Curiously enough, I recently had one of my best snorkling experiences far away from the ocean. River snorkling in Austria was a really fun experience, even for a seasoned diver.
When the sun shines from a clear blue sky and the thermometer reaches a simmering 34 °C, there is not really much else to do than to get into the water as soon as possible. We are in the middle of Austria, more accurately by the river Traun in Upper Austria. Eight people, neoprene dressed and full of expectations are standing on a cliff about three metres above the river Traun, getting ready to jump. This is the spectacular start on a 1.5 hours snorkling trip in refreshing crystal-clear water.
On a hot day like that, it’s rather refreshing to feel the 19 °C water leaking into the semidry, as we hit the water. The short walk down to the river from the dive centre and the subsequent 10-minute instructions from the tour guides, made everybody forget any hesitation about jumping off a cliff. When all the snorkelers have gotten their masks and snorkels in place, we jump into the river. At the beginning, the river cuts its way through a deep canyon with natural waterfalls. Naturally, the spring water source where the water is drizzling out of the porous rock, is our first stop.
Last chance for refreshments, our guide exclaims, before taking a big slurp of the pristine spring water.
Diving under a waterfall
Just like pearls on a string, all the colourful neoprene clad creatures paddle their way to a waterfall, where we again gather around the guide. It’s difficult to hear the guide explaining because of the loud noise from the waterfalls. Nevertheless, we still understand that we should try diving into the waterfall, before we head on further downstream. Diving into the waterfall, into the white raging water, was a cool experience. Nontheless, we have to continue the trip. We glide slowly through the canyon with deep ravines, huge boulders and a bottom covered with light pebbles. Now and then, my snorkling buddies pop their heads out of the water bubbling over of joy and rambling on about all the fish they have observed.
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Rapids are a natural part of many rivers and our snorkling trip had to pass a couple of them. No worries, the guides are experienced and know when we can pass the small rapids safely, or if we need to bypass them on land. Furthermore, before sending us through the rapids, the guides gather all the snorkelers in calm water and explain the safest way to swim through. Receiving the OK sign from everyone, we soon glide into the current. We all got our arms stretched out in front of us as a bumper, speeding along with the rushing water. Floating away with the rushing water, between the rocks and boulders, gives me a real adrenalin rush. All too soon, we glide slowly through calm waters again.
Even though, the river snakes through a beautiful lush green landscape, the underwater landscape is what attracts our full attention. The underwater landscape of the Traun varies between 30 cm shallow pools, 4-5 meter deep gorges and large boulders. It is an exciting and for many a completely new world, which appears beyond the glass of the dive mask. Here and there, we pass crevices, small caverns and sunken tree trunks. In the current, we see plenty of trout. In the calmer water perches’ are lurking, waiting for prey. Additionally, all along our trip down the river we observe crayfish.
For the final part of the snorkling trip, we reach a wider stretch of the river. The guides gather the group for a last briefing near an outlet from a power station. Explaining that from here to the exit point it is all about speed and not observing nature. Moreover, that the water, which comes out of the power station, is good 3-4 °C warmer, than the river, we have been snorkling for a little more than one hour. Thus, for those who were getting a bit cold during the last 20 minutes the final part will be more pleasurable. A last advice given; we have to enter the outflow from the channel with 3-4 hard kicks, in able to get into the middle of the current.
As said, it was done and suddenly I found myself in a natural waterslide, gliding quickly down the river. What a ride! Just a few kicks with the fins now and then, to keep myself heading in the direction of travel. Moreover, as the river winds its way through a flatter landscape the current loses some of its force. The end to this fantastic snorkling trip came when the guides waved us onto a gravel beach. A little exhausted, but very happy we remove our fins and masks. Joyous faces on the entire groups, as we hike a couple of hundred metres up to the minibus that is bringing us back to the dive centre. Some of the group had previous snorkling experiences, for others this was the first time. Nonetheless, the entire group are happy to unison give our guides big thumbs up.
is a full-service scuba centre and offers a range of different scuba dives, guided and unguided. Their website is only available in German, but don’t let that put you off. Owner Franz Pramendorfer and his staff speaks English. Franz is very experienced and started his diving career as an instructor in Egypt back in 1990. Atlantis Qualidive in Austria has been around since 1993.