Diving in Gulen, Norway
Gulen is an idyllic spot located just north of Bergen on the west coast of Norway. The Sognefjord and 1,700 islands create a paradise for scuba divers, and a Swedish diving magazine named this area 'Little Norway' due to its wide variety of dive sites.
Within a 45-minute boat ride you find at least 12 wrecks, some considered to be amongst the best in Norway. The diving depths are between 5-80 metres and wreck enthusiasts will find a lot of interesting history from WW2. You also find colourful plankton eaters and characteristic fjord species side by side. Kelp, boulders and steep walls create exciting surroundings for crustaceans, anemones, nudibranchs, scallops, fish, rays and even sharks.
Gulen dive centre is the only PADI Resort in Norway and has some of the best facilities in the country. The centre is run by two easy going and keen divers that have spent years searching for good diving locations in this area.
Frankenwald - Norway's best wreck dive
Frankenwald stands perfectly upright on a sandy bottom and is arguably the best wreck dive in Norway. You reach the deck at approx 27 metres whilst the shallowest point is the rear mast at 7 metres.
The 126 metre long German steam ship sunk 6 January 1940 after she struck an islet in the Sognefjord. The propeller was salvaged just after WW2 and then she stayed untouched until scuba diving became popular several decades later.
Fernedale and Parat
As part of a six-ship convoy Fernedale hit a big rock named Seglestienen in the middle of the Krakhelle strait 15 December 1944. The rest of the convoy continued north while Fernedale awaited help from the rescue vessel Parat. The two ships lay side by side when Allied Mosquito planes attacked at noon 16 December setting them on fire. A second attack resulted in both ships sinking.
The bow of the 116-metre Fernedale is more of a nature dive whilst she is fairly intact from about 20 metres and down to the maximum depth of 40 metres. When the conditions are good you can easily see Parat laying by her side, but that is a dive for the experienced only with depths of 43-60 metres.
Oldenburg was a ship with a very special history and one of the few to have participated in both the World Wars still to be in a relatively good condition. She was built in Germany 1914 as the banana transport Pungo, but was soon requisitioned by the German navy and converted to the merchant raider Möve. During WW1 she became the most successful warship of all time, sinking, mining and capturing close to 50 Allied ships.
After the war she was ceded to the British, and then for a short period in French hands, before she was sold back to a German shipping firm in 1933.
During WW2 she was once again requisitioned by the German navy, this time as a transport ship to support the German occupation of Norway. On route with fish from Narvik to Germany she was sunk by Allied airplanes while at anchor in Vadheim in the Sognefjord, resting at a diving depth of 25-80 metres.
Schools of sharks
To dive with sharks is something special for most divers and maybe more so in the cold waters of Northern Europe. The fjords around Gulen have a 'secret' unknown to many divers even in Norway - schools of Spiny dogfish sharks (Squalus acanthias).
These sharks can reach 1.5 metres and have got their name from the poisonous spines located in front of the two dorsal fins. They can normally be seen around Gulen from late September until early February and migrate west of Shetland and the Orkneys during the year.
Dive with rays
Few places in Norway can guarantee encounters with large rays. These magnificent creatures are masters in camouflage and are not that often seen by divers. In Gulen there is a specific spot where rays can be seen all year round, but the larger individuals tend to go deeper during winter time making the period of late May until early November the best time for encounters.
The Starry ray (Raja radiata) can reach almost a metre in length and weigh up to 17 kilos. They prefer sandy and muddy bottoms between 20-400 metres, but often go to shallower waters during night time. The Thornback ray (Raja clavata) can also be seen in the Gulen area and if you meet one be aware that touching its tail can cause an electric shock!
Dolphins and house reef
The Harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) is the most widely distributed of all cetaceans (whales and dolphins) but still rarely seen by divers. They have an average length of 1.5 metres and can weigh up to 70 kilos.
Outside Gulen Dive Centre a small ridge, rich in fish, is visited by porpoises daily from mid April to November. The best way to see them is to peak out of the window in the early morning, or just wait for them to appear while you relax in the BBQ area after a day of diving.
The house reef is also a perfect place to see some of the small stuff like sea urchins, colourful sponges, moss animals, feather stars, anemones, crabs and at least seven different species of starfish.