You can dive year-round in Norway, and while a 7 mm wetsuit is usually sufficient in the summer months, you’ll want a drysuit for winter. Strømsholmen Sjøsportsenter offers orca safaris in January and February that include six days on a live-aboard from (roughly) $4,237 per person. Salstraumen Dive Center is open February through November for diving the fast currents.
The land of the Vikings and the endless summer sun, Norway is a place of pristine fjords and glacial valleys. But for divers, the riches stretch even deeper than the pockets of those privileged Scandinavians. From underwater forests waving with kelp to World War II wrecks, it’s a wild world worth every millimeter of neoprene you’ll need to comfortably enjoy it. The Gulf Stream keeps the water warmer than you’d think and results in the nutrient-rich flows that lure large schools of pollack and cod. Every year in January and February, hundreds of orcas gather along Norway’s coast to feast on clouds of herring that school along the steep fjord walls. The orcas hunt by creating shock waves with their tails, exploding the herrings’ internal organs and causing the fish to float to the surface, fully intact. Then the feasting ensues. Don a mask and snorkel –– scuba bubbles scare the whales –– and dive in to witness the massive orcas feeding. For wrecks, head to Narvik and dive the skeletal remains of German, Norwegian and English ships from the 1940s. If your adrenalin’s not pumping enough already, there’s always the Saltstraumen — a blazing-fast current near the Lofoten Islands that’s considered the world’s strongest tidal current. Millions of cubic feet of water rush through the mouth of the sound every six hours, continually renewing an ecosystem of shoaling cod, wolf fish, halibut and more. It’s an underwater energy you’ve likely never experienced — hold tight to a strand of kelp and take it all in. — Terry Ward