Thursday, September 8, 2005

Dive safari to Brac & Solta

It takes about two hours to cross from Hvar to Brac on the spacious but rather slow boat, loaded with twelve divers, and after a short translated breefing upon arrival, we’re pretty eager to get wet.

The water's 23°C fresh as I giant-step into it from the stern of the boat, but several short swims the previous days have somewhat prepared me and my snugly fitting 6+4mm rental suit does an excellent thermal insulation job.

Barely 3m deep two relatively small holes in the slightly sloping bottom allow easy one-diver-at-a-time access to a vast dome-like cavern. As usual, you can't see anything upon entry, as the eyes need time to adjust from bright daylight to twilight, but then, slowly, the cavern takes shape as its encrusted walls start looming out of the dark.

We’re supposed to spiral down and up along the walls, but my elderly Austrian buddy just keeps dropping down all the way until he hits the floor, after which he just stays there on his knees, silt bellowing around him. The cavern's also known as the church, so maybe he feels like praying. Luckily for him, right below the entrance holes, a mount of rubble rises up from the bottom at 42m to about a not-that-deep 25m. After a questioning look at the guide, we both drop towards the mesmerized diver. He doesn't seem to recognize the guide however, nor does he react to the guide's signals. So I firmly grab him by the arm, establish eye contact, and signal him to stick by my side and follow me. Which, surprisingly enough, he does for the remainder of the dive. Though in a rather trance-like state.

Supposedly there's some stalactites on one side of the cavern and a few stalagmites down below. But as there are several inexperienced divers in the group and the water being rather murky below 25m, the guide wisely chooses not to go that deep.

The cavern's large enough that two groups can dive it without really being aware of each other. Below us, several big tuna fish endlessly keep circling the cavern, but otherwise there's not really much to see and the whole experience only takes 35'.

After boarding the boat, the captain takes us to the next dive site, about one hour away near Solta island, this time for a wreck dive on a sunken fishing boat.

The water's noticeably cooler here, about 20°C. But it's a nice wooden wreck, lying between 18-22m, about 15-20m long I'd say, leaning slightly to one side, with some super-structure still remaining and giving it character. Too bad I don't have my camera with me as there's some neat wide-angle shots to be taken.

There's not too much fish life here either and the one nudibranch I notice, clinging on a rope, is lost the next moment in the tumult caused by a bunch of Polish divers, apparently not caring too much about marine life. The bottom though seems to be covered with sea cucumbers.

After the second dive it takes us a rather long three hours to sail back to Hvar.

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