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Hi All

Just back from the lovely Island of Losinj in Croatia. This was a last minute booking. Before I went I tried as usual to gather info from YD. For the first time ever YD failed me so I thought I'd put a few notes together for anyone else planning to visit.

The Travel Stuff
One of the main reasons we ended up here was the cheap Easyjet flights from Luton to Rijeka. They cost £100 each return. After flying with Ryanair the past 2 occasions the 20kg allowance seemed like absolute luxury. I was really pleased with the flights and service and delighted with Rijeka airport. It's exactly like all airports should be. Small, one café, one shop and you can park out the front of the terminal.
Rijeka airport is on the island of Krk. We collected a hire car from HM Rentacar (posh Skoda) for 2 weeks and set off across the island. It took about 3 hours to drive to the hotel. This included a drive across Krk Island, a ferry across to Cres, drive across Cres, over the small bridge to Losing. Fantastic drives, good roads (blighted by mobile home drivers). Some fantastic scenery. The islands are very much greener than those in the Med, with lots of forestation.

The Holiday Stuff
We had booked into the Hotel Punta in Veli Losinj, because it looked good (mostly because it was close to the dive centre). What a mistake! It was a horrible large hotel with tiny bedrooms that weren't clean. Food was canteen style catering for the mostly German customers. We quickly ditched the Hotel and moved into Hotel Manora in Nerezene (20 minute drive from dive centre) which turned out to be a little piece of paradise at the foot of some mountains within easy walk of a lovely little harbor. My daughter and I had a fantastic morning fishing with the owners father. I highly recommend this hotel if you're ever out that way.
Losinj is a very picturesque island, mostly covered with forest. It's a great place to do some cycling with easy paths around the coast and tricky ones through the mountains. Sailing around the islands looks fantastic. Food is standard Mediterranean fare, pasta, fish, pizza etc at reasonable prices (although they seem to use a heck of a lot of salt). There doesn't seem to be many English tourists there mostly Germans and Italians which I find nice. Lots of camp sites on the islands tucked away in the woods next to pretty coves. Just one road through the island so difficult to get lost. Mali Losinj is the main harbor with quite a few restaurants and bars and some big posh boats. Lots of people hire boats to motor around the islands so I'd recommend doing a RYA motor boat license before you go out there.

The Dive Centre
I did a bit of trawling around before I went and found 2 main dive centres.
Diving - Diver sport centers international - Croatia / Hrvatska
I chose the first one as they ran 2 hard boats. There are some other dive operations on the island but they are smaller and run out of some of the campsites with not much kit.
I was generally pretty pleased with Diver Sports Centre. They were a friendly bunch. The centre was pretty well kitted out with mostly 15l cylinders, mixture of Din, A and both, Nitrox etc. Good kitting up area under some shade out the front of the shop with lounging area. Outside classroom etc.
The centre runs 2 hard boats. A smaller fast boat that seats 12 in reasonable comfort and a larger slow boat that will take 20 plus divers with kit pushed under seats. The larger boat is used for full day diving (2 dives).
The centre is in a bay with a couple of hotels and camp sites. The bay also has cycle hire, sail boat hire, windsurfers and some on the water bouncy castles. So plenty to do for the non divers.
The less positive side was that there seemed to be very little emphasis on or promotion of buddy checks. I was diving on my own, leaving the family in the bay or at the Hotel. For some reason my 14 year old didn't fancy diving art all this year. So all my 10 dives were with different buddies each time. Dives were also restricted to 45 minutes for some reason (never got round to asking why. Bit of a shame as with a 15l and despite my air consumption I had bags of air left most of the time. Also some of the dives seemed a bit rushed..out to the dive site, straight in, out and back.

The Memorable Dives
Dive 1 (supposed check dive!)

Reef Margarina, Susak Island
Depth 33m
Temp 21c
I had asked for an easy dive as my first dive on the island and to be able to check weight with a 15l. Unfortunately that message didn't get across to the dive guide. Off we shot, 20 mins to the dive site. As we approached the 4 Italians and 2 Germans started to get their kit on so I did the same. As we anchored above the reef the skipper gave a briefing in English that went something like.."Susak Island, wall in that direction, drops to 40m, follow the guide and make sure you all make it back". At which point people started to drop in the water. I chirped up about buddies and was pointed to an Italian chap who I think nodded at me before he dropped in. I guess I should have binned it there but I'd traveled thousands of miles for this so wanted to at least get wet. I dropped in and did a quick buoyancy check then descended. As I looked down my buddy was already approaching the bottom of the wall at 35-40m. I dropped down to 30 and dived above him as he darted around looking in all the nooks and crannies. I got his attention after a while and signaled OK in an attempt for him to maybe at least recognise I was there. He didn't seemed interest so I concentrated on myself and kept above him in case he needed me. Don't remember much else about the dive other than thinking I shouldn't really be there and making myself mental notes about what I should have done. The bit I did remember was the steep thermocline at 20m (26c at surface and 21c at bottom). Thermoclines became a feature of all the dives i did in Croatia.

