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Published: September 17th 2019
MORAY EEL IN AMPHORA FIELD
Several amphora from this ancient archaeological site contain eels.
It wasn’t easy. I bought a ticket on Veuling Air to fly to Croatia from Sicily. I had to pay extra to avoid a full day layover in Rome, then I had to pay one hundred euros for my check-in bag, at the airport. Although I had been the second person in line three hours earlier, by the time I paid for the luggage and got through security the information board said my plane was boarding. It wasn’t. I ran to the gate where people were milling around in no particular order like a pen full of sheep, and almost as crowded. After a lengthy wait, we finally boarded the plane. What a relief.
I booked an Airbnb in Cavtat, a little town on the coast in Croatia, near Dubrovnik. The Bacan Serviced Apartments were charming and in such a convenient location I extended my reservation twice. There was a small market and a restaurant close by and a bus stop directly across the street. It was a long walk to the dive store. Along the way I passed many small shops and numerous cafes. There were small, private, sandy hideaways tucked into the rocky
VIEW FROM MY WINDOW
I enjoyed a great little apartment in Cavtat, Croatia.
shoreline, but Cavtat also boasted real Mediterranean beaches dotted with umbrellas and lounge chairs in front of a few large hotels.
After the long scenic walk I finally made it to the dive shop, Epidarium Diving and Water Sports Center. The manager and divemaster, Damir, was busy but said someone would pick me up at 9:30 the next morning. I walked all the way back and up the hill to my apartment, then continued to the grocery store to buy some staples. After putting the food away I went to the restaurant and had a great dinner and talked to some other tourists.
The next morning I waited for my ride. Then I worried. Maybe the driver didn’t know the apartment building after all. The concierge called the dive shop…there was another apartment with a similar name and of course I wasn't there. The shop called the driver who was relieved to find me. When I got to the shop I set up my tank and carried it to the dive boat. It was a fiberglass speed boat with sleek sloping decks, so the staff discouraged giant step entries for fear the diver would slip on the slick
A SMALL ROCK FISH
This fish is protected inside the cage until it grows too large to escape.
surface. They insisted I sit on the edge of the boat, then pushed me into the water face first. It was just as uncomfortable as I had imagined, and I refused to enter the water that way again. (Damir threw his tank over the side, jumped in and donned the equipment while he was in the water.) The next time I slipped off the side of the boat from a sitting position and pivoted in the air before entering the water. I much preferred this method of entry. Really!?
The water was noticeably warmer than Taormina which was pleasant. Underwater the dive site was a jumble of enormous boulders covered in soft green algae. There was an abundance of colorful fire worms and some small fish. Damir pointed to a rock. I shook my head indicating that I didn’t see anything, so he peeled a mid-size octopus off it and held him up for me to see. The octopus jetted black ink as it was released. Divers have a hand signal for octopus. It would have been less disruptive to the octo if I had just put my camera down next to him, and I might have gotten a
SCHOOLING FISH OUTSIDE THE CAGE
The water is clear outside the cage. Inside the sweeping fins of divers makes the water murky.
better photo. During subsequent dives Damir found three more octopuses, and although I continued to search, they were so well camouflaged I was unable to spot them myself.
This dive store schedules dives at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. due to other sport activities; hang gliding, snorkeling trips, jet skis, etc. Also Damir is the only divemaster and so for his safety the store limits bottom times to 45 min and spaces the dives far apart to limit nitrogen build-up in his tissues.
So I had four hours to sight see, rest, and eat before the second dive. I walked, a lot. And found a restaurant and had a hamburger and fries. I took some photos.
Hey, Guys! I am a cage diver! No not a shark cage… it was an amphora cage. Kind of a let-down for you, perhaps, but I am fairly certain I won’t ever be diving in a cage surrounded by sharks.
This dive was a little deeper, inside a locked cage protecting the oldest and biggest underwater archaeological site in Croatia. The cage was about six feet high, but it seemed lower when we were diving in it, because we are
TYPICAL BOTTOM IN ROCKY AREAS
I thought there was something wrong with my strobes because all my photos were without color.
pretty bulky with tanks on our backs. The visibility was poor and Damir was ahead of me so there was a lot of backwash, the silty bottom stirred up by our fins. Sometimes an amphora housed a moray eel. There were schools of small fish but the cage prevents larger fish from entering. Here and there a bottle of corked wine lay propped in an amphora and outside the locked door were several cases of wine. Later I asked Damir what that was all about and he said people get a kick out of buying a bottle of wine underwater. Of course, I could not buy one because my luggage is already too heavy. I must limit myself to buying very small souvenirs.
On the long walk back to my apartment I took a rest stop and ate a banana split, for energy. It is a tough climb so I took my time, and decided to eat at the restaurant again.
The second day was much like the first…dive at 10 am, this time with a local family; mom, dad and 12 year old son. The mom struggled with her buoyancy. The man has a huge shell collection
Not many fish, the bottom is covered in this algae.
from all over the world. The good news…we dove off a big catamaran; lots of room, smooth ride and we did giant stride entries. But after the dive we had to climb a ladder with all our gear on and walk to our places on the boat. I struggled. Dive gear is heavy, especially after being weightless underwater. Most resorts and shops lift the tanks and weights from the water for you. It makes coming aboard so much easier.
The second dive was earlier due to scheduling the boat for other water sport activities. Manuel, a 12 year old, dived with us. His mom accompanied us on the boat. Manuel (an opera singer) and his mom, Pia are from Austria and they come to Croatia twice a year. This is his third year diving. The visibility was not great. We were diving small caverns and crevices and it was fun. Once I had to back off and pick up speed to swim through the current up and over some boulders. Current can be strong when the opening is narrow. The strobes for my camera were not working. I discovered later that the sync cord was broken. Luckily I travel
Warm weather, good restaurants, lounge chairs; Cavtat is a good tourist destination.
with a spare.
After the dive Pia offered me tea and we sat on a lounge chair and chatted. I bought another banana split on my walk back to the center of town. This is the first country where I have ever seen them on the menu. I decided to take a bus up the hill. I was chatting with someone on the bus when the couple in front of me turned around and said they were from Snohomish. Small world. My doctor is in Snohomish. It is a small town next to mine and I often meet friends there for lunch.
My last day of diving in Croatia there was a large party of men from France on the first dive. Pia met me afterward and asked me to lunch. Manuel is diving the second dive. She also had a towel and a beach chair for me and we played “Catch the Croc,” in the water. (Crocs are those light weight water shoes.) It can be dangerous, when both shoes are coming at you at the same time. Because of their odd shape they are difficult to catch. I even soaked up a little sun.
There is a little life and color.
final dive was uneventful, swimming through tunnels and small caves. Manuel also had trouble climbing aboard the boat with all his gear. Pia asked me to join them for dinner afterward. It was also their last day in Croatia.
I took the next day off to go sight-seeing across the bay in Dubrovnik.
Tot: 1.574s; Tpl: 0.027s; cc: 25; qc: 118; dbt: 0.0256s; 1; m:saturn w:www (18.104.22.168); sld: 1;
; mem: 1.7mb