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Diving in the Netherlands

Although The Netherlands is not a traditional dive destination, it offers a variety of sites, from technical wrecks to easy diving. This northern European should be on your diving bucket list.

Diving in the Netherlands

Quick facts

Although The Netherlands might not be the first destination that springs to mind when you plan a European dive holiday, you might consider diving here if you don’t mind a bit of cold, murky water and you enjoy the more technical aspects of scuba diving. You can dive in rivers, lakes and seas. Although there are no colorful reef fish around, there are lots of less spectacular but still very interesting marine species to be found under the water.

Because of the Dutch dams, many dive sites offer a unique and non-stressful environment. The dams protect the waters and the marine life from the ravages of the sea, but at the same time produce water movements that many divers are not used to. Be sure to dive with a local operator in order to learn the safety precautions necessary. With that said, both the Grevelingen and Oosterschelde were originally estuaries where some of Europe’s most important rivers emptied into the North Sea. Today, they are protected and have become the most popular dive sites in The Netherlands. Said to be more populated with marine life than the Mediterranean Sea, divers report great sightings particularly in the springtime when hundreds of cuttle fish gather in the area to mate.

Outside of Zeeland where many of the former estuaries are, diving in The Netherlands’ lakes and rivers offers a unique experience. The Vinkeveense Plassen is one lake that includes several dive sites which reach a depth of 180 feet (55 meters). This lake and many others like it provide ample training opportunities for a variety of levels.

Finally, the wild North Sea contains at least 10,000 shipwrecks along the coast of The Netherlands. Many of these wrecks are outside of recreational limits, but a few provide challenging dive sites for advanced divers. Visibility is often poor and currents are strong. But the area offers an opportunity to see wrecks seldom visited by divers. For those ready to go beyond normal limits in search of a wreck, dive shops in the area often offer technical diving courses.

While diving is possible year-round with the use of a dry suit, it is far more comfortable to dive The Netherlands in the summer months. Water temperatures range from 43-64°F (6-18°C). However, winter air temperatures are regularly below freezing, making the appeal of scuba diving somewhat lessened. For those who dare to dive in The Netherlands, a plethora of fantastic dive sites await.

When to go

Rain and temperature

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Water temperature

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What to see

Diving in northern Europe is not the same as diving in the tropics. You won’t find colorful reef fish, but that doesn't mean the environment is boring. In fact, many regard the waters of The Netherlands to be more populated than the Mediterranean Sea. Much of Zeeland’s sites are covered in all colors of anemones, sponges and ascidians. There are plenty of fish as well, including flat fish, gobies, rock gunnels, cottids and shannies. Local invertebrates include lobsters, crabs, eels, prawns, starfish, jellyfish, sea horses and sea slugs. In the springtime, the premier dive attraction are the hundreds of cuttle fish that arrive in Oosterschelde to mate.


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Located in Northwest Europe, The Netherlands is bordered by the North Sea to the north and west, Belgium to the south and Germany to the east. It is the main constituent country of The Kingdom of The Netherlands which also includes three Caribbean territories. The dense population are known as the Dutch, which is also name of the language spoken in The Netherlands. Much of the country is made up of reclaimed land from a series of dykes built to hold the North Sea at bay. Amsterdam, the capital city, is widely considered one of the most beautiful places in Europe.

The Netherlands has a long and varied history as a European power. Before the Middle Ages, the country was a part of the Holy Roman Empire as well as a Spanish possession. In 1572, The Netherlands became a de facto independent republic following the Dutch Revolt which was led by William of Orange. The 17th Century is known as the Dutch Golden Age when the country created many Dutch colonies around the world. From 1805 until 1848, the country was ruled by a series of kings, but at the end of this period, it quietly became a Constitutional monarchy and one of the first three countries to have an elected parliament. The only disruption to this legacy of rule came at the hands of the Nazis during World War II.

Today, The Netherlands is know for its liberal attitude and economic power. It is one of the largest agricultural producers in the world. Furthermore, it is one of the founders of the European Union and often leads by example in terms of international cooperation. The Netherlands is also extremely friendly to foreign visitors and hosts a wide variety of World Heritage sites from windmills to wooden shoe factories, making it the perfect addition to any European itinerary.

Other attractions

The Netherlands is a famous tourist destination the world over and for good reason. The Dutch have held onto their traditions in an increasingly global world. Because of this, you should take some time to visit the windmills of Zaanse Schans and see one of the still-operating wooden shoe factories. There are also many traditional markets selling local products from fish to cheese. Many flowers sold around the world come from The Netherlands and the tulip fields, in particular, are a site to see every spring. The historical cities of Amsterdam, Utrecht, Maastricht and Leiden are a must on any itinerary, and the art museums of Amsterdam’s Museum Quarter make an educational day trip. Finally, try to cycle as much as possible. There are 13,600 miles (22,000km) of bike trails in The Netherlands. These are used very frequently by the locals and provide a green alternative to the normal rent-a-car. While you may come to The Netherlands to dive, there are many other attractions to keep you busy during your top-side hours.

Getting there

Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam is a major European hub and welcomes flights from around the world. It is also possible to fly into one of the smaller airports, namely Eindhoven Airport, Maastricht Airport, Rotterdam-The Hague Airport, and Groningen-Eelde Airport.

Reaching The Netherlands is simple by train as well. The country is well-connected from most other European destinations.

Once you arrive in The Netherlands, it is easy to travel around the country by car, bus, bicycle, tram or train. The country is particularly designed for travel by bicycle with bike lanes available throughout most major cities.


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Note - Travel to any destination may be adversely affected by conditions including (but not limited) to security, entry and exit requirements, health conditions, local laws and culture, natural disasters and climate. Regardless of your destination, check your local travel advisory board or department for travel advice about that location when planning your trip and again shortly before you leave.

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