This is a lengthy and detailed report of my recent trip to Vis, Croatia to dive some amazing wrecks. It includes information about travel, Covid, hotels, logistics, dining, etc. It is a long post but offers a lot of details for anybody else considering diving in Vis. Follow-on posts will concentrate on the wrecks themselves.
From the first time I saw a photo of a largely intact B-17 Bomber wreck in 230 feet of water off the coast of Vis, I knew at some point I had to visit and dive that wreck.
I had also met another diver who lived in Croatia (Branimir Ambrekovic) during my ill-fated Bikini Atoll trip and he had rave reviews of the wrecks off of Vis Island.
Now that Covid travel restrictions are starting to be lifted, I recently spent 9 days diving with Veljano and his team at the B-24 Dive Center in the city of Komiza on the island of Vis off the coast of Croatia.
As I did recently for my Palau Trip Report, I will also follow-up with detailed posts for each of the wreck sites that I dove during the trip.
Outbound Travel Notes
I flew Lufthansa from LAX to MUC to SPU. One of the challenges when diving at these depths and trying to take reasonably good photos, is the need to travel with a TON of equipment. This trip was no exception and I also needed to bring a drysuit since the water temps were in the 60s and I would be doing dives up to two hours long.
I had four bags and a backpack. I also had a good amount of Lithium Ion batteries including two large batteries for my heated vest and two large battery packs for the Kelvin Lights. These could not be checked and needed to be carried in my backpack (along with my camera, SSD drives, computer, etc.) which probably weighed 30+ pounds by itself.
The four checked bags included my rEvo rebreather in a Pelican Case (lower left), camera housing & equipment in a smaller Pelican Case (upper left), a wheeled duffel bag with all my dive equipment (lower right), and a duffel bag with my drysuit and undergarments (upper right). The total weight of my equipment was about 200 pounds.
Overall, the travel experience was relatively easy. Once I got to Split airport, I had a pre-arranged taxi to pick me up and take me and all my gear about 10-15 miles to the Split port for my 2+ hour ferry ride to Vis.
The last leg of my outbound journey was a taxi ride from the port on Vis to the small town of Komiza, which takes about 20 minutes. I met the owner of the B-24 dive center, Veljano Zanki, and dropped off most of my equipment before heading to an apartment I had rented for some much needed rest.
The hardest part of the journey was transporting the luggage around airports and on/off ferries, taxis, etc. but I knew that would be the case and there really isn’t any way to avoid it.,
Veljano had helped me search around Komiza for a suitable place to stay.
Komiza is a really small town (population about 1500) that sees a large influx of tourists during the busy season (June-ish to August/September) but there really aren’t any options for hotels.
I ended up staying in a nice 1 bedroom apartment Villa Kala that was a very convenient 5 minute walk from the dive center.
It is also a five minute walk to the waterfront where all the restaurants and shops are so it is ideally located.
I definitely enjoyed staying in Komiza. The town where I grew up (San Pedro, California) actually has a significant population of Croatians that originated from the small village. During dinner one night, I sent my mom some photos and she was with some friends whose families were from Komiza and they had tears of joy. I also met one person who also grew up in San Pedro and moved back to Komiza about five years ago. A small world indeed.
On the waterfront, there a few ATMs, cafes and markets where you can get some fresh produce, snacks, water, sodas, etc. to take back to your apartment. I also found a really nice lady who owns a laundry business and was very quick. I dropped off some laundry one one morning around 8am before going to the dive center and she said I could pick it up by 10am (I told her “no rush” since I would be out diving all day).
Dining and Food
Because I was there before the busy season, not all of the restaurants were open. However, there were plenty of great choices for fresh seafood and other local dishes. My favorite restaurant was Konoba Bako, Konoba Barba, and Konoba and Villa Jastozera. Below are a few pictures of the food from those restaurants.
I also ate quite a few meals with the family and crew at the dive center.
One Sunday afternoon in-between dives, Veljano’s dad and uncle had caught some fish and so I had lunch with his family. Another night, Alesh and Tony cooked up some delicious pork tenderloin with potatoes and vegetables. On the last night, they treated me to another family dinner with fresh fish.
I like fresh grilled seafood and so the food was definitely a big plus on this trip.
Covid & Travel
Shortly before I left home, Croatia (and possibly other countries in Europe) dropped the requirement for pre-departure Covid testing. I uploaded my vaccination information to the Lufthansa portal which was reviewed and “accepted” and I was ready to go. Airports were not requiring masks but Lufthansa was requiring them on-board for both legs of the trip.
