Category Archives: Diving

Scuba diving in The Netherlands


The sea, once it casts it’s spell, holds one in it’s net of wonder forever – Jacques Ives Cousteau

Diving in The Netherlands. I can hear you thinking. What? Where? Is there anything there? Yes, we have our lovely pea soup as we call it. Cold, dark, green waters, full of algae and thus life. There is a rather large diving community. Mostly Dutch and Belgian, sometimes even a few Germans. And me. How come?

Once upon a long long time ago. I was traveling in East Africa, Malawi to be precise, where somebody told me it was cheap to get my PADI certification. I am Dutch, so why not. I did my training in the large Lake Malawi and logged a few dives at Zanzibar some weeks later. And that was it. Years later, at the Poor Knight Islands in New Zealand, I went diving again. After being close to panic, I realized that without practice I would not enjoy diving. So I decided to go for my advanced certification close to home in a sand pit. Guess what, I got infected by the scuba virus. I was amazed by the many life forms I found under water, even with our mostly poor visibility. I kept on diving, became a Dive Master, attended some biology trainings and I started to check off as many creatures as possible, enjoying almost every dive I did. Almost, because diving in The Netherlands is not easy. Sometimes the waters were so murky that I lost my buddy, or weather was too bad to enter the waters safely. But, to be honest, I logged hundreds of dives in these waters. There surely are some really nice places for diving, each with their specific life forms.

Fresh water

The Netherlands has many lakes, all basically divable, but some have special facilities available. Think: toilets, parking, easy shore access, scaffolding and sometimes ladders, but most important food and beverages. I have been diving in some lakes like Oostvoorne, Vinkeveen & Spiegelplas. Especially in Spring, when the water is too cold for the algae to bloom, visibility is acceptable and you can see many animals waking up. Small Crayfish, Eals, Perch and small, but also very big Pike. Fresh water diving is not so much the flora and fauna as it is what we humans have dumped in the waters. Boats, tires, busses, construction waste. A lot of pollution, but also hiding places for fish. It is always a pleasure to explore. And difficult, for the compass cannot handle all the iron under water very well. Navigation skills are key in our country.

Grevelingen lake

The Grevelingen Lake is a large water area just south of Rotterdam. It used to be a sidearm of the North Sea, but due to the damming activities (Delta Works) for protecting our land, it was closed with two dams in 1965 and 1971. The largest salt water lake in Europe was born. Locks in both the Grevelingen dam and the Brouwers dam manage the salt level. Even though man intervened, the underwater flora and fauna found it’s way to flourish. It is an easy place to dive, even though navigation skills are still necessary and waters can be murky and dark. Maximum depths at dives are up to around 30 meters, but below 15-20 meters life is scarce. Some of the nice things to see are huge lobsters, crabs, all kinds of small fish, jelly fish, anemone, sponges, algae and some nudibranches. Very rarely there are sightings of porpoise and seals. In some locations artificial reefs have been placed to create hiding places for wildlife, and thus can be very interesting for divers. Even though divers have to climb with all their gear over the dikes which are protecting the land, the dives usually are very rewarding and facilities at the dive sites are great. Surely a good dive does not stand without some after dive drinks and food at one of the nice restaurants in the small, mostly pictureque towns around.

Oosterschelde

For me personally the nicest dive spots are in the Oosterschelde. Again a closed sea arm of the North Sea, closed by a storm surge barrier in 1986. It is not completely closed, the dam has sluice gate type doors which let water flow freely, until a storm and extreme high tides are predicted and the doors are closed. The flora and fauna can enter any time, making the diversity somewhat larger compared to the Grevelingen lake. Seals, dogfish even porpoise can been seen under water, but there is much more. In some areas large groups of sponges are making colourful scenes, more than 50 species of nudibranch can be found, large groups of sea bass and mullet are roaming the pillars of bridges and, my personal favourite, cuddlefish and squid are mating and reproducing in Spring. Every season has its active species ready to be found and admired. There are some hanging mussels which are accessible for divers. Amazing how good visibility is around these large numbers of ‘filters’.

