What would it be like to find yourself behind bars in a Soviet-era prison, underwater? Pretty neat, if you ask me! The fact that I actually went in voluntarily and got out anytime I wanted to, might have had an impact on the opinion though…Before the end of August, I had never dived in a building before, let alone in a prison. Therefore, one of the most anticipated thing on our summer holidays was the divetrip we did in Rummu. You can read more about Rummu and its history from the previous post, lets focus on the diving for now.
I had happened to come across an article about Rummu some moths ago and since we were going travel to Estonia anyways, I was instantly convinced that diving in Rummu would have to be included in our trip. I mean, to dive in a soviet-era prison, how could that NOT be cool? To make it more of an experience, I had never dived that up north before, so Estonia would be a totally new, and also a rather random dive destination. I think that the northernmost point I’ve dived in before Rummu was in Malta, so we are slowly getting closed to diving in home waters too, even though I’ve said many times that diving here in Finland would not be for me. We’ll see.
It is possible to dive in Rummu on your own, at least in theory, if you have your own gear and do not mind walking a rather long way from the parking lot to the beach with all the gear. However, as neither us owns a full set of gear and even if we did, having them in the car for 1,5 weeks with us on a road trip would have been stupid, we ended up renting the gear. And with the gear, it was easy to book an instructor to go with us as well, especially as I prefer having someone who actually knows the place with me when going for a dive in new waters. The dive and the gear were booked through Paekalda Puhkekeskus and we were rather happy with them as everything went rather smoothly, once the dives were booked (we did have to exchange quite a few e-mails with them before the trip was booked, which mostly was our own fault though).
So we started our dive from the Paekalda pier. The equipment rental cost us 55€ per person for two dives and the instructor 40€ for the day. On top of these, we also needed a raft to get to the sites, so that had to be payed for as well. 100€ for the raft for three hours was a bit too much in our opinion, but as we really wanted to do the dives and without the raft it would’ve been close to impossible in our case, that just had to be paid. So in total the dives cost us 250€ for two persons, which is actually a rather standard price for one day of diving with rental gear and instructor in most places in the world. Of course, if we had been diving with a group, the price would have been much lower as we could’ve shared the costs for the instructor and a raft. The good thing about having the raft all for ourselves was that we got the whole lake to ourselves.
As a dive site, Rummu is an easy one, if you do not count a few tight spots inside the prison. The dives are rather shallow, so there is plenty of light and the water is clear. Therefore, the visibility is rather good as well, around 5 to 20 meters depending on the time of the year, with summer time visibility around 10 meters. We did our first dive in and around the sunken prison buildings, with average diving depth being less than 5 meters. The second dive was in the quarry area, in where the depth was some 10 meters. The water is rather warm when bearing in mind that this is northern Europe we are talking about. The water temperature was around 20c at the end of August. I’m not a big fan of diving in cold waters, but as we were given a full 5mm wetsuit and a hood, the temperature felt just perfect.
There is not much life in the lake, only a few tiny fish. The lack of fish is not a problem though, as the buildings and all the other stuff to see really make sure you won’t get bored easily. The old prison and quarry buildings, as well as the barracks, machinery, all sorts of different equipment and the trees (yes, there are trees standing on the bottom) are still in a good shape and easily identifiable. Best thing is that you can also dive inside most of the buildings.
Even though money-wise it would’ve been nice to have other people to share the cost of the raft, I’m actually pretty happy that we got the place all for ourselves. With no other people blowing bubbles or kicking sand up from the bottom and ruining the visibility, the dives were really nice, especially with our instructor Jaanis kept a good pace on the dives. All I can say is that the dives were really cool. To dive in and out of the prison, to look at the underwater world behind prison bars.. It really was something different, and only in a good way.
I must say that diving in Rummu did return my long gone eagerness for diving. I mean, for quite some time now, I’ve noticed that I’ve gotten bored even before half of the dive has passed, and I’ve been wanting to surface even with enough air to keep me going for another 30 minutes or so. This time, after both dives, I could’ve just kept on diving once the time was up. The time passed by so quickly just wondering at all the different things there was to see, the buildings, the machinery.. I was especially delighted to notice they had even left a fire extinguisher on site, you know, in case there would be fire…
The reason why I probably liked Rummu as a dive site so much was because it was so different. I’ve seen tens of different reefs and wrecks, but never underwater buildings. And of course, it’s fun to be able to say I’ve “escaped” a soviet-prison by diving.. Over the years, I’ve done over a hundred dives in all sorts of “divers paradises”, but still, Rummu, the random dive spot in Estonia, did end up to be one of my top 10 dive sites.
And finally, a bonus! I did buy a new camera (GoPro) just before the trip, so I did test the video features a bit while diving. So, here you’ll see a short video of what the underwater world looks like in Rummu. Please, bear in mind that this is my first underwater video ever, I had a brand new camera, plus I have no experience in editing, so the video is mainly for testing how to use videos in blog posts. If this turns out to be a good experimental, you’ll be seeing some more dive videos in the upcoming months as I’m planning on really updating my top10-list of dive sites in the upcoming trips, or at least I’m hoping this will happen, if the sites will not let me down..