For the return trip, the US was requiring a negative Covid test within 24 hours of your departure time. This makes for a little bit of a tricky situation since (a) I don’t think there are testing centers in Vis and (b) I had an 8am flight on a Wednesday.
My plan was to pack up all my stuff after diving on Monday and then take a 6:30am taxi from Komiza to the Vis ferry port for a 7am ferry to Split on Tuesday morning. The driver picked me up at the Split ferry terminal and took me to a Covid test at a nearby lab “Analiza.” They did a PCR nasal and oral test with results by 3pm on Tuesday. I hadn’t heard back by 3:30 so I called and they emailed me a copy of the negative test result which I had the hotel print (this was very useful during my journey home). At both airports (SPU and MUC) they asked to see my negative Covid test paperwork.
On Tuesday night I stayed at a very nice hotel, the Brown Beach House in Trogir which is is a 5-10 minute taxi ride to the Split airport which makes it very convenient for early morning flights.
Veljano was extremely helpful throughout the trip with logistics and taxis, etc.
I specifically chose to go in mid-May before the season got into full swing.
I knew I would want to charter the boat and dive specific wrecks and not be limited on run-time. I got in touch with Veljano very early in the year and we picked dates for the trip.
Below are pictures outside the dive center with Veljano (owner), Tony (captain), and Alesh (divemaster).
The dive center is very spacious inside and was basically built from scratch inside what was once a lumber factory. Veljano had dreamed of opening a dive center in this building since he was a young diver. He used winnings from free diving contests to buy and build the center. He and his dad essentially re-did the entire building and then built all the furnishings inside.
The typical dive day would start at 8am when I would get to the shop and then I’d have some coffee and assemble / test my rebreather, camera, get all my gear together and then load the boat and go dive. On days with two dives, we would come back to the shop to get some food and then head back out for a second dive around 2pm-4pm.
For the first half of the trip, we concentrated on wrecks in the local area of the dive shop and then mid-trip moved the boat to the harbor at Rukavac to dive the wrecks up there (B-24, B-17, Brioni, and Ursus). Instead of taking the boat back and forth, on those days we were diving wrecks in that location, we would just load up the car with the gear and make a quick 20 minute drive to the boat.
The visibility in that area is usually a stunning 100+ feet. Unfortunately, on this trip, it was usually about 30-40 feet. I believe this was due to the rising water temperature and the plankton bloom. For me, it was still nice given typical visibility in California but I wished it had been that stunning “pool water” visibility you see in some photos.
I did all my dives in a drysuit with a heated vest. The bottom temps were high 50-s / low 60-s with the 20 foot deco stop anywhere from 63-66 degrees (it was warming up during then length of my trip). I had thought about not brining my heated vest but I’m glad that I did.
Most of the wrecks have permanent lines but a few do not (more on that later during the individual dive reports). Quite a few of them are close to shore so you can either do your deco on the line or swim to the slope, deploy a SMB, and then do your deco on the reefs / structure on the slope.
I did a few of the dives solo but I would usually start the dive with the dive guide Alesh who was diving side mount doubles with deco gasses depending upon the depth and duration. He would generally leave before me since I had “unlimited” dive time and had the benefit of plenty of helium. He was also diving wet and couldn’t do the long run-times I was.
There are a few wrecks that are shallow, but Vis is really a location where you need, at a very minimum, Advanced Open Water and be comfortable diving in the 100-130 foot range and that will still only cover 3 or 4 of the wrecks. I wouldn’t recommend diving the wrecks there unless you are Advanced Nitrox / Deco and preferably at a Normoxic level.
Also note that Helium is currently in very short supply so if you are diving Open Circuit, your gas bill will be quite expensive. I dove 10/50 for all of the deeper dives and only used about 23 cubic feet of gas for my entire trip.
Below is a summary of the wrecks I dove while in Vis. I will produce blog posts about them with detailed history and pictures and then will link to each blog post in the table below.
I dove almost all the wrecks that I had on my “to-do” list.
There is one B-24 “Lady Luck” that is about 300 feet deep that I wanted to dive but the timing just wasn’t right. If (when) I get back, that will definitely be on my list and there are a few other “newer” airplane wrecks that aren’t widely publicized. I only got one dive on the Maris but it is a fantastic wreck and I only got to see about half of it due to the depth and my pre-planned runtime.
In addition, there are many more wrecks in the Adriatic that are worth exploring so the next trip might start further north and then spend 3-4 days in a few different locations.