This past weekend, Aaron and I headed to Brussels to check off the first thing on our European Bucket List - diving at Nemo 33! We let Friday night after work to drive up there before diving on Saturday morning. With stops, it took us about 5 and a half hours, but it seemed a lot longer. Is it just me or does everything take longer when you'er going someplace you've never been to before? Just me? Ok then....
I've crossed international borders before. With Detroit being so close to Canada, it's not unusual to head over for the day. But border crossings can be tricky and can take anywhere from minutes to hours. We knew when we left that we wouldn't need to go through customs, but I honestly thought that the crossing from Germany into Belgium would be somewhat climatic. Nope. We were wrong. It was even more anti-climatic than crossing from Ohio back into Michigan. The sign denoting the border was even less dramatic. Simply a blue sign with a ring of stars and the country name inside it. If you happened to blink at that moment, you would have missed it. We were a little disappointed to say the least. And the worst part of the whole thing was that since we stayed within the Schengen zone, no stamps in our passports. Sad panda.
Anywho, after finding our hotel (and seeing some...interesting...sights along the way), we were too tired to go do anything. The next morning, we got up and grabbed some breakfast at a local bakery. We ordered real Belgian waffles. Mine was topped with strawberries and chocolate, Aaron's with bananas and chocolate. So. Good. We then wandered around Brussels for an hour since Nemo 33 didn't open until noon.
Once we got there, we checked in and waited until we were called. It's kind of a machine in there. At quarter to the hour, they ring a bell and open the doors to the locker rooms (up one flight of stairs). You go in, get changed, and head to the pool deck (which is up another flight of stairs). We took our own regulators and computers. Each person is required to have either their own dive computer or rent one for an additional 5 euro, but the rest of your equipment is included in the dive fee. In fact, unless you can prove that your gear has not seen a lake, ocean or quarry, you can't dive with it, the exception being regulators and computers.
The first 10 minutes in the water is what they call a "free dive" basically to let you get used to the water. Grabs some fins, your mask, and in you go. Then you get back out and grab a tank, BC, regulator and set it all up, haul it over to the pool and put it on once you are back in the water. You then have the next 45 minutes to dive!
The pool isn't quite as large as the photos make it look. There are two "pits" - one is about 20 meters deep, the other is 33 meters deep. They are connected in the middle by a "tunnel" with two "caves" at about 25 feet. There are a couple windows that look out into the restaurant, where you can wave to people eating. I now know what a fish in an aquarium feels like :) One of the best parts of diving here was that you didn't have to worry about stirring up the bottom and the visibility was awesome! Aaron and I spent quite a bit of time in the deep pit - so much so that I actually hit my no decompression limit (NDL). Let that sink in for a minute. I hit my NDL...in a pool...at 110 feet. Talk about cool!
We played around, taking pictures and just enjoying being in warm water (the warmest I've ever been in - didn't even need a wet suit!). After our safety stop, we got out of the water and broke down our gear. We were originally planning on doing two dives, but Nemo requires a two hour surface interval between dives. With their summer schedule in effect, that meant we couldn't get back into the water until 5PM at the earliest. Since we still wanted to see Brussels, we decided to just do one dive. Which was fine with both of us. While it's a pretty cool dive, it doesn't really warrant more than one dive . Maybe if the pool was bigger or there was more to see/do, two dives would be cool, but as it is, one was enough.
In case anyone is planning on going to Brussels to dive Nemo 33, here is the jist of it:
- Each dive costs 22 euro, per person
- The cost of the dive includes the use of a steel tank, BC, fins, and regulator. You need to bring your own mask (they do have some you can borrow), and dive computer (or rent one for an additional 5 euro)
- The summer is their slow season, so no reservations are needed. If you are planning on going between December and March (their busy season), you may need to make a reservation. Call or email Nemo 33 to verify before you show up.
- The restaurant there is actually pretty good, if ever so slightly on the pricey side.
- Bring a bathing suit to dive in. A wet suit is not needed (water is 32C/90F year round - plenty warm). We both had on rash guards just to avoid any chafing from the BCs - something I would definitely recommend.
All in all, if you're in the area, we would recommend diving here. The staff were friendly, knowledgeable, and spoke English (French is the primary language in this part of Belgium) and the cost is reasonable. If you're looking for a weekend of intense diving, this really isn't it. But, if you want a weekend getaway somewhere, Brussels, and Nemo 33, are pretty cool.
Check back later this week to see what else we saw and did in Brussels! Hint, it involved a peeing statue and a tap house ;)