Everyone has their favourite place to dive. Not THE favourite one, but just a normal favourite place, the one that you visit often, the one that you feel like at home.
This place, that I’m talking about, why is it my favorite dive site?
It’s rather close to my home town of Novi Sad. In the morning I can just pack the stuff on my motorbike, go there, set up the camera, make two dives, try to make awesome photos during those dives, chill and head home and arrive at night. The road to the lake is nice (omg a clue, it’s a lake!) and there are multiple roads to choose from if you I’m bored from one. There are a few rather beautiful lakes in the area, a friend of mine is an amazing host, he always brings shisha, and yeah, the most important thing, the ecosystem in those lakes is really healthy and full of life.
You must be thinking: that’s it? Are there any massive pikes or catfish that could bite your leg off? Nope, not really… It’s just that when everything is combined it brings you a nice experience. I don’t need to rush anything. I can just enjoy the dives and have fun.
Facts about the dive site
The lake I’m writing about is located in Serbia in Bela Crkva – literal translation is: White Church. Who says I don’t go to church? Almost every Sunday.
There are 5 active lakes and a few smaller ones. They were created by digging up the gravel. The water is always clear emerald colour, but during the tourist season the main lake gets murky and that’s when we experiment with other lakes in the region.
Although there are poachers in the area, lakes still have a healthy ecosystem. There is abundance of sunfish of course, dace and every dive you can see pikes, catfish, carps, small freshwater medusa (which I didn’t even know exists), snakes, and freshwater craw-fish.
Seizing the dive
When I finish my two and a half hour trip to Bela Crkva, I meet my friend Jovan who always comes in his small, company car, Yugo (he’s a vet). It is packed with tanks, diving equipment and of course, in the back, in Yugo’s window you can see a backpack and hookah sticking out of it. I don’t think he ever leaves his home without it.
The conversation before the first dive is like a Ground Hog day. We set up the equipment and Jovan tells me how he arrived home at 5 o’clock in the morning. While I talk to him I can’t help but notice a ‘fresh scar’ on his hand and the story behind the scar is always 1 hour before he arrived home at 5 o’clock in the morning.
Lake weed at some points goes from the ground all the way to the surface, creating something which I can describe as Chinese version of kelp forest
After the equipment is ready, we hit the water. Depth in those lakes is usually around 5-6 meters, some lakes go down to around 17 meters but the visibility is really poor and the temperature is really low. So we stick to those shallow 5 meters searching for pikes that are looking for lunch and the lunch, usually not aware, soon becomes one. The ambience at this lake is amazing, there is a lot of weed on the surface which creates a fairytale sunbeams with sunfish swimming all around and sunlight bouncing off their colourful scales.
Lake weed at some points goes from the ground all the way to the surface, creating something which I could describe as Chinese version of kelp forest, but don’t be fooled, the view and the ambience are still mesmerizing!
I started to think about my power of observation and wonder if I really suck at it, or the pikes are super professional when it comes to blending with their environment
At least it’s awesome until I try to go closer, thinking I’ve seen a pike and the next thing I know, I’m all covered in lake weed, my strobes are tangled and the fish is looking at me like I’m a mad man. The thruth is, in their brains they are probably thinking “this is
I walk it off (or should I say “dive it off”) like nothing happened and the next thing I notice is that something ran away. A quick scan and I realize it’s a pike. I’m floating there, searching hard for a pike and the next thing I know, I am going over its head without even noticing it. I started to think about my power of observation and wonder if I really suck at it, or the pikes are super professional when it comes to blending with their environment. Luckily, it doesn’t run far away, so it lets me take a few shots before it gets bored and swims away.
Well, my pressure gauge shows almost 100 bars and it’s time to head back and smoke some shisha. It’s always the same, Jovan is already out, preparing the hookah and while I take off the equipment, the shisha is ready. What else could I ask for? I’m on a lake enjoying shisha, sun rays bouncing off the surface of the water which makes it look like a mirror. That’s until some old dude decides to swim from other side of the lake to where we are, disturbing the peace and equilibrium.
Now comes the time to do what all divers hate – put on the wet wetsuit
After short information exchange on what we could have done but didn’t, we slowly start to prepare for the next dive. The camera is set up so the boring part is out of the way but now comes the time to do what all divers hate, put on the wet wetsuit. If you don’t hate that part, you probably made a pact with the devil or something.
As soon as my ears get under the surface of the water there is no sound, except for the the bubbles, the eyes see a different world and body feels weightless unlike above the water where the scale goes 0 to 100 kg in less than a second. This time I decided to use my remaining air to just head one way and return swimming. The good thing is, I saw few pikes and a snake and the bad thing is I had to swim for almost 15 minutes to get back to the starting point. It was a good cardio. The dive itself was nice, lots of fish, pikes, a snake and some kind of fog that looked as it came from a horror movie and if you go near it, you would become some kind of a zombie fish, but luckily that didn’t happen.
The bad thing is I had to swim for almost 15 minutes to get back to the starting point
As I went back, we smoked another shisha, which would feel much nicer if there wasn’t an old guy who was trying to explain to me how he can see a snake from far away without that big camera that I have, whatever that meant.
Well, that’s it for diving and it’s time to pack and head home. The boring awaits once more, taking the camera housing apart, fitting it onto the motorbike. I say goodbye to my host Jovan and head home.
I went to Bela Crkva many times and and every single time (with only one exception) I got lots of rain while going back. Last time I went through a really crazy windy storm! And I went there like 7-8 times this year and it was always raining! This time it was no different.
I arrived home safe and wet and at that moment I realized I needed to wash the equipment. But hey, that equipment keeps me safe.
While I was lying in bed, happy-tired (it’s a condition) I thought it was a good day.
And that’s why, ladies and gentlemen, Bela Crkva lakes are my favourite place to dive. No pressure, no time limit, just pure enjoyment.
Hey, I’m sure you have a favorite divespot yourself, let me know which place it is in the comments!