marine life; walls covered in a variety of species and are surrounded by blue waters, schools of fish and an undersea world of harmonious beauty.
As the island faces the open sea, and due to strong currents, it is a site with a rich marine life, which makes it one of the most picturesque on the Croatian coast.
The Kaiser Franz Joseph rests off Prevlaka, on its port side. This famous cruiser sailed for only 27 years. Launched in 1890, it sailed the North and Baltic Seas, docked off Crete, in Lisbon and Asia. The wreck reveals the construction of this once well-armed maritime giant. It foundered and sank one stormy night, on 17 October 1919, armed with explosives that still lie near the anchor at the ship’s bow. Almost 90 years have passed, yet the Kaiser Franz Joseph is still an alluring beauty.