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The blue Adriatic

March 24. 2013.
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Some people say Croatia is the new hot-spot of European diving tourism, but it has a nice reputation amongst Central Europeans for decades.

The foreigner simply won't understand Croatia unless he learns about its past. If you check the map, you can see this country in the northern Adriatic area is close to the hearts of ancient world: Athens and Rome. There were ship routes thousands of years ago and many local museums have ancient Greek artifacts. You can catch the feeling of Roman Empire in the city of Pula where one of the largest intact amphitheatres stays. During its history Croatia was strongly connected to Hungary, Italy, Austria and there are many Middle Ages buildings from north to south in charming towns like Rovinj, Trogir or Dubrovnik. After the first World War, Croatia joined Serbia and Slovenia- later they united as Yugoslavia. After WW II Yugoslavia became a special federal republic: it was close to the communist block but under the leadership of Josip Broz Tito they tried to keep a distance from the Soviet Union. The administrative center was in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia and the tourism concentrated in the Croatian shoreline. The Adriatic Sea was one of the places where scuba diving had a good reputation and attracted many foreigners who explored underwater world since the 1960’s. Though diving was ruled strictly many Central European divers arrived here in the summer, they spent weeks in the country and they dived as much as they could on their own.

But Yugoslavia only seemed a peaceful country- the leaders tried to create the "Yugoslavian" nation but under the surface the people were Serbians, Croatians, etc. After the death of Tito the nationalist movements became stronger and in the years of falling of the communist regimes in Europe, Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia started to fight for their independency. The disintegration of Yugoslavia was bloody, the tensions between the nations resulted long wars. The tourists still can see the collapsed houses in some of the Croatian towns. There are gloomy relics of those years even under water: I dived the wreck of a military jet plane which was shot in 1991. Certainly during the war no foreigner holidaymakers arrived so the independent Croatia needed to establish a peaceful, hospitable image after the fights. They spent a lot of money on infrastructure (new roads, etc.) and in a few years the Adriatic shoreline became more popular than ever.

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After the Croatian war the diving life flourished, everything was cheap in the country which desperately needed the income from the tourism. There were several diving centers but most of the foreigners arrived with full equipment, they took their tanks, compressors, inflatable boats as well. On a crowded summer day sometimes a dozen dive groups went to dive to the popular shore diving spots so they saw only each other while the animals fled.

Croatia decided to rule the underwater activities from 2003. The new rules finished the uncontrolled diving and since then most of the visitors need to dive with a local company. It made the diving much more expensive and many people who earlier spent years in the Adriatic looked for new diving destinations. Nowadays the guests can dive the whole shoreline from the very north to the southeast point of Dalmatia with dive centers who offer quality services.

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