In view of Croatia’s location and link to the sea, there is a fundamental bond between the people in this region and the sea, a timeless companion for those living in these regions. Down through the ages, man’s questioning spirit sought to explore and understand his companion and the world beneath the waves. Although it is difficult to establish when diving started in these regions, it has certainly been around, in one form or another, since the dawn of mankind. Recreational diving took off in 1996 with the advent of numerous diving centres and the boom in tourism on the Croatian coast. Istria was first, followed by the rest of Croatia.
Croatia’s eventful past and the natural beauty of its undersea world lure many divers. The diversity of life, the monumental underwater walls, reefs, shipwrecks and plane wrecks, as well as archaeological sites are an additional bonus. As of late, cave(rn) diving is becoming more popular, as it is an exciting way to discover the wondrous marine life, especially in the karst regions of Dalmatia.
Sights include shipwrecks dating back to ancient times found along the sea trading routes running northwards from Greece to the Roman Empire and its colonies on the Adriatic – Cavtat (Epidaurus), Mljet (Meleda), Korčula (Corcyra), Hvar (Pharos), Vis (Issa), Split (Aspalathos/Spalatum), Solin (Salona), Trogir ( Tragurium), Rogoznica (Heracleia), moorings in the Kornati region (Žirje, Lavsa, Murter), and in the environs of Šibenik and Zadar (Liburnia/Jadera), Pula (Pola), Roman villas on the Islands of Brijuni and many other micro-locations that were safe harbours and shelters for seafarers in the past. In the Middle Ages, trade flourished between Italy and the Levant; Venice became a trading metropolis and towns and cities where built up along what is today the Croatian coast (Dubrovnik, Split, Zadar, Pula). Sea battles fought during the 19th and 20th century left traces on the seabed. Many of the ship-wrecks dating from WWII have been rescued (especially along the coast of Istria), but there are still many that are accessible to recreational divers, and those waiting to be discovered in the silent depths.
Diving is subject to set rules and regulations and the Statute of the Croatian Diving Association. At present, laws prescribe that diving in Croatia may be done independently or organised through registered diving centres (irrespective whether Croatianbased or foreign). Appropriate permits need to be obtained (annual diving passes 100 HRK) and annual individual permits for independent diving activities (2400 HRK). 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. the Lim Fjord, the Mali Ston Bay and the Telaščica 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, Biševo, Svetac, Brusnik, Sušak, Lastovo, Palagruža, and within a 300 m perimeter around the sunken ships Szent Istvan, Coriolanus, Baron Gautsch, S-57 and sites at Žirje 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 HRK.