The advice given here assumes that you are arranging a trip for a group of
A liveaboard is the ideal way to dive
the fjords of western Norway. Apart from short sections
north of Haugesund and around Stattlandet, the waters are very sheltered,
and there are plenty of small harbours to tie up in at night. Eating and
sleeping on board keeps costs down, and there is plenty of time to enjoy the
scenery. Liveaboards enable you to cover a wider area than dayboats so you
can cherry-pick the best sites (which are very good indeed). The British
boats Gaelic Rose and Jane R operate out of Bergen most summers. Other British boats
have visited from time to time. When choosing a liveaboard bear in mind that
many of the wrecks are not buoyed, so choosing a boat in its first Norway
season may lead to some frustration if the crew are unable to locate your
dive sites efficiently.
Another option is to use a dive
centre which offers boat diving. There are Norwegian dive operators at Bergen, Gulen, Måløy, Ålesund and
may well be others. Typically they offer self-catering accommodation,
equipment hire, air fills, and diving from dayboats. Generally, a land-based
trip with a Norwegian operator will turn out substantially more expensive than a
British liveaboard by the time you have paid for your food and so on, even
if you self-cater. However if a dive centre is what you want,
Dykkernett is a good place to start looking.
Shore diving is possible at some sites, including good wrecks such as the
Inger Seks, Oldenburg, Mons, Radbod,
Spring and several at Haugesund. However, in Norway
as elsewhere, most of the best sites require boat access.
contains descriptions, a few in English, of several shore dive sites around
It is also possible, but expensive, to take a RIB on the ferry. The budget
option is a dismantled inflatable in a van! As in the UK, you do not need
any special paperwork or qualifications to drive a small boat in Norway.
Fuel costs about 20% more than in the UK and you will use a lot of it towing
and sailing. Launching may be a problem. Having researched launching in
Bergen, I get the impression that most boats in Norway spend most of their
time in the water rather than on a trailer, and are often craned in and out
Norway is a big country. Stavanger to Ålesund, the area covered by this
guide, is 270 nautical miles by the most direct sea route. A round
trip to Flåm, where the Begonia lies amidst stunning scenery, from the
entrance to Sognefjord where many wrecks including the Frankenwald and
Ferndale lie, is almost 200 nautical miles. You need to be realistic about
the amount of ground that can be covered during a trip, whether you are
travelling by road or sea. If you are planning a one week liveaboard round
trip from Bergen do not expect to get much further north than Florø or further
south than Egersund. Especially if you have dived from Bergen before,
you might want to focus on a particular part of the area. Think about
liasing with the groups who have booked the weeks before and after your
charter. You may be able to organise a one-way trip, or even base yourself
entirely out of a port other than Bergen - Fløro for example. The divers
will benefit by spending more time in new or better areas, and the crew may
benefit from fewer sailing hours. It's easy to arrange travel by road or
fast ferry to the start/destination.
The diving is not difficult. The principal issues are depth, and buoyancy
control on the big walls. This means that most of the sites on this website
are suitable for any competent diver who is comfortable in the 30 to 35 or
maybe 40 metre range, and can be trusted to behave sensibly when very deep
dives are possible. In BSAC terms this equates to experienced Sports Diver.
However, issues of what badge/certification a diver should have for a
particular dive are a matter for the dive manager. There is potential for
going well beyond air diving range at many of the sites, but this lies
outside my area of interest.
are some regulations relating
to diving in Norway. These and other laws are enforced by various branches
of the Norwegian authorities. It is common for dive boats to be boarded for
inspection in harbour, or by patrol boats at sea. You will find that your
skipper is justifiably nervous about having his boat arrested, or worse.
"Look don't touch" is the rule for diving wrecks (though I have to
say that all the choicest pieces had gone from the many Norwegian wrecks
I've dived). So if you do bring up a trophy from a wreck, expect it to be
thrown overboard immediately, and possibly you with it! This nervousness
extends to divers getting DCI - skippers do not wish to antagonise the
authorities by excessive use of recompression facilities. For this reason
your skipper may seek to influence your diving plans if he feels they are
provocative of DCI. This could lead to conflict if his concept of safe
diving is different to yours.
The weather in summer can be very good - blue skies and sunshine. However
it does also rain, heavily. It is unlikely to be cold - certainly no worse
than the west coast of Scotland, and warmer than Scapa Flow. Sea
temperatures are around 15 deg C at the surface, reducing to as low as 6 or
7 at depth. The water in the fjords is often horizontally stratified - a
layer of warm brackish water on top and cold salty water below. The layers
are sometimes moving relative to one another. The temperature distribution
at a particular site depends on how much mixing has taken place. Generally
sites near the open sea are more uniform in temperature than those further
up the fjords. Visibility in the lower layer is normally excellent.
If you hang shellfish (nb taking
lobsters is banned) over the side to keep fresh make sure they are below
the freshwater layer or you may kill them instead.
For further information on trip planning and diving in Norway, see my
report on the Arctic Norway
Expedition, which won the BSAC Expeditions
Award in 1996.
Travel to Norway
The main options are the
DFDS ferry from Newcastle to Stavanger, Haugesund
and Bergen; or flying.
Several airlines fly to Bergen.
The low cost airline Norwegian flies
directly to Bergen from London Stansted. Ryanair fly from the UK to Haugesund.
