Finland is situated in Northern Europe, sharing borders with Sweden, Norway, Russia, and Estonia in the south, across the Gulf of Finland. With a population of around 5.4 million, the southern regions of Finland are the most densely populated; a high proportion living in the Greater Helsinki arearea - Helsinki is the capital. An autonomous region in the south, called the Åland Islands, completes the state of Finland.
Finland experiences warm summers and freezing winters - making scuba diving more challenging. Within the country, the climate varies greatly between the extreme northern areas to the milder southern coastal regions. The country is said to have both a maritime and a continental climate, due to its proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the warming effects of the Gulf Stream. The Gulf Stream, combined with the moderating effect of the Baltic Sea and inland lakes, creates a warmer climate in comparison to other regions at this latitude.
In the south, the winter air temperatures range from 0 °C to −30 °C, with snow cover from November-April. In summertime, from May-September, air temperatures go from 10 °C up to 35 °C. In Finland's extreme northern area, called Lapland, the sun does not set for up to 73 days during summer, and it does not rise for 51 days during winter. Scuba divers are advised that dry suits are the main choice for thermal protection when diving in this extremely cold country.
One of the main areas for scuba diving is the southern group of islands called Åland, in the Baltic Sea. These 6,500 islands are some of the world’s most difficult waters to navigate in, but are also the commercial shipping route between Sweden and Finland. For this reason, the Åland archipelago has one of the highest densities of shipwrecks in the world, with over 500 identified wrecks. The Åland Maritime museum is a popular attraction for divers when visiting. This is a very popular holiday area from April to October.
Aside from scuba diving, visitors to Finland enjoy exploring the scenic region of Lakeland with its vast array of lakes and kayaking or boating opportunities. The stunning display of the northern lights in Lapland is a must and the beautiful city of Helsinki offers a great variety of culture, architecture and arts. The coastal towns, including the Åland Islands, offer a variety of boating services, sightseeing and charter cruises. Visitors can enjoy old-fashioned lake steamers or modern open-top motor cruisers. Lakeland sightseeing cruises range from day trips to longer chartered tours with cabin accommodation.
The diving in Finland is predominantly wreck diving. Due to the low salinity in the Baltic, the wrecks are in exceptional condition, even the older wooden ones. The water is very cold in Finland and so drysuits are a must. The visibility in the sea is generally between 5-15 meters; however, the amazing wrecks are worth visiting. All of the shipwrecks older than 100 years are legally protected, which means you may dive to them, but are not allowed to touch anything.
A popular wreck to dive is the 51 meter long S/S Hildenburg, located in Åland. In 1918, whilst working as a German icebreaker, she hit a mine and sank after only three years in service. Three crewmembers lost their lives. Re-discovered in 1995, she is well preserved and sits at a depth of 37-47 meters, making this a good advanced level/technical dive. Permits are granted 12 times a year to groups of divers, so pre-booking with a dive center is required.
The Plus has been ranked as one of the top ten Scandinavian wrecks to dive by Swedish magazines. Built in 1885, she was a 70-meter long square-rigger. Due to a disastrous navigation error, she sank just 100 meters from shore, and 14 out of the 16 souls on board were lost. She lies close to the harbor, enabling dives in most weather conditions. The Plus is a good dive for recreational divers, with a ranging depth of 17-32 meters.
The S/S Notung was a 75-meter steamship, built in the UK in 1882. Russian bombers attacked her in 1942, while carrying cellulose to England from Finland. She sank after a torpedo exploded close to her stern, but luckily all the crew made it ashore despite being fired upon too. The Notung sits in 40-50 meters of water and is a highly rated dive for experienced technical divers. Visibility averages 2-10 meters, but she is worth diving to see the delicately preserved interior details.
Ojamo Mine is Finland’s only technical cave diving location, and its diving pride and joy. Located in Lohja, it is a limestone cave system with multiple depth levels that range from 38 to 200 meters. Ojamo boasts year-round, crystal clear fresh water but with a chilly temperature of 4 °C. On the surface, it appears to be a small forest lake, but the narrow tunnels and large mining halls extend for miles underwater.
Finland has a well-covered network of airports throughout the country, including the far north. A major airport is Helsinki-Vantaa (HEL) in Helsinki, for international flights from Europe, the US, and other countries. Domestic flights run daily throughout the country.
The Finnish train network is very good - visitors can either travel by car carrier or on the passenger trains. The coach route network is another great way to travel, and is said to be one of the most comprehensive in Europe. If you choose to drive in Finland, be advised that it can be hazardous in the winter, and snow tires are legally required from December-February. Headlights must be used at all times, and drivers should watch out for elk and reindeer on the roads.
Finland has a number of dive operators representing training organizations such as PADI, SSI, NAUI, and CMAS. Local diving clubs also welcome visitors. In Finland, you must notify the coast guard before any wreck dive. Visitors may find it easier to dive with a professional operator who can organize this for you. In the islands of Åland, it is generally forbidden to scuba dive anywhere, except for the places assigned to licensed dive centers.
OceanTech Åland is a PADI & NAUI center based in Mariehamn. They offer the complete spectrum of recreational certification courses as well as technical diving tuition. Full equipment rental is available, including drysuits. Air, Nitrox, Argon, and Trimix gas blending are part of the technical diving support services. There is a fully stocked shop, classroom, equipment room and workroom on site. B&B accommodation can be arranged through this center too. OceanTech Åland has a fantastic dive boat that accommodates 10-12 divers; there is a spacious aft deck, toilet, compressor, air bank, bunks, and seating area on board.
Sukelluskeskus is a PADI 5 Star IDC Center with branches in Tapere, Helsinki, Jyväskylä, Kuopio, Oulu and Pori. This highly regarded center offers beginner to professional level PADI training and certification. The international instructors teach in Finnish, Swedish and English. They run regular dive trips in Finland and visit many dive sites across the country. It is best to contact the dive center closest to where you are staying to find out each center's schedule.
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