Dive 3
Depth 23m
Temp 22c
By the 3rd dive I'd got used to the way the diving worked. There really was no hanging around. It was everybody ready to go as soon as the anchor dropped, personal responsibility for safety, with buddy checks only if you dragged your buddy to one side. This time a much better briefing. We dropped in onto a plateau at 9m and headed off down a gully onto the wall. A bit of a current down the gully made it difficult to start with but quickly disappeared. Divers had been split into 2 groups (OW and AOW). I stayed with the OW group as the AOW divers I had dived with so far seemed to want to spend too much time between 30m and 40m. I just wanted some good dives. This turned out to be a lovely dive. As the wall got deeper it also got steeper until vertical. At this point as we turned a corner the wall was covered with a lovely green coral that seemed much brighter than it should have been at 20m. The wall was covered with lots of small nooks that were interconnected. I was hanging around at the back of the group and as I looked below me there was a European Conger? swimming in and out of the nooks.

Dive 4 (Night Dive) I love night dives!
Zabodaski Island
Depth 25m
Temp 20c
This was my 3rd ever night dive. I loved the other 2, completely loved this one and now think there can be no better diving than diving at night.
This is a tiny little un-inhabited island close to the coast of Losinj. We shot across in the fast hardboat SBS stylee and dropped in. Straightaway there was 10 times as much to see as a daytime dive. We dropped off onto the wall and this time the nooks were stuffed with at least 15 very big Crayfish (I didn't know they got that big). At the bottom of the wall was the biggest Scorpionfish I had ever seen in the Med.

Dive 9 (Night Dive) I really, really, really love night dives.
Zabodaski Island
Depth 22m
Temp 20c
I enjoyed all the dives in between (I just need to be wet to enjoy diving) but they were all pretty much the same. Nice walls, shoals of small fish, bits of coral, odd Nudibranch..
Unfortunately another night dive hadn't been put on the board so a Dutch guy, a Austrian and I asked if we could add an extra dive. They said we could have a night dive in the bay at the front of the shop so we put it up on the board. Fortunately 3 other divers added their names so we got to use the fast hardboat across the Zabodaski Island.
Off the SBS set this time with a sky packed with stars. As we made our way across 5 of the 6 divers pulled out cameras so we decided to take the dive slowly. We had no dive guide as I had already dived the site and everyone else was DM and above. We selected the big Dutchman in his Orange drysuit as dive leader and dropped in. The plan was to dive the 20m across to the wall and drop off to suprise the Crayfish. In fact we never got as far as the wall as we were having so much fun sticking cameras into things. The floor was littered with small red scorpion fish. A couple of big black and white Nudibranches. There was a small wall covered in white clouds of what I was told was Crayfish larvae? Lots of Anchovies getting caught in the glare of my torch. I borrowed a main torch from one of the dive centre staff but it gave out after 10 mins so I used my £20 backup which was fine. We all stopped at the end of the dive under the boat, turned lights off and played with the phosphorescence.
What a fantastic dive. Apart from the 20 pictures I took being pants.

Dive 10
Cave Srakane, Srakane Island#
Depth 33m
Temp 19c (in a 5mm Longjohn bottom and t-shirt. Yorkshire and proud!)
The night dive was planned to be my last. I still had Brownie points left but wanted to save them for a cheeky trip to the Red Sea later in the year. However when I go to the centre to wash my kit a dive had been posted for Cathedral cave which is supposed to be pretty impressive. So down my name went and up I turned the next day. Unfortunately the wind blew the dive out so we went to this smaller cave on Srakane Island.
We pulled up close to the shore with no sign that there could be a cave underwater. 5 Italians and I dropped in. The cave entrance is at 9m. We went in a pair at a time with the dive guide. The cave is smallish (6 divers would make it crowded) and lit from above. I was told you could surface in the cave but I think they may have mis-understood as I could see no evidence of being able to. As I looked to the cave floor there looked to be a pile of leg bones. Bit of a shock until I realised they were some kind of long leaf, whitened by the sea. There was some lovely orange coral on the walls of the cave. It looked as though someone had pushed big dollops of plasticine onto the wall and carved a leaf shape. I've posted a picture later, I hope. I think I've also posted a picture of a diver as I exited the cave.
After we'd all had a mooch we headed across to the wall. At which point my Italian buddy dropped down to 33m. I wasn't expecting this bit but I had plenty of air, felt relaxed and confident so followed him down. Not a great deal to see on the wall other than that big Scorpionfish that must be following me. But I had a really lovely time just diving. It's good this just diving stuff. Back up to the top of the wall for a safety stop. I tried really hard to stay at 5m mid water but still can't do it. So as I tried I made the resolution to get fit (lose weight), buy that promised drysuit and start UK diving i.e. learning skills in Stoney as it's only 30 mins away.

Coral on Cave Wall on Flickr - Photo Sharing!

Emerging from cave on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
6am Sunrise
6.30am sunrise over Cres Island Croatia on Flickr - Photo Sharing!
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