The most magnificent dive spots are scattered all over Europe.
But do you know which destination has the objective of becoming the first diving destination in Europe, could it be Zeeland Netherlands ?
It is not diving in France, nor Spain, nor Greece, nor any other destination offering blue and warm waters (in the summer) … but diving Zeeland Netherlands, a tiny region bordered by the cold waters of the North Sea.
Let’s go for this mysterious destination which seems to be full of treasures of fauna and flora. It seems that there are magnificent nudibranchs.
This is to answer the question: is it possible to see nudibranchs in the cold waters of Zeeland? Is visibility not too restricted ?Is fauna and flora absent and plankton so present that it prevents any possibility of seeing life?
Here we are on the way to Zeeland to see if it is true. We will check if the dives are worth it and if we can see nudibranchs in this part of the North Sea.
But first of all, we need to know a bit more about this destination.
Zeeland (meaning land to sea) is a province of the Netherlands.
Stuck between neighboring Belgium and South Holland, this province groups 13 communes on an area of just under 3000 km². If the province, divided in three by the sea, is not lacking in tourism (huge beaches, the sea allowing to sail, delicious restaurants, …), it also wants to attract in these waters the European divers. Diving Zeeland Netherlands is really fun !
In recent years, the plan of the province of Zeeland aims to make it the first diving destination of Europe and invests real money to achieve it.
The facilities provided at the dive spots as well as infrastructures free of charge for the divers are numerous. Changing rooms. Hot showers. Toilets, rinsing tanks, automatic filling stations (including NITROX), but also specific signs indicating the particularities of the sites, the creation of artificial reefs or alternatively access ramps or platform.
Zeeland today is more than a million dives made each year by Dutch, German, Belgian or French divers. Incredible for such a small territory!
These divers come, most often for a weekend, to explore the diving spots of the Veerse meer, the Oosterschelde, the Westerschelde or the Grevelingen. I told you diving Zeeland Netherlands is a must !
With over 150 dive sites listed along its coasts, Zeeland develops serious strengths. It also highlighting the ease due to the fact that the dives are mostly starting from the shore.
In other words, there is something for every taste. It is always possible to find a place to dive even when the weather is not so good. This is a guarantee of the success of a planned diving weekend in this region.
If the variety of dive sites and the ease of getting into the water allows a lot of freedom, diving Zeeland Netherlands also requires some preparation. You have to find a spot, plan to have to carry your equipment to the shore ( And sometimes go up and down long steps), prepare a mobile phone ready to work, take your oxygen equipment … and do not forget the tidal time.
We do not dive when we want in Zeeland Netherlands (except in the closed arm). It is therefore essential to consult the tide hours to get into the water around the stall (depending on the correction factor specific to the site).
Every year, in the province of Zeeland, hundreds of mini booklets of ephemeris are printed and distributed free of charge in specialized shops. You must plan diving Zeeland Netherlands
Once the site has been carefully selected and the start time has been checked, we have to equip ourselves.
In winter the water temperature can drop to 0 ° C
Can you imagine?
It is of course useful to equip yourself accordingly and to prepare carefully your equipment. Dry suit, dry gloves, lamp, strap (to avoid losing your buddy), diving mask , Fins, whistle, smb, oxygen therapy equipment, tide guide, … and of course, your camera. In the summer, a semi-dry suit, booties, hood and gloves are sufficient to withstand the water temperature oscillating around 19 ° C.
Once equipped with the right diving stuff, it is with great pleasure that we are heading for the discovery of Dutch waters. We will visit two carefully selected dive sites. The first is called the Zeelandbrug and is close to Zierikzee. The second is at Sas Van Goes. These are two sites renowned for their fauna and flora.
The first impression is that the development of diving infrastructure is a reality. They are really free for all and very well maintained.
The Zeelandbrug site as its name indicates is located just below the bridge of the same name. It provides divers with locker rooms, clean toilets, showers and rinsing tanks for diving equipment (with radiators in the toilets for winter dives). Also present on the dive site is a container to fill diving tanks with 50-cent coins. NITROX, is also available with tokens to be obtained beforehand from a dive shop in the vicinity.
It is an easy site and suitable for all divers if you dive at low tide. The depth goes from 0 to +/- 25m but it is most often in the first 10 meters that concentrates the whole life.
What can we see? Anemones of all colors, flat fish, spoots, crabs and sea spiders, cuttlefish (the month of May is their breeding month in this place), oysters … and also lobsters, rock crabs, pipefish, sculpins and sea bass . But no trace of any nudibranch at this place despite all our exploration around the pillars and along the bank.
Let’s go to the second dive spot in Sas Van Goes.
Here, no infrastructure, no toilets, no showers, no filling station. But a very nice little restaurant down below the dive site.
The landscape is very different from that of the bridge we just left. If the spot is rather easily accessible to jump into the water, beware as it is deemed quite dangerous. Apart from the fact that you might get lost because of the underwater configuration (submerged parts of the former containment). It is forbidden to dive there at high tide, the currents leading the divers to the channel without possibility of return. Despite this, the spot is relatively frequented. On one hand by experienced divers going at depths of 40 to 50m and on the other hand by the amateurs of fauna. This spot is well-known for its faunistic richness.
Camera in hand, it is time for a second discovery.
Barely immersed, it is indeed the promise of a great dive that is offered to us. A visibility of several meters (I would say between 6 and 8). No current and a profusion of life. School of cuttlefish, lobsters, crabs, sea spiders, anemones and crabs of all kinds.
And then suddenly it’s a surprise. Under our amused look, we are witnessing the move of a Hermit crab. What a wonderful and funny scene that you can discover here below (look at the end).
After enjoying this ephemeral show, we continue our exploration with the delight to discover many wonderful and beautiful nudibranchs laid so delicately that they seem to fly above the algae and rocks.
Another show of great beauty.
We are delighted with this new diving experience. We were lucky because, Zeeland is more often reputed to have relatively poor visibility in the water. It does not matter, it is an excellent reason to go on in the meticulous and patient research of micro life.
Of course, we take care not to bring back anything to the surface even if the profusion of lobsters could tempt any amateur. Be careful, the law is firm and there are frequent checks: nothing goes out of the water in Zeeland under penalty of a fine of up to more than 15,000 € and the confiscation of the vehicle and all the diving equipment!
In general, diving is prohibited if the surface visibility is less than 100m and / or if the wind blows at more than 5 Beaufort, in the channels, harbours, locks, oyster farms, etc.
Our impression of diving in Zeeland is that in addition to the infrastructures that develop around this underwater activity, the multitude of spots allows everyone to enjoy a dive. Some spots in the closed arm are quite suitable for beginners like Den Osse or Scharendijk. Take advantage of it to make your children dive? (In summer, when the water temperature is around 19 ° C with a warm wet suit)
In addition, the region with its wild beaches as far as the eye can see and its small typical villages does not lack charm. Which will please non-divers.
For the moment we choose to make our debriefing around a drink based on local berries named “rooibessen” (specialty of the region, taste it) before enjoying oysters from Zeeland and an excellent gratin of fish from Oosterschelde with local old cheese .
All this pleasure in this country where cyclists are kings, where the beaches are huge, where the meadows stretch as far as the eye can see, where an enormous variety of birds rub shoulders with the sheep and where one sees in the distance mills…
So, in your opinion, will Zealand really become the first diving destination in Europe?
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…What a great day 😃