It has been about a year since we first set off in search of the icy mountain lakes of Serbia. Last winter, with great effort, we managed to dive under the ice of Tavnicko Lake. This year, we decided to do the same at Ribnicko Lake. Discover more about our adventure!
Getting the snowball rolling...
During the days we had planned for the dive, meteorologists warned of a wave of ice covering the Balkans and Serbia. On Zlatibor, the thermometer had been showing minus numbers for days, something which was in our favour. The opportunity to get moving arose!
First, permits and the support of the local government were needed. Ribnicko Lake was created in the 1970s to provide drinking water for Zlatibor and Cajetina. Due to this, activities are usually prohibited in it. Fortunately, we found understanding and support for our project. Miloš Filipović, whose 'Filipović House' was our main base, got the ball rolling. By sending us to the right addresses (Cajetina town hall and the local water supplying company), the necessary permits were obtained and planning could begin.
On icy ground
These were among the coldest days of winter 2022. The temperature dropped to -20°C at night. This made us happy on the one hand, because we knew that the ice would be good quality, but on the other hand we were worried about the diving equipment which could freeze.
On the first day of diving, we were greeted by the idyllic winter landscape of a lake surrounded by snow, ice and Zlatibor in its full beauty. We agreed with the crew of the nearby gondola station to clear a way through the forest that descended to the lake. With such an open driveway, our vehicles descended almost to the ice sheet without any major problems. We decided to open two holes. One circular hole and another classically triangular hole. Soon, the sound of a chainsaw was heard across the snow-covered meadows of Zlatibor.
"As a professional underwater model, I have posed in various seas, oceans, lakes and rivers around the planet. The water is usually bluish, green or sometimes completely transparent, as if it does not exist. This is the first time I have dived in perfectly transparent, orange-yellow water, which I know exists in the Mexican cenotes" says Ivana Orlović Kranjc, professional underwater model and Mares brand ambassador.
A portal in to a parallel world
Our team consisted of experienced and trained divers from S.D.T. Svet Ronjenja, so opening of the holes went smoothly. Expectations that the ice would be solid were confirmed. The thickness of the ice plate was 15-20cm, enough for safe movement. Right above us was a gondola from which the two black holes we had created could be seen. If I were ever to imagine a gateway in to another world, it would pretty much look like this.
We divided into two teams whose tasks were to gather basic information about the conditions in the water under the ice and take photos. The water temperature of 2°C was very pleasing for our equipment. We soon noticed that the water, though dark, was extremely clear. Then came a surprise when we realized that the surface was almost orange. This was very unusual, and so far we had only encountered water of this colour in the Mexican cenotes on the Yucatan Peninsula.
The colour of the lake water is influenced by the type of sediment on the bottom (on Ribnicko Lake, the bottom is made of characteristic orange dust and dark stones), the amount of nutrients coming from the surrounding forests (in the case of Ribnicko Lake, conifers) and the presence of algae. As you descend deeper, the light almost completely disappears, but the visibility becomes better and the water is colourless.
In our few dives, larger specimens of perch were noticed, and if the stories of fishermen in the area are to be believed, the lake is very rich in fish.
Considering that Ribnicko Lake is one of the most unusual in which we have dived in Serbia, we would like to do more dives there in the spring or late summer to focus on documenting the living world of the lake.
The Zlatibor waters hide many more secrets that are waiting to be discovered. As soon as we get out of our comfort zones, adventure and new knowledge await us!
Written by Janez Kranjc
Photos by Janez Kranjc and Andrej Kranjc