Diving in Norway

diving in Gulen

Diving in Norway

 

There is no question that cold water diving is more challenging than tropical diving, but the rewards for being a little hardier can be great. Diving in Norway is exactly that- rewarding. Cold water is richer in nutrients and attracts more marine life. It just doesn’t seem that way because everything is concentrated on tropical reefs. You certainly won’t get that impression in Norway, there is a lot of marine life.

 

Norway offers a lot of diversity in the types of diving you can do. There are deep walls in the fjords, shallow bays, and pinnacles. You can also go muck diving and drift diving. Norway is known for its wrecks and the Plura cave system, but there is also fantastic macro diving to be had, and opportunities to see large pelagic species in places like Lofoten.

 

 

Gulen WW2 wrecks

 

Situated in and around Sognefjord- the largest fjord in Norway, Gulen is home to numerous WW2 wrecks. Some are suitable for recreational divers, but tech divers will get more out of diving them. The most prominently dived wrecks are outlined below:

 

  • DS Frankenwald (German Steamship)- This 122-meter giant met its end in 1940 after being caught by wind and current in a narrow channel, causing it to run into rocks. It sank slowly enough to get all the crew off safely, but the ship was lost. The well-preserved wreck rests upright, with the deck at a depth of 24m at the stern and 34m at the bow. The mast is still intact and reaches 7m. It’s a popular choice for technical divers due to its historical significance and good visibility, but it can be prone to strong surface currents. Once on the wreck, however, currents are more manageable.

  • Ferndale & Parat (freighter and dive support vessel)- This tragic duo provides a unique double wreck experience. On the 16th of December 1944, the Ferndale was heading to Alesund from Bergen at night when it ran aground in a narrow channel. The rescue vessel Parat came to the rescue from nearby Florø. In the early morning hours, an Allied plane spotted them, and one hour later 20 RAF Mosquitos attacked and sunk both vessels. The Ferndale sits at a depth of 10-40 meters, while Parat lies slightly deeper at 50-60 meters. Conditions on the wrecks are usually calm. Occasionally there are strong currents.

  • SS Havda (Norwegian Cargo Ship)- This pre-WWII freighter met its fate in 1934 after running aground on a reef. Havda lies on its side at a relatively shallow depth of 12-18m, making it a good option for technical divers looking for a wreck with easier penetration possibilities.

  • DS Welheim (German Freighter)- On November 28th, 1944, the Welheim was on her way to Ålesund to deliver coal. She was attacked by a Norwegian MTB-717, which fired a torpedo. Suffering a direct hit, the 135-meter-long freighter slowly began sinking. In two hours she was on the seabed. The wreck rests on its port side at an angle of 85 degrees, and a depth of 30-40 meters. Four large cranes can still be seen on deck, along with huge winches. The deepest part is the stern. The propellors can be found lying at 70m.

  • The Oldenburg (German freighter)- A very successful German raider, it was discovered and attacked by British aircraft whilst trying to hide in the fjords. It sank very close to shore and lies on its side on a slope at a depth of 24-60m. This makes it suitable only for experienced technical divers.  The wreck itself is relatively well-preserved, but visibility may be poor due to a very variable halocline.  Extreme care needs to be taken in such bad visibility, as there are numerous entanglement hazards along the length of the wreck.

 

There are numerous other wrecks ranging between 30-100m, but they are not dived regularly and can be difficult to dive due to bad weather offshore. Gulen also has a lot of interesting nature dives, and many walls ranging in depth from 50-150m.

 

Diving Facilities

Gulen Dive Resort is located near the small village of Dalsøyra. They offer accommodation and can cater to all levels of diver. Full equipment rental is available, including drysuits, and they are able to blend trimix and offer sofnolime, along with O2 and diluent cylinders for rebreather divers. They have a dive boat with a diver lift that can reach 30 knots, and an 11m RIB that can reach 50 knots.

 

Getting there

Gulen is 2 hrs north of Bergen by car. You can also get a fast ferry (1 and a half hours) from Bergen centre to Soleitbotn, which is only 30 mins away from the dive centre. If you are diving in a group, Gulen Dive centre can arrange airport transfers to Bergen airport.

Plura cave

 

Nestled in the Rana region of Norway lies Pluragrotta, a hidden gem for technical diving in Norway. Nicknamed “Plura Cave,” it’s the longest water-filled cave system in all of Northern Europe, stretching for an impressive 3 kilometres.

 

For experienced cave divers, the allure lies in the challenge and beauty that Plura offers. The crystal-clear fresh water boasts exceptional visibility, averaging 35 meters year-round. In the spring months of March and April, divers can experience an unparalleled 100 meters of visibility. Be prepared for a chilly dive though, with water temperatures hovering around a constant 6°C (42°F) throughout the year.

 

The cave was carved by the Plura River over millennia, the limestone and marble formations create a captivating underwater landscape. Divers can navigate through huge main tunnels, encounter light-colored marble passages, and even discover a hidden air chamber.