Other Bergen flights
currently gateway through Oslo, Copenhagen, or Amsterdam, Assuming the
destination is Bergen, costs for the ferry and for flying are similar (don't
forget parking at and travel to/from the ferry/air terminal). The advantages
of flying are speed (it avoids an extra day off work) but the disadvantages
are limited baggage allowance, and the usual endless security checks and
other air travel hassle. New airlines and routes spring up all the time so
it makes sense to check on the internet, or with a travel agent.
The advantages of the ferry are
virtually unlimited baggage allowance (the easy way is to pile it in a car and park
in Bergen; the hard way is to carry it on board - the boarding arrangements
are such that you have to be able to carry all your baggage at once ), and a
good sociable start to the holiday for a group. In 2006 the old MS
Jupiter, a very nice ferry with bars restaurants and entertainment, was
replaced by the larger MS Princess of Norway operated by DFDS, which offers similar
facilities. The disadvantage is a 24 hour crossing which may eat into
your holiday entitlement. If keeping costs down is your top priority send
four people in a van less than 2 metres high and 5 metres long on the ferry
with all the heavy stuff, and get the others to fly. In 2008 the ferry
will operate on a 2-weekly cycle, which means that the ferry timings only
line up with liveaboards operating a weekly turnround once a fortnight. On
the alternate weeks you would need to find overnight accommodation in Norway
at each end of your 1-week dive trip. This is not all bad though - I can
think of many worse things than a couple of summer evenings spent in Bergen,
one of my favourite small cities. Alternatively you might consider the
ferry from Newcastle to Kristiansand which is I am told is cheaper, but this
doesn't include the cost of travel within Norway.
Both the ferry and the airlines
now use load based pricing systems, which means the earlier you book the
cheaper the fares.
Travel within Norway
There is an extensive network of ferries on the west coast. Fylkesbaatane run
fast catamaran express boats to most coastal towns within the area of this
guide. Their website is only partially in Norwegian, but you can email them in
English. I got prompt and helpful replies.
Norwegian Coastal Voyage (aka
Hurtigrute) run a service from Bergen right up to the top of Norway. Their boats
are half the speed of the express boats and a bit more expensive, but they leave
Bergen in the evening which fits neatly with incoming ferries and flights from
the UK. The boats are luxurious and cater principally to wealthy retirees. The
members of one of my groups who used the Hurtigrute felt a bit out of place.
If you are using dive centres, or doing your own thing, you will need a car. You
can bring your own on the ferry. Car hire in
Norway is expensive. Because of all the fjords cutting many miles inland, travel
to coastal towns is often much further by road than by sea. However, there are
plenty of ferries on the major routes. They run frequently, are fairly
inexpensive, and you don't need to book.
Although there is
little traffic, overtaking opportunities are infrequent. Unlike the UK, very few
vehicles exceed the speed limit, which is 80 km/hr outside towns (70 for braked
trailers, and 60 for unbraked). Do not underestimate how long it will take to
drive from A to B. I am generally reckoned to be a fast driver, but over a 2
week 2500 mile trip from Bergen to beyond Narvik inside the Arctic Circle
and back, the furthest I ever managed in one hour was barely 70km excluding ferries
Bergen to Fløro is only a 3.5 to 4
hour drive including a short ferry across Sognefjord. Great scenery.
Drink driving laws are strictly enforced, and penalties are severe. The 0.20ml limit means in effect no alcohol 12 hours before driving. So
even if you are only driving your car from its parking place in Bergen to the
ferry, beware the after effects of that last night party.
You must drive with dipped headlights on at all times - even in bright sunshine.
Almost everything in Norway is more expensive than in the UK.
It's not that everyone is ripping you off, it's just a high wage high tax
economy, which you pay for whenever you buy anything with Norwegian labour
content. Not too bad if you get Norwegian wages, but tough for the rest of
the world. Alcohol and
tobacco are particularly expensive. Reckon on £5 a drink, whatever it is.
If you drink you should definitely make the most of your duty free
allowance. The ferries usually have some brands of spirits on special offer
(about £10 per litre in February 2007) in the duty free shop on the ferry.
Special offers aside, my experience is that everything else can be bought
more cheaply in supermarkets at home. However, diving from a British
liveaboard, you are insulated from most of the high prices. Don't let them
put you off, because it's a lovely country with great diving, and a week's
trip costs a similar amount to a decent liveaboard in the Red Sea (chalk and
cheese really, but you won't find any diver soup or bossy dive guides in
Almost all the Norwegians I have met speak excellent English. If you have
a smattering of Norwegian it is more likely to be a hindrance than a help if
you try to speak it. 'Takk' (thanks) and 'ha det' (goodbye) is enough.
However it is useful to learn to recognise the words you will see on signs -
open, closed, exit, stop, push, etc. A phrasebook may come in handy in
Norway and Britain have a reciprocal health agreement. There is no charge
for in-patient treatment, but you may have to pay for consultations and
out-patient treatment. You then receive a voucher and can claim a partial
refund. See the Department of Health website for details. So you are
unlikely to be saddled with a large medical bill. As an example, British
divers who have got bent have not been charged for helicopter
evacuation, recompression, or hospital treatment (but as soon as they were
pronounced fit it's out on the street and fend for yourself). However there is a small
chance that you would eventually need to be transported back to the UK on a
stretcher, or worse. You would have to pay for that yourself Whether
it is worth taking out travel insurance for a trip to Norway is up to