Diving safari is one of the best ways to dive, so it didn’t take me too to decide when I received the offer: “Diving safari aboard Oliga, four days, all-inclusive, 3 dives every day and great food. Let me know your decision as soon as possible because we only have a few more vacancies.”
Just to make it clear, Oliga is not a huge luxury dive boat, on which diving safari is held in Egypt or some tropical country. Oliga is actually a fishing boat, which was turned into a dive boat by its owner and captain Edi Franolić. There are no sleeping cabins aboard Oliga, but this is no problem, as you can sleep in hammocks or in tents on the pier or on the beach. There is a large sundeck on the roof, which also serves as a dining area for lunch and dinner, and in case of bad weather, food is served in the dining room of the main cabin, where the galley is located. Due to the limited number of divers on Oliga, there is enough space for all scuba tanks and other equipment, and there is room for everyone to change clothes without pushing each other. We put tents and bags with clothes under the benches on the roof and the diving boxes on the deck. Of course, there is also a dive tank filling compressor on Oliga, with the help of which we had enough full dive tanks for each dive.
On the safari, during which you are on board for four days times 24 hours, three things are very important: company, food and diving locations. The locations were chosen by Edi, who knows the Kvarner area excellently and therefore knows very well which ones will delight his guests. Food was also his concern and a separate article could be written about it. For every meal of the “full board” he prepared great dishes, and almost every day on the menu for lunch and dinner were delicious fish and meat. Of course, there were also various side dishes, salads and pasta, so for a moment this abundance seemed to be too much! There is always a small risk in terms of selecting the company on board and the possibility of minor disagreements after a few days, but in this respect we also hit the Jackpot! The people were really great and all four days on board were full of laughter, singing, and great diving.
Day One: Punat – Ćutin – Punta Križa
The first two dives were made on the rock of Veli Ćutin, and for the third one we chose a plateau between Mali and Veli Ćutin, while the other divers decided to visit the reef in the “blue” near Mali Ćutin. During the first dive, we suddenly ran into a current and for a few minutes we were able to enjoy a drift-dive. A great way to dive, just that swimming backwards is a real challenge. On the second dive, we headed to the other side of the rock, where there were many scorpionfish, and for the last dive on the first day we chose a huge plateau between Mali and Veli Ćutin, while the other divers headed for the reef near Mali Ćutin. Swimming above a field of seagrass and stones, we suddenly came across a huge cuttlefish, which pretended to be invisible, and a while later we found an octopus in a hole.
The first night we slept in Ul Bay on Punta Križa. “Don’t be scared if a deer visits you,” Edi laughed. We laughed, too, until we really noticed a few deer on the other side of the bay. “No worries, they are not dangerous, they are just curious.” Fortunately they did not come to the pier, so after a great dinner we slept until the morning.
Day Two: Premuda
Immediately after breakfast, we headed to Premuda, an island whose underwater locations are full of life and where one of the most beautiful locations can be found -the Katedrala. That was the plan for Saturday, and on Friday, two dives were awaiting for us on the long rock of the Hrip Island and one on the rock of Masarine Island.
While on Ćutin we had to use lamps to look for crabs and fish in the holes, it was totally unnecessary on Premuda. Already during the first dive, we quickly found several lobsters, with their antennas protruding from the holes, while the moray eels, even the smallest ones, looked very dangerous with their mouth wide open. While the others were diving at greater depths, Jacob and I were enjoying at 16 meters and looking for trash, among other things. Each time we brought a plastic bottle, a can, or some other remains of something that people didn’t need, so they threw it into the sea.
At the end of the second dive, we encountered a small grouper, a forkbeard, and a crab, which escaped so quickly that we could not recognize the kind.
After two dives, the weather turned bad. We hid in the bay, ate lunch on board Oliga and waited until the clouds had gone away, and then set off for a night dive at Masarine. The best two parts of this dive are the beginning and ending, as it is necessary to swim between the two islands from the anchored boat to the rock. It is very shallow, so sometimes a very strong current is created there. The rock of the Masarina is beautiful and even more interesting at night as the nocturnal animals go hunting, but the biggest adrenaline rush awaited us at the end of the day. Just when we were all out of the water, the storm started. It literally came from nowhere and then we were forced to sail around the channel near Premuda until it calmed down so that we could dock our boat to the pier. Instead of dinner, we decided to visit the local tavern and set up our tents a little later.
Day Three: Premuda – Punta Križa
“Edi, are we going to the Katedrala?” We all eagerly awaited the reply. “There are too many waves at the moment, so let’s make a dive first on the Bale Rock.” There’s nothing to do about it, Eddie is the captain and his decision is final. Bale is also teeming with life – crabs and morays, we also encountered a small conger. Here we were caught again by the current, so we swam for a few meters holding on to the rocks, and then the current stopped as suddenly as it had started.
Although there were still waves, we headed for the Katedrala. This location is not for the OWD category, so Jakob and I just looked at the entrance to the cave and then swam above the plateau. Because of the millions of small holes in the ceiling of the cave, air bubbles emerge from the Katedrala and create a fantastic scene. There isn’t much life here, so we used the dive to practice navigation.
A great lunch was waiting for us again at Oliga, and after that a great idea: let’s visit the Katedrala again! “Don’t worry, Jacob can come with me, and you can go to the Katedrala,” said Tomas, an experienced technical diver and instructor. I last dived in the Katedrala six or seven years before, so it was like my first time again. Due to the few clouds there were none of those specific sun rays coming through the holes in the ceiling, but the feeling was still fantastic! We swam quite slowly and searched the huge cave ceiling with the lamps. Some fish were found here and there, otherwise only silence. Like in a real cathedral. To the right of the exit is a ‘chimney’, which ends on a plateau. It is wide enough, but care must be taken about speed of surfacing. The air bubbles, which are released by the divers below you, are also a challenge, so the feeling can be very confusing at times.
The third night we slept again at Ul Bay.
Day Four: Punta Kriza – Ćutin – Kormati – Punat
The fourth day began slowly because the sea was too rough, so we decided to wait for a while. So we had more time for breakfast and removing the tents, and then we headed to Ćutin. We visited the reef for the first time at night, and this time we wanted to see it by day.
The reef is in blue, where it is not possible to anchor, so we had to swim on instinct for a while because you can’t see “anything at all”. But Edi’s instructions were very precise, so we couldn’t really go wrong. Jacob and I swam only around the top of the reef, and the others descended. When swimming towards Mali Ćutin, the compass and depth gauge should be monitored again, so that after a few seconds of swimming the shadow of Mali Ćutin appear. We made another dive on that rock, and then went on to dive number 12. Location: Kormati.
At the last dive of the safari, we visited a rock at Kormati, where, due to constant currents, schools of fish gather and it is teeming with life. Crabs, groupers, scorpionfish and forkbeard, and of course many smaller fish for the dish called “brudet”. It’s not easy to swithch to 100 bars when you know it’s the last dive and you need to head home slowly.
For the end
Why would anyone opt for an on board safari without cabins, sleeping in a tent and diving in the Adriatic if they can take a luxury safari in Egypt, for example? The answer is very simple. Safari on Oliga is really something special! Because of the boat, captain Edi and his crew, great food, cheerful evenings and, of course, fantastic diving locations. And when you add a great company of scuba diving friends at the end, four days are definitely not enough …