I'm not sure how, but a while ago, Aaron learned about Gulen Dive Resort, a small dive resort about two hours (give or take) north of Bergen, nestled in among the fjords of Western Norway. When he saw they had a house reef with nudibranchs, some of which aren't found anywhere else, AND World War II shipwreck diving, it jumped to pretty close to the top of his list of places to dive. When my sister and I decided to meet up in Norway, and she agree to do some babysitting, we knew we could make it work.
I first contacted Gulen to do just a couple days of diving, but we then decided to extended our time. Email contact with them was pretty good. Orjen, one of the owners, usually responded within a day or so. He was patient and answered all of my questions. The only issue arose the week before Norway. I had emailed with some questions regarding the best way to get there from Bergen, and never heard back. This presented some last minute scrambling to figure out ferry schedules, driving times and distances, and how to best get us, Evelyn, and all of our cold water dive gear (which is a LOT), out there.
We arrived late on Monday evening. Two German dive masters where there to meet us when the ferry pulled up (the last stop of the local ferry) and show us around. We put our gear in the large garage and headed into the cabin. In the entrance, there is a bench with a space above to hang undergarments, and a shelf unit with a cubby for each person. The cabin is arranged as 8 rooms with two people per room. Half of the rooms have two single beds and the other half have bunk beds. There are two bathrooms, each with a shower, a living area with a large dining table and a comfortable couch, and a kitchen. Sheets and towels are provided, but you do have to make your own bed, which I was not expecting. The kitchen is advertised as "fully stocked" but we did find it to be lacking or deficient in some items. There were lots of pots and dishes, but only one cast iron skillet, no toaster, and no measuring cups. Overall, not a big deal, just something we noticed.
The diving at Gulen was pretty good. They have two boats they use for dives not on the house reef: a RIB and a motor yacht. We used the latter for all of our boat dives. It has a large inside seating area, kitchen, head, outdoor sun deck, gear deck, and, best of all, an elevator, so that you don't have to climb a ladder laden with dive gear. The boat even has it's own wifi for checking emails, or posting to Facebook in between your dives. Our only complaint with our boat dives that they got going pretty fast when we were still out on the gear deck getting undressed and securing our wet gear. Despite the camera on the stern deck to watch for anyone going overboard (I hope this is not a common occurrence), it was still uncomfortably cold to finish taking care of gear while underway and somewhat of a safety hazard.
We did not know what wrecks we were diving until we were already on the boat. A board listing what dives were scheduled would have been welcomed, as well as a listing of all the possible wrecks to dive with basic stats. There were some other amenities advertised that were either an additional cost or not available. In our package, it indicated that the after dive bar and lounge area would be available, but was never opened. They also advertise a hot tub, but unless it is included in the package you booked, it costs approximately 150 euros per day and 24 hour advanced notice to use since it must be cleaned, filled with water, and then heated.
Wifi at the resort was difficult to get working. It took us nearly two days to be able to connect to the internet and took a lot of manual configurations to get working. Thankfully we were able to eventually figure it out.
Getting to the resort was much more difficult than we anticipated. The options are to rent a car and drive there yourself, take the ferry, or arrange a transfer with the resort. After learning the flat rate for a transfer was 530 euros, economical if you are with a large group, less so if you're traveling there alone, we opted to explore other options. We ended up taking the high speed ferry from Bergen to the Mjomna stop where we then boarded a local ferry that takes you right to the Gulen docks (it's actually the last stop). To return to Bergen, there was no high speed ferry operating either the day we needed to leave, or the day after, so we needed to rent a car for the last couple of days. I also used it to pick my sister up from the airport. There is ample parking available if you decide to rent your own vehicle to get there. I had not anticipated the limited options in getting there and thought the transfer with the dive resort would be cheaper. As a result, I was scrambling to figure this out only a few days before our arrival. I had tried to call Orjen to discuss possible options, as well as emailed him, and never received a response . Thankfully, we had a few days in Bergen to figure out transportation. But, the lack of communication did mean that we showed up to the resort with no food and all the grocery stores were closed. Thankfully our dive master, Linda, lent us some food for dinner so that we wouldn't go hungry, and drove us to the grocery store the next day. It sounds like most groups bring their own food with them, but between three heavy bags with dive gear, a suitcase, and a stroller, all while traveling by ferry, managing groceries just was not feasible. And the grocery store they advertise as being only 5 minutes away is actually much further, and only really accessible if you have a car. There are two other grocery stores they use - one 25 minutes away by car, and one only accessible by boat.
Customer service was so so. Our primary dive master did well on guiding dives and acting as a dive buddy on the house reef. The other dive master was having issues with his dry suit while we were there and we never saw him get in the water. Contact from Orjen was minimal, at best. Aaron had a short conversation with him, and I exchanged even fewer words with him. We were both expecting that, as owner, he would come and at least introduce himself to us. Instead, we had to introduce ourselves to him as we were boarding the boat on our first day of boat dives. All in all, he was very hands-off when interacting with guests.
I do have to say, they had one of the coolest rinse tanks I've ever seen. Instead of taking your gear off and rinsing it piece by piece, you just hopped in a giant rinse tank. It was like a huge bathtub filled with fresh water. After a couple of good swishes, all your gear was rinsed!
In recap, we did enjoy our stay at Gulen Dive Resort. It was convenient to book with one place that provided diving and accommodations; however, I am not sure that we would return. There was no one big issue that spoiled the trip for us, and we did enjoy the diving, but the accumulation of little issues made it stressful: the lack of communication in the week and a half leading up to our stay, a lack of customer interaction from the resort owners, a kitchen that lacked some key items, and issues with the Wifi.
If you are interested in visiting and would like to discuss our experience further, please feel free to ask in the comments or email us. We'd be more than happy to talk with you!