Home to the EU headquarters and many picturesque sights, Belgium may not seem like an obvious place to dive. However, the country borders the North Sea and boasts quite some quarries and sand pits, making diving in Belgium more diverse than many divers would guess. Divided into the Dutch-speaking Flanders and French-speaking Wallonia, Belgium is a relatively small country with everything within driving distance.
Whereas Flanders has many natural dive sites, like lakes and sand pits that have filled with water, Wallonia is home to a variety of interesting quarries. Most Belgium dive sites are well equipped for independent divers and include bathroom facilities and filling stations, especially- often privately owned- quarries. Private dive sites ask for a small payment and for divers to abide by a set of safety rules. Other Belgian dive sites, like recreational areas require divers to buy a permit. Sites are easy to reach by rental cars. Belgium diving is mainly done independently. There are options for equipment rental and fill stations, however guided dives in Belgium are not organized frequently.
Diving in the North Sea is possible by charter boats and offers a chance to see some of the many wrecks. North Sea diving is for experienced divers, only because conditions may be challenging. There are some excellent preserved wrecks within recreational diving limits, including some WWII wrecks and various cargo ships.
The water temperature in Belgium is generally considered cold, ranging from 4 to 20 degrees Celsius in winter and summer respectively for quarries. The North Sea temperatures vary a little less, between 7 and 19 degrees Celsius. A dry suit in winter and a minimum of 7mm in summers is recommended. Visibility in quarries and lakes can be poor, especially after rainfall, and gets better when the weather has been dry or when dive sites allow for deeper dives. Expect 5 to 10 meters of vertical visibility on better days.
Diving in Belgium can be divided in two areas: Flanders and Wallonia. Diving in Flanders, the Dutch-speaking region of Belgium, mainly happens in natural lakes and sandpits. These dive sites are often shallow and have a variety of fish life. Many dive sites in Wallonia, the French-speaking part of Belgium, are manmade quarries. The artificial aesthetics of the site combined with the fauna they have released here over time, make for some unique dive experiences.
In the surrounding of the idyllic town of Walcourt are some of the best quarry dives in Belgium. Carrière la Croisette is an old marble quarry, nowadays a privately owned dive site with excellent facilities. With a maximum depth of 30 meters, diving around this quarry feels like swimming through a giant room with marble pillars and walls. The site is home to a healthy fish population that was initially released here, including sturgeon, carps, stickleback and trout. Other nearby quarries worth visiting are La Roche Fontaine and Vodelée- also privately owned. Another unique Wallonia dive site, La Gombe, is situated close the picturesque town of Esneux. Fish life, dead trees and a sunken airplane create a surreal environment at quarry.
Muisbroek is a small piece of nature close to the international port city of Antwerp. This dugout, which was initially created to win extra water for steam trains, has now turned in to a shelter for fish species and birds. A great place to see fossil seashells and maybe even shark teeth, this dive site has calm conditions and reasonable visibility throughout the year. There are many other recreational parks that offer dive sites in the area.
For North Sea wreck diving, the SS Trifels is a popular choice. This German cargo ship lies at a depth of between 24 and 36 meters and was sunk in 1941 by a torpedo. Another German cargo ship that can be dived from Belgium is the MS Birkenfels. This ship sunk due to a collision and now rests at 36 meters deep, but starts at 15 meters.
Traveling to Belgium is easy through a direct flight to Brussels Zaventem Airport, which has good international and regional connections. Several budget airlines fly within Europe to smaller airports, including Charleroi, south of Brussels or even Eindhoven in the Netherlands. Due to the proximity of the dive sites in Belgium, either airport will give access to the whole of Belgium easily. Diving in Belgium is best done by car and with rental equipment, since many sites are private or only allow for independent divers. Languages spoken are Dutch and French. For English speaking travelers, language might be a challenge in Wallonia specifically.
Dive centers in Belgium mostly function as training centers, rental and filling stations and dive shops. Guided dives are not regularly organized in Belgium, however there are charter boats available to dive the wrecks in the North Sea. One of these boat charters is the Jonathan. A purposely-designed dive boat, Jonathan is fast and comfortable, and has a built-in compressor. An online calendar shows how many places are still available, however they only cater for experienced divers, as diving the North Sea can have challenging conditions.
Dive center Bubble & Dive is located in Gentbrugge, part of the beautiful city of Gent. This well-stocked dive shop consists of a team of diving enthusiasts that offer dive training, equipment rental and air fills. In Mechelen, between the cities of Antwerp and Brussels, The Belgian Diving Center is a 5 star PADI Instructor Development Center. A complete assembly of PADI courses is offered here from Discover Scuba Diving to professional level.
For technical diving enthusiasts, Narcotec Technical Diving center trains divers to different levels of technical diving. Their shop is well equipped in technical diving gear and offers tank fills and equipment maintenance as well. Narcotec is located in Ieper, close to the coast of Belgium.
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