Do those photos ring a bell for you? If you have dived in the most beautiful Polish lake, they certainly do - this is Hańcza. Not to be confused with the Black Hańcza, which is a river. Beginning divers often get those two names wrong. Whoever took a diving course only to dive once or twice a year in warm and crystal clear waters of the Red or Mediterranean Sea will never understand the excitement of diving in the Poland's deepest water reservoir. You won't see all the colors of the rainbow there, nor hundreds of species of plants and animals, yet you will experience something you will never find in the flamboyant world of coral reefs. Here you dive just for the sake of diving, to float down slowly for a moment along vertical loam walls, which in places resemble mountain rocks and ravines or sandy seaside cliffs.
I have dived in plenty of locations as a diving instructor, be it warm and transparent or ice-cold water. However, Hańcza offers so intense an experience that although I have dived as many as thirty times in this lake, I am always happy to be back there and can't wait to get into the water.
Usually we dive in the eastern part of the lake, which is accessible practically only from Bachanowo through a road that leads us all the way to the place. On weekends the area is packed with cars, a clear proof that this is one of the most wanted diving destinations in Poland. Fortunately, another parking lot has been built just by the shore so that everybody gets the chance to dive and no arguments arise - except purely personal... Diving in the area closer to Bachanow, you can see two loam walls underwater. One can be found at twelve meters, facing the place where each diver enters the lake. This is a perfect location for beginning divers. Turning right and heading north, you will come across the other loam wall going down deeper. This area is one of the most popular tourist destinations around the city of Suwałki. Going further to the second parking lot, you will find the largest accessible loam wall of Hańcza. Importantly, this is one of the least frequently visited loam walls (as of the fall of 2002).
I remember the time when you could see twenty to thirty burbots on a single dive. Sadly, not all divers conform to the let-the-others-enjoy-it-too rule. Most of the fish have been frightened away from the place by those who are incapable of peaceful admiration of underwater life. I can only hope for a change, yet it will take time, anyway. At present you can come across two or three burbots on a single dive. Luckily, there are the night dives. Diving at night in Hańcza, often did I see more fish than on a two-week stay by the Tyrrhenian Sea. Impossible but true. Hardly any Polish lake offers such an abundance of ruffes, perches, roaches and other fish to be encountered on a single dive.
Hańcza is the most popular location among Millennium Divers instructors. If you are undecided or have nobody to dive with in the Poland's deepest water reservoir, you can join Millennium Divers and get on a trip with us.
Here are a few pieces of useful information for those who have never visited Hańcza.
You can find a good stay at Mr and Mrs Kułakowscy's Agritourism Farm in the Rutka village near Jeleniewo (along the way to Hańcza). Preferably call Mr Adam (0-87 568-35-57 or mobile 0-608 50-40-88). This is an attractive family destination: comfortable, renovated, with hot water and a number of farm animals for the children to stroke. The green-roof building you can see in the photo is the guest part. This farm is the place where we start and close the diving season. A keg of beer and and a leg of mutton by the bonfire will warm up your body and spirit for a long time.
AND PERHAPS MOST IMPORTANTLY - AT LAST YOU CAN REFILL YOUR CYLINDERS WHEN ON A DIVING STAY AROUND HAŃCZA. SINCE SEPTEMBER 2001 MR ADAM HAS GOT A "GERA" ELECTRIC COMPRESSOR AND A TEN-CYLINDER AIR REFILLING SYSTEM. Filling up a fifteen-liter cylinder takes no longer than two minutes.
The farm faces the Głazowisko natural reserve, approximately two kilometers past Szurpi³y. The sight of a vast field of glacier stones scattered in the middle of the picturesque countryside will refresh your strength to explore the land further.This is a perfect area for bicycle and walking trips, but beware! If you plan to spend your summer holiday leave around here, you have to remember that the local community is poor and car break-ins are frequent, especially if a car is left by the forest, where few tourists come by. Also, this is the frontier zone, so don't be surprised if an armed soldier waves to stop your car for a road control.
The place to dine is Jeleniewo, where almost everybody stops by at the only restaurant there to have meat dumplings (kartacze). Ms Marysia, the restaurant's owner, knows all the divers of Poland. If you happen to meet Ms Marysia when dining, I can guarantee that you won't easily forget her restaurant. Why??? See for yourself.
You can find accommodation also at the agritourism farm of Mr Slowikowski, just by the shore of Hańcza (0-87 568-34-58 or 0-87 566-64-99). At the time of heavy snowfall getting to this farm may be difficult. Luckily, it has become less and less often so across the country. I can also recommend lodging at Mr and Mrs Kwaterscy's in Bachanowo, right beside Hańcza as well (0-87 568-31-86).
This is a great area to stay. Near Hańcza there is a beautiful Orzewo glacier lake. The bottom is rocky and the water is clear, but numerous unmarked poachers' nets have discouraged me from diving there, as well as in many other lakes in the area. Sadly, this is no surprise if you look at the unemployment rates around the region. Fortunately, local people are aware that no nets can be set in one of major Polish diving destinations - Hańcza Lake. So all the Hańcza divers - don't be afraid.