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Fun Down Under by GS Review

“Everyday problems are history, once you make your first dive,” says Anto Vukovic of the Blue Planet Dive Centre at the Dubrovnik Palace Hotel. With clear water and friendly expert instruction, it’s the perfect place to learn to dive in safety and confidence. Discover a magical new blue world of weightlessness and silence.

Anto Vukovic grew up in a small fishing village on the Peljesac peninsula, but a passion for diving and underwater photography has taken him all over the world – the undersea world, that is, which accounts for three quarters of the earth’s surface. A diving instructor with the full range of international qualifications, Anto has returned to his native Dalmatia to head the team at the Blue Planet Dive Centre at the Hotel Dubrovnik Palace, which he considers the perfect springboard for exploring the world beneath the surface: close enough to the centre of Dubrovnik to be easily accessible, yet far enough for clear, calm water with a rich sub-aquatic flora and fauna.

“Diving is a sport for all ages,” says Anto, “and you don’t have to be super-fit to enjoy it.” The Blue Planet school takes children from the age of eight and introduces them to the techniques and disciplines of safe diving in shallow water.

Anto’s team of multi-lingual instructors also trains divers for all levels of their PADI qualification, from the introductory three-hour Skin Diver certificate and refresher courses to the Open Water Diver, which takes most people 5 or 6 days to complete, and more advanced qualification including Dive Master (a 10 day course). Guests can bring their own equipment, cleaning and storing it at the Dive Centre, or rent everything they need on site.

Depending on the weather and their confidence, beginners can learn the basics in the swimming pool, which may be an easier environment for the instructors to get their message across, or go straight in to the sea, where the water temperature varies from 18 in spring to 23 in late summer.

“We have a special shallow sheltered area near the dive centre which is just right for beginners and children,” says Anto, an ebullient character who is always popular with the juniors. “If you have an eye for natural beauty, and a keen spirit of adventure, and don’t mind the idea of making new friends and having fun, we are exactly what you have been looking for! I can’t wait to take you down.”

Safety is a top priority at Blue Planet Diving, and all dive groups are accompanied an instructor or dive leader. But there is no obligation to sign up for a training course - experienced divers can take a half day or full day excursion with one or two dives. “The morning dive is ideal for visitors whose partners like to sleep late,” says Anto, “while afternoon dives suit the younger generation, after a big party night.” There are deep dives, wreck dives, night dives, long-haul excursions to far-off islands where nature remains virginal. You name it, Anto does it. “The Adriatic isn’t a warm-water diving experience with the vivid colours you can expect in the Red Sea,” he says. “But the great thing about this part of the Adriatic is the visibility, which is often as much as 50 metres. “Near the Dubrovnik Palace, for example, there’s a wreck of an Italian warship, the Taranto, which hit a mine in 1944 and sank, and is now leaning at an angle of 45 degrees against a reef, with two tractors that fell out of the ship as it went down, on the sea bed beside it. The top of the wreck is at a depth of 25 metres, the bottom 52 metres, and often the visibility is as good at the bottom as the top.” Diving at these depths is only for experienced divers, and it’s important to be with an instructor. The visibility is so good, it’s easy to forget how deep you are, which may lead to decompression problems.

Apart from the wreck, Anto has a variety of dive sites close to the dive centre, suitable for different levels of experience. One site has a cave at 20 metres depth, where you can expect to see octopus, lobster, scorpion fish and other slippery customers. Another site has a cave at 40 metres (suitable only for experienced divers) with red coral. There is also a small reef at 12 – 15 metres, which is just right for beginners and night diving.

“Everyone loves night dives,” says Anto.

“The group members make friends on the terrace of the Dubrovnik Palace and enjoy the fantastic sunset view, and there are always masses to see under water, as they don’t swim away when a diver’s head lamp shines in their eyes. And diving is so sociable, our night dives always seem to turn in to a party night under the stars.

“But please, don’t write too many words,” Anto tells us. “Diving is a feeling, and a visual experience, not something you can put in to words. Show them my pictures instead!”


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         GS Review / Summer 2007

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