Trip Report: Croatia March 2016

Where:Croatia
When:23 -29 March 2016
How many:30, of all ages, experience and certifications
Organiser:Tom Donald
Dive shop & Accommodation: Trogir Diving Centre
Cost:£560(+£180 for last minute unplanned return flights)

Day1
After an early rise, and some minor confusion over which carpark was the right carpark, the flying contingent of the trip gathered at Manchester airport, mostly on time! The next few hours ran smoothly and we arrived in Zagreb, Croatia’s capital, ready to board our coach to get down to Okrug Gornji where we would be staying. Due to some roadworks, our coach had to take a detour which meant it took us about 6 very long, cramped, hours to reach our destination. We had to travel over the mountains, which I’m sure would have been beautiful if it wasn’t night time, and I only realised we were as high up as we were when we left the coach for tea and were greeted by snow, and what looked like Nordic hunting lodge! Eventualy, we did make it to Trogir Diving Centre where we would be spending the week, meeting the road-trippers(who looked like they had an incredible trip so far) and Gerd who had made their own way.

Day2
Dive 1 – Trogir Diving Centre Bay
To get everyone back in the swing of being underwater, our first dive was in the shallow bay
just below the dive centre. This allowed for an easy kit up and plenty of time for inevitable
first dive kit faff. The bay was mostly comprised of a sandy plain, littered with metal oddments, small reefs and loads of seacucumbers, as well as actual litter. Having only
dived in the UK a couple of times, I found the amount of fish there actually pretty impressive,
despite the location. Diving with Alana, I managed to spot my very first seahorse, and like any good zoologist and long-time icthyophile, I got far too excited and lost control of my buoyancy and floated to the surface from 6m… A few others also saw the ponies, as well as
octopus and cutlefish, but I think this dive definitely just wetted our appetites for what
Croatia really had to offer!

Dive 2 – Santa Fuma
For our second dive we headed out on the two dive centre boats for the first time, ‘Woody’
and ‘Stealy’, imaginatively nicknamed after what their central tables were made of. This dive introduced us to what would soon become familiar as classic Dalmatian coast diving. The site consisted of a large sloping reef, littered with anemones, a large diversity of fish and lots of little nudibranch.

After a great first day diving, we all went back to our apartments for a shower and then many
of us popped to the local supermarket to stock up on food. We decided to descend as a group on a local pizza restaurant which was quite nice, but entirely unprepared to cater 30
hungry divers all at once! By the time the last person had been served, some people had already eaten and left! But the evening ended on a high with the SUSAC tradition of singing loudly and attracting death stares from others in the vicinity, including the first of many
renditions of “Climbing up the Sunshine Mountain”.

Day3
Dive 3 – Red Rock
Our first dive of the day was apparently going to be a drift dive, but where this drift was I realy do not know. I started this dive wanting to drop a kilo in weight to try and improve my buoyancy a litle.
But after discovering I was stuck at the surface and just couldn’t get under the water, I realised that I had in fact dropped 7kg and entirely forgoten my weights…earning myself a thoroughly deserved muppet of the week nomination and crème egg (I might do stupid things more often if I’m
going to get chocolate out of it…). This dive was on
another gently sloping reef, and we were treated to yet more beautiful Mediterranean fauna.

Dive 4 – Caparin East
In a strange twist, our second dive of day 2 felt much more like a drift dive than the supposed
drift dive we had just done, with some currents to swim against, but nothing much to shout about compared to the currents we’re used to in the UK. This dive treated us to yet more nudibranchs (they were literally all over the place!), fish and corals. Visibility on day 2’s dives were lower than on the rest of the trip and according to Ivo, the dive centre boss, the vis was realy appaling.
Having only dived in the murky green waters of Capernwray and the North sea, it still seemed pretty good to me!

Day4
Dive 5 – Punta Gaj
Unlike the prior two days, the weather looked decidedly British, with an overcast sky and signs of rain.
But our first dive of the day made up for the weather, with much improved visibility and a beautiful reef wall, plummeting down to the depths below. The dive was enjoyable at every depth, up at 15-20m for us Ocean divers and down to 40m for those more advanced in their training.
The wall was full of fish, including wrasse, gobies, scorpionfish
and large shoals of chromis shifting up and down the wall. But the overall scene of a large vertical wall disappearing into the blue above and below, covered in corals, sponges and large fan-like gorgonians, was perhaps the most impressive aspect of the dive.
The sun had poked its head out for lunch time, where today we were told we were stopping of at a “small fishing village”. I think more of us pictured a rustic village with small cobbled buildings, dusty pavements, maybe with a little market selling the days catch. So we were a little surprised when we turned up at a swanky marina with posh yachts and large fully functional public toilets-a nice treat since the only place to pee on the boat was off the back into the sea!