 

However, beneath the beauty lies a challenge. Plura Cave reaches depths exceeding 130 meters, making it a technical dive suitable only for the most experienced and well-equipped cave divers. The deeper sections, known as Steinugleflaget, requires DPVs to navigate the long, narrow passages.

 

To access the cave you need to contact Plura Valley, a dive facility located right by the cave entrance. They offer a variety of diving tours, allowing divers to experience the initial sections of the cave system with proper guidance. Their well-equipped dive center provides all the necessary gear for all cave diving needs.

 

Getting to Plura Cave

 

Plura Cave is located near the town of Korgen in the Rana region of Norway. Here’s how you can get there:

 

  • By Plane- The nearest airport is Bardufoss Airport (BDU), approximately 160 kilometers away. From there, you can take a taxi or rent a car to reach Korgen.
  • By Car- The scenic drive from Mo i Rana to Korgen takes about 1.5 hours. Korgen is situated along the E6 highway, the main north-south route in Norway.

 

Once in Korgen, Plura Valley is a short drive away. Be sure to contact them in advance for specific directions and to arrange your diving.

Saltstraumen- Norway’s Maelstrom

 

Saltstraumen, located near Bodø in Northern Norway, isn’t your average dive spot. It’s a place where adrenaline-pumping currents meet a vibrant underwater world, creating a pretty unforgettable experience.

 

Nicknamed Norway’s maelstrom, Saltstraumen boasts the world’s strongest tidal currents. Twice a day, up to 3km of narrow strait connecting the Skjerstad Fjord to the Norwegian Sea experiences a dramatic shift in water levels. These powerful currents create massive whirlpools and can reach speeds of up to 40 kilometers per hour (25 mph).

 

Despite the challenging currents, diving in Saltstraumen is a must for experienced divers. The unique combination of strong currents and rich nutrients creates a diverse underwater ecosystem. Divers can expect to encounter:

 

  • Large schools of fish- Pollock, cod, and wolffish are just a few of the many fish species that thrive in the nutrient-rich waters.
  • Kelp forests- Swaying in the currents, these underwater forests provide habitat for a variety of marine life.
  • Colourful invertebrates- Nudibranchs and anemones add a splash of colour to the underwater landscape, though it might be too challenging for macro photography.

 

Given the powerful currents and depths that can reach up to 100 meters (330 ft), diving in Saltstraumen is not for beginners. Only certified dry suit divers with experience in cold water and drift diving should attempt it. The best time to dive coincides with the full and new moons when the tidal currents are strongest.

 

Diving facilities

 

Several dive operators in Bodø cater to experienced divers who want to explore Saltstraumen. These operators provide guided dives with experienced professionals, who know the currents and dive sites intimately. They can provide rental of all diving equipment, including dry suits. They also provide boat transportation to the dive sites.

 

Getting to Saltstraumen

 

Bodø, the gateway to Saltstraumen, is easily accessible by plane or car.

 

  • By Plane- Bodø Airport (BOO) offers connections to major cities in Norway and other parts of Europe.
  • By Car- Bodø is situated along the E6 highway, Norway’s main north-south route. The scenic drive from Mo i Rana takes about 2.5 hours.

Narvik wrecks

 

Narvik is a port city in Northern Norway, located on the shores of the Ofotfjord.  During World War II, it was used extensively by the Germans to ship Ore to and from the Baltic sea. As such, it became a target for the British. Consequently, there are numerous wrecks scattered across the seabed. Diving in Norway doesn’t get much better than these wrecks.

 

Some of the most popular dives include:

 

  • German Destroyers- The Anton Schmitt, Diether von Roeder, and Wilhelm Heidkamp lie close together, offering a chance to explore three warships in a single dive. These well-preserved destroyers range from 12 to 24 meters (40 to 80 ft) in depth.
  • British Freighter- The Romanby, a British cargo ship sunk by a torpedo attack, rests in the harbor basin at a depth of around 20 meters (65 ft). Divers can explore the ship’s compartments, including the engine room (with caution for experienced divers only).

 

The waters of the Ofotfjord average around 4°C (39°F) year-round, so a drysuit is essential. The visibility can be variable, but it can sometimes be as high as 30m (100 ft), depending on weather conditions.

 

Diving Facilities

 

There are a few dive operators based in Narvik, but none of them have the best websites in the world, so it’s better to contact them directly. This is fairly typial when it comes to diving in Norway.

 

  • Dive Narvik offer guided tours, equipment rental, and cater to all experience levels, and dive from their boat MS Galten. They provides rental of all necessary diving equipment, including drysuits.
  • Narvik Sportsdykkerklubb (Narvik Diving Club): A local dive club that sometimes takes out visitors on dives. The link is to their Facebook group.
  • Dive Norway: Located in Narvik, they offer trips to the wrecks. You would need to contact them about equipment rental.

 

Getting to Narvik

 

Narvik is easily accessible by plane or train:

 

  • By Plane- Evenes Airport (EVN) offers connections to major cities in Norway and other parts of Europe.
  • By Train- The Nordland Line railway offers a scenic journey through Norway, connecting Narvik to major cities like Bodø and Trondheim.

 

If you feel that a fantastic dive site in Norway has been missed out, please get in touch.

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