Landlocked Austria possesses the cleanest alpine water in Europe - offering great conditions for scuba diving in the many picturesque lakes and rivers. With 300 lakes spread throughout the country, there are plenty of opportunities to escape into the scenic underwater world while on vacation.
Two-thirds of Austria is covered by highly mountainous areas, and dominated by the Alps. After completing the correct training, divers have plenty of opportunities to experience altitude diving. During the winter months, ice diving is popular, and divers are rewarded with pristine visibility and plentiful marine life encounters. The lakes were originally formed by glaciers, which melted during the last ice age, leaving behind their legacy of exceptionally high quality water.
The marine life in the lakes is surprisingly varied and interesting. Perch, trout, catfish, and grayling are some of the fish that are often seen. Pike lurk in the shallows, and plentiful vegetation provides shoaling juveniles with shelter. Eels, whiteling, tench, and chub are often sighted in the lakes. Night diving is allowed, although it is highly advisable to dive with one of the local dive centers, which can recommend the best sites and ensure the correct safety procedures are in place.
A lively, developing tourism industry means that these beautiful mountain areas provide outdoor enthusiasts with varied activities. Hiking, horse riding, sightseeing, and golf are options available at many of the lakeside resorts in Austria. Aside from scuba diving - sailing, fishing, water skiing, and windsurfing are some of the water-based activities that visitors can enjoy. Many of the lakes have hotel accommodation facilities on site, as well as camping sites.
Austria has nine states; the main areas for scuba diving are Salzburg (Salzkammergut region), Styria, and Tirol; however, there are dive operators based at most of the larger lakes throughout the country. The capital city of Vienna has many dive shops and retail outlets. Germany and the Czech Republic border Austria to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and finally Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. Standard German is the country's official chosen language.
Some of the lakes have restriction zones for different activities. This is due to the high number of water users, and to protect the natural resources for all to enjoy. Please contact the nearest dive operator for full details and up-to-date information in the area you plan to visit.
Austria has year round diving to suit every divers interests and comfort levels. Dry suits are highly recommended for thermal protection. The warmest summer months are from June to September with air temperatures averaging 25 - 35 Celsius. Surface water temperature reaches up to 25 Celsius but drops down to 4 Celsius at depth. Summers are generally drier, but do expect some rain. There is the possibility of avalanches and landslides. The winter season runs from December through to March. Air temperatures are -10 Celsius in areas, and the lakes become ice-covered. The best ice diving is during January.
The Salzkammergut region has over 165 lakes. This was an area of top-secret Nazi projects, and divers have found many relics. Lake Attersee has 26 popular dive sites and is known for its abundance of fish life and underwater flora. As the largest lake in Salzkammergut, Attersee is considered the center of recreational diving. Visibility reaches 25m in winter, and drops to 10m in summer. The light penetrates to a depth of 30m in this lake, making it a suitable lake for beginners and experienced divers.
Wolfgangsee is another lake in Salzkammergut that is highly regarded for scuba diving. There is a naval school on the shore of the lake; the Nazis hid many Hungarian confiscated treasures in the water before the allies arrived in Reid. In 1945, Hans Hass was commissioned by the Allies to recover many lost artifacts. Today, divers still find treasures, although it against the law to remove or interfere with them. Interesting dive sites include Falkensteinwand, St. Gilgen, Naval School, and Falkenstein Cliff Wall.
Tirol is a "mountain divers paradise" - the altitude is up to 2,500m above sea level. Diving is conducted along steep slopes and in wild gorges, with visibility sometimes reaching 50 meters. Achensee is the largest lake in the district covering 9 kilometers and is a sought-after diving destination. The lakes here have good fish stocks and exceptionally pure alpine water.
Hechenberg is one of the top dive sites in Achensee, suitable for experienced deep divers. Depths average 18m to 40m, and divers can see the wreck of a boat and a Madonna statue. The German army hid many things in this lake from the allies - divers should not touch or remove any objects that are found. Nearby, Schwarzenau is a great site for beginners (or as a second dive of the day). Three VW beetles lay at a depth of 8m.
The Grüner Sea in Styria is a site not to miss. Bright, emerald-green water reflects the luscious scenery of the mountains- the color because it is a flooded pasture. Snow melts in the spring, and the flood waters rise, creating a dive site. The maximum depth is 12m from May to June, after which the water then recedes. Trout live in the lake and there is a submerged bridge and bench to explore.
Austria has 29 registered SSI operators, and 24 registered PADI dive centers. CMAS is also represented. All of the major diving lakes have scuba diving centers on site - some offer only guided diving, while others teach the full range of SSI or PADI certification courses. A number of lakes have custom-built platforms constructed for scuba training.
It is advisable to contact the dive operators prior to travel to arrange your diving, and confirm that you have the correct qualifications and equipment. Altitude and ice diving require specialist training, procedures, and equipment. The Austrian dive operators will be able to assist you with logistics and equipment considerations during your stay.
Based on Lake Weissensee East Bank, PADI Dive Resort 'Dive-World' offers beginner courses, through to professional levels. Their dive boat takes you to the varied sites quickly and quietly, with easy access from the custom-built jetty. The personal service given by Mario and Jutta is highly regarded, and pre-booking is recommended at weekends. Air fills, equipment rental, and retail are available on site. Ice diving can be arranged in winter months. A 6m training platform is conveniently placed close to the dive center.
PADI 5 Star Dive Center and SSI school 'Scubaboard', is based in Salzburg and has the full range of courses up to assistant instructor. Their focus is on safety and quality dive training. They have a friendly team of 12 instructors and assistants, who have worked for them for years, and all trained through their school. They offer many specialty courses such as EANX nitrox, wreck, ice, and night diving. Guided fun diving is available for the local lakes.
Innsbruck is home to the full service dive center called 'Tauchen in Tirol'. The dive shop stocks a wide range of products and has an in-house workshop for servicing and repair. Diving courses are available from beginner to instructor levels, with the following training agencies: IART, PADI, SDI, TDI-VTDL. Training is performed in small groups with the option to take specialties in Mountain Lake Diving, River Diving, Ice Diving, and Night Diving. Rebreather training and fun diving is also available.
The major EU gateway and international airports are in Vienna (VIE), Salzburg (SZG), and Innsbruck (INN) in Trol. Austrian Airlines is the largest carrier in operation with a global network of 130 destinations. British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2, Monarch, FlyBe, Ryanair, and BMI all fly to Austria from the UK. Travel via rail, coach, and road are popular options from within the European Union.
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