Diving in these waters always depends on season, temperatures of the water, weather, tides, currents and number of divers. Anything can influence the conditions and visibility. But once I knew how it worked, I really loved diving here.

Diving: take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but bubbles.

Big Island – Hāhālua and more

Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away!

Hāhālua, or manta, is a large fish swimming in the waters around Hawaii. Wing span can be up to 5 meters of this super friendly pacific manta ray. “They have no real teeth, no stinger, and a harmless disposition. Their only defense is to flee. These huge and gentle creatures feed on a food source of almost all microscopic organisms called plankton, so Manta must work very hard to get this tiny food. At night, light attracts brine shrimp, a form of plankton that rays feed on.  Using their cephalic fins like big scoops, they funnel water into their wide-open mouths and filter out these organisms.

We wanted to see them and decided to book a very touristic tour to a bay which is lit with lots and lots of lamps, attracting the plankton and thus the manta rays. Probably with 50 divers we were sitting at the bottom of the bay, lighting it up with our lamps. After a little while she came. A young ray, probably 1.5 – 2 meters wide, swimming and feeding itself. Mouth wide open swimming, no better flying over our heads.
In the end we arrived back safely in the harbour. We had a great dive, even though I was so, so sea sick. Lost a lot of weight there and fed the manta’s. So, it was all on me this time.

The next day we make a slow start. My stomage finaly relaxed again, so I needed food. Breakfast with a view on the sea, palm trees and a giant cruise ship. Hahaha, time to leave before all the guests start swarming the town. We drive slowly to Volcano, passing by some nice spots along the way. First of all the beach where Captain Cook got murdered in the end. To be honest, it is a very nice place now. Then to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (try saying that). This is a beatiful historical site with some houses and wood carvings representing ancient times. A great place to have lunch, with a view again. White beach, palm trees, nice swell and some lovely cardinal birds.
Next stop painted church, which is very nicely painted on the inside, and black sand beach. The last is well known for the endangered green turtles which come to the shore to just relax on the beach. Luckily, many Hawaiian volunteers do their best to protect these animals.
At the end of the day we arrive at Holoholo inn, a nice hostal, owned by an old Japanese world traveller in the town called Volcano. We enjoy a Thai dinner and go to sleep. We are the only guests tonight. It feels strange to be alone in this large place, but we sleep well.

Diving Sulawesi

What can be nicer than diving on nice locations, looking for critters and most of all nudi’s! I was happy to be able to travel to Sulawesi and in particular Pulau Lembeh and Pulau Bangka to do soe very nice diving. What as on my wishlist? Lots of colourfull small animals living in the sea. And Lembeh is according to many the best place to go to. Well, the hotels were already top to start with.

Lembeh Strait

This is the place, muck, bit of coral, small walls… but most of all critters! And for me a heaven full of nudibranchs, or better nudi’s. In many shapes, sizes, colours. We made many dives, on each dive seing something new. The camera was flashing and even more flashing. For me, imagining the large numbers of species, in many sizes, colours but most of all, shapes. Small animals with deadly poison, larger ones mimicking something else. And mother nature makes this. Gives it a purpose and bright colours. How boring are we humans?

Bangka

Bangka was different. The diving maybe less spectacular at first, but we had the hotel to ourselves. Very relaxing, together with scruffy the dog, some rather large monitor lizards, a large whale carcass and the memory of a little dugong who died there. The sea was rough, the Island beautiful, the people friendly and relax was the word. Dive in the morning, read a book on the porch, hike the old coconut plantation, find some cashew nuts and do another dive. The dive guide managed to show us a seahorse of just 5 mm. Well, we did not see it really. There was this small blak curved thingy and zooming in on the camera later on learned it was a mini seahorse. And then… diving the Sahaung pinnacle. Wow, just wow. So much soft coral, white tip reef sharks, nudi’s, and a spectacular rock formation resembling a buddhist tempel. Simply amazing. One tank of air was not enough!

Yes, people are not made for flying and living underwater, however…

The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever – Jacques Yves Cousteau

See some more pictures on http://www.scubajo.nl/pictures.htm.