Dive 6 – Sarec
After eating our lunch in the colourful “fishing village”, we headed back out to sea and the sun decided to disappear again. But underwater, none of this mattered and we were treated to another beautiful reef wall, with lots more fish, corals and tonnes and tonnes of nudibranchs-
like seriously, they were everywhere! Above the reef wall there was a small seagrass bed, which myself, Beth and Tom explored trying to find some more seahorses. Unfortunately we weren’t successful, but reports of seahorses and other cool stuff like eels, large lobsters, octopuses and scorpion fish were coming in thick and fast from the other divers.

Dive 7 – Trogir Diving Centre Bay
For the evening, we had something special lined up, a night dive! Many of us, including
myself, had never done a night dive before, so it was a pretty exciting prospect to be getting into the sea after sunset. Diving in the dark, with only your torchbeam to focus on is a really
peaceful experience. Although we were only in the bay at the bottom of the dive centre, we all saw lots of cool stuff, with cuttlefish, octopus and lots of crustaceans coming out to play.

Day5
Dive 8 – The Bunker
The sun was back and on day 4 the sea looked absolutely stunning, being flat as a pancake for as far as the eye could see. Our first dive of the day was probably my favourite of the entire trip.
The dive was along a massive reef wall, much like we had seen before, but this
wall had three large “pits”, as Ivo described them, which were large overhangs in the rock. Two of the overhangs begun within the reach of us Ocean divers and the other was deeper. Like the other walls, this wall was abundant in large shoals of fish, colourful gorgonians and other corals and loads of little nudis. But the overhangs, absolutely stuffed with little colourful polyps and big bulbous sponges were a really spectacular site. Swimming upside down looking upwards into the nooks and crannies of these magnificent rock formations will definitely be one of the enduring memories of this trip for me.
We stopped off at the “small fishing vilage” again for some lunch and a nice-cream, with the colourful scenery looking beautiful in the full Mediterranean sun….which had a less pleasing effect on my face which turned almost as red as some of these boats…

Dive 9 – Galera
The nudi-spectacle that is Croatia continued on our next dive, with another sloping rocky reef. Again, this reef was full of life and, at this point, it seemed like just about everyone had seen an octopus while exploring the nooks and crannies of the reef. But I was still waiting…

Day 6 – Last day of diving!
Dive 10 – Zoparih
Clouds begun to collect again on our final days diving. Our first dive was much of the same, another sloping reef to explore. Well, I say this having led the dive and gone in entirely the wrong direction, so who knows what everyone else got to see! Though I still enjoyed myself since Emily S lent me her underwater camera gear to play with! We then headed to a little island where we stopped for some lunch.

Dive 11 – Vela Teluda
Our final dive! Another sloping rocky reef, interjected with bits of sand, with lots of fish, nudis and corals greeted us once again. I had seen lots of great criters on this trip but I really was desperate to see an octopus. The dive had virtually ended, with our 3@6 complete I was about to signal at Mike, my dive buddy, to head up to the surface. But when I turned to signal to him, he was intently staring into a cave. It took me a minute to work out what he was looking at, but when he made way for me to look, I discovered what had got him so interested.
Finaly, an octopus! The infamous ‘Buddy of doom’ didn’t turn out so bad after all!

After our final dive we all surfaced in very happy moods and celebrated by getting straight back into the water for a float around! Many songs were sung, some rather interesting outfits(courtesy of John and Gerd) were worn and lots and lots of the dive centres home-
made red wine was consumed on the boat ride back to the centre. After a fairly efficient kit clean-up and some packing, we headed back down to the dive centre from our apartments for our tea.
After another great meal by the dive centre team, it was time for SUSAC’s traditional award ceremony, the port awards….Or, in the absence of port, the weird orange stuff + crème egg awards.
Jacob was awarded with Diver of the Week for his impressive improvement during the week and muppet of the week was so hotly contested that there had to be two winners!
The first, Jack I, took home the muppet of the week t-shirt for leaving his kit stood up and unattended, allowing it to fall and bending the tank valve and reg, despite, as kit officer, telling everyone to not do that all week! The second muppet was Quentin, who had decided to give his new pee valve a try, but proved he is in need of much more practice by wetting himself instead.

Day 7 – Home Time
After a late night of, of course, more singing, we all gradually made our way back to our rooms to finish packing and get up bright and early for our super-long coach journey back up to Zagreb.
The road trippers got a lie in and looked like they had an amazing trip back to the UK, not that I’m jealous. As is probably quite well known, the journey back home didn’t quite go to plan, with us arriving at the airport only to find our flights had left. Long story short, Tom and Alana worked really hard to get all of us and our kit back home as quickly as possible on different flights, which will be paid partly by the club and partly by the trip goers. Later that evening, we were all back in the UK safe and sound, gathering in Manchester airport to say our goodbyes and head back to Sheffield.
Massive thanks to all those who dive managed on the trip, Trogir diving centre for being such briliant hosts, everyone who played a part in the trips organisation and of course a huge thanks to Tom D for putting our magical Croatia trip